Taxonomies are commonly-used tools to classify and categorize data. These may take many forms and operate in a wide array of system landscapes and environments. Similarly, they can be used in a plethora of circumstances and scenarios.
In essence, a taxonomy is a method of hierarchy-based classification. With this in mind, you can construct basic taxonomy layouts in Microsoft Excel. Plus, Excel is a useful home base to plan taxonomies within other systems. Let’s learn how to create a taxonomy in Microsoft Excel.
How to Create a Taxonomy in Excel
Creating a taxonomy in Microsoft Excel doesn’t rely on special features, nor do you need any advanced programming skills. Rather, taxonomies can be built in simple layouts using basic rows and columns. But before building a taxonomy in Excel, it helps to know their general structure.
Taxonomies, in their most basic form, classify information by category. They often adopt a hierarchy model. These may flow in two directions. Some hierarchies have small groups initially, and then larger subsets of data. For example, consider an organizational hierarchy. Typically, there will be one individual or entity at the top. Branches or subsets of the hierarchy get larger as you move through the hierarchy.
The inverse, of course, can be true. Top-level categories may be broad, and narrow down to individual elements as you move through the hierarchy. Creating a taxonomy simply involves grouping these categories together in order to analyze and work with them.
For example, let’s imagine a simple corporate structure. In this example, imagine that you’re in charge of payroll for a large corporation. You’ve been asked to review the pay of financial analysts working within a given cost center. We’ll keep this example small, but taxonomies work well with enormous volumes of data. In essence, they help you drill down vast databases and hierarchies into a clear, usable form.
Again, while Excel doesn’t support advanced taxonomies like other software platforms do, you can easily utilize it for an example like this one. Begin by listing the meaningful data in a series of column layouts like you see below.
Notice that the example is deceptively simple. For a hierarchical taxonomy, column A can be treated as the top-level. Column B is in the middle, and column C is at the base. But notice that the dataset, although limited in scope, has multiple variables.
For example, not everyone reporting through finance is an analyst. Not every analyst reports through finance, and not every finance analyst is in cost center AB500. A taxonomy helps you identify exactly who you need, while filtering out related, but non-relevant data.
Once you have the data in place, you’ll need to filter the taxonomy to show the values you need. Remember, here we want Finance > Analyst > AB500 individuals only. Begin by going to the Home tab on Excel’s ribbon, then click on Sort & Filter.
On the dropdown, click Filter. You’ll see a filter arrow appear in each of the three column headers.
To get started, click on the Reporting Department dropdown. Uncheck Select All, then check the box to filter by the Finance category. Your list will shorten to display only finance roles. Note that your data is hidden, not deleted.
In column B, filter to show only analyst roles, by unchecking the other role boxes. Finally, filter by cost center AB500 in column C.
It’s that simple. In moments, you’ve built a taxonomy to analyze and categorize systems within your business. As you can see, you were quickly able to filter a complex list to find exactly how many elements – in this case, personnel – fit the criteria that you’re searching for. Here, it was two individuals, seen in rows 2 and 9.
Build taxonomies in Excel any time you need to classify and categorize data systems.