Build the Right Team for Enterprise Text Analytics: Part II – The Team

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Organizational Placement

In my last blog, I discussed what a text analyst does and what types of individuals may fill a text analyst role. In this blog, I’ll try to answer the question of where in the organization a full or part-time text analyst role resides.

Based on personal experience, a text analyst should reside within the business with very close ties to IT. If an organization has a library (which may stand alone or be part of a knowledge management group), knowledge management, content management, or information management group, these groups provide requirements to be turned into functional technology by IT. The business understands the business processes and defines working requirements for information management. A text analyst would fit well within any one of these groups.

Roles with closely aligned goals, such as taxonomists and search managers, work best within the business as opposed to being embedded in IT. A text analyst should be working side by side with these two roles in particular. In combination, they are the masters of the language used to capture, classify, and retrieve content.

I propose a text analyst should not be in the IT department for two key reasons. First, the IT department specializes in software selection, support, and application development. IT should not be developing the requirements for technology they will own and either build or buy. While most members of IT can elicit requirements from the business, they really should be focusing their efforts on developing solutions, allowing roles with close ties to business units to collect requirements and define technology needs.

Second, IT departments should work as equals with the business constituents who define the requirements. Generally speaking, it’s best to have roles with different skill sets working together toward a common goal. While a text analyst may also have the technical skills to develop applications, this person should be supporting the business directly and have a deep understanding of business processes. IT then enables business processes through technology.

The Broader Team

Let me sound like a consultant for a moment and suggest the broader team in which a text analyst role resides depends on the organization. Well, it does. However, I’ve seen some winning combinations, and here’s what I believe makes a good knowledge management team and how the text analyst fits in.

There needs to be a knowledge manager who sets the overall direction for the team, advocating at the C-level for the work the team does. Trying to engage with the C-level from a position within the team is challenging, to say the least. The knowledge manager has the knowledge and skills to perform knowledge management support but has enough experience in the field to build a successful team that can implement and maintain a knowledge management program.

The team also requires several general knowledge management specialists. These roles engage with business users, discover their needs, and call in the more specific experts as needed. Knowledge management specialists know the tools and resources available to solve business information challenges and consult accordingly.

A taxonomist, a search manager, and a text analyst walk into a bar…well, yes. As someone who has been the taxonomist, search manager, and text analyst all rolled into one, I’ll tell you it’s no fun to drink alone. While having three, independent positions does include a lot of overlap, it also distributes the work to really build some detailed and savvy applications.

A taxonomist will build a corporate taxonomy and analyze content to develop and maintain a vocabulary reflective of the organization’s operations. The search manager leverages the taxonomy to improve search results and build search-driven applications which don’t just find but deliver. The text analyst is often a part-time function of the taxonomist but should be broken out into an independent role. A text analyst is someone who will analyze text, extract terminology, and write categorization rules to automatically classify content, often based on terms from the taxonomy. All three roles will consult with the business on how best to manage content using these tools for better information access and reuse. They should be a tightly-knit group who can work together well to develop seamless solutions.

At a higher corporate level, IT should be included. All of the above roles work closely with IT as business liaisons. While it’s possible to have IT roles embedded within the knowledge management group, I see an advantage in having the groups separate but equal. They are co-dependent but also have their own power and leverage to balance expectations with reality. A proper checks and balances between the two groups can breed harmony as well as a healthy push and pull which results in better products.

Other roles which may be present in an organization may be part of the knowledge management group but may also be independent roles in other parts of the organization. Librarians, records managers, digital asset managers, product information managers, and content managers all have overlapping skill sets and, if not within the knowledge management group, should be frequently consulted as part of a broader information program committee.

Again, this list of roles is not comprehensive, and some organizations include training and development, human resources, and communications as part of the greater knowledge management program. Differences in organizational structure will determine which roles are represented directly in the knowledge management group. However, the text analyst role should be, at a minimum, a single business role dedicated to text analytics activities.

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