In last month's column, we looked at a problem associated with the standardized use of reference data for information exchange. In that column, we explored how a business application's use of what was expected to be standardized data varied slightly from its original meaning, leading to a lack of synchronization across the exchange enterprise. In this column, we explore a different aspect of the same problem - the definition and use of data values grouped within semantic hierarchies known as taxonomies.

A natural application of a business intelligence (BI) application is to attempt to understand individual behavior based on an enveloping classification scheme. A classic example related to the media industry is characterizing radio or television ratings by sex and age groups, such as "most popular with males aged 18 to 35." Here, there is a multidimensional classification scheme - first the population is divided by gender, then each gender group is broken into age ranges. In turn, performance is assessed based on the ratings for specific "products" within what is considered to be a simple taxonomy.

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