Business & Technology Nexus

Dave Stephens on technology and business trends

Tag! You’re It

with one comment

If you go looking for a traditional requisition line category in the Coupa eProcurement Preview Release you will come up empty-handed. It’s not there. Of course, it’s MIA on purpose.

While I was at Oracle I kept trying to figure out how to solve the categorization riddle. On the one hand, classifying spend is a reporting/accounting problem. But on the other, it’s how employees find things. And customers struggle with best practices on how to balance between the two.

So when Oracle introduced it’s eProcurement solution back in the late 90’s, classification was split into 2. You had your findability taxonomy and your reporting/accounting taxonomy. This solved a ton of problems, most notably an upgrade challenge for long-time Purchasing customers. But the maintenance of these two schemes was too much for brand new customers to bear. For R12 (an imminent new release of Oracle Applications), if I’m remembering right, our design was to collapse them back down. But that wasn’t what I really wanted or thought customers needed.

I wanted customers to be able to classify and categorize an item as many times and with as many different “systems” as they felt necessary. But I couldn’t articulate the idea into a comprehensible design. I just kept thinking about changing the data model to say “Reporting Category 1”, “Reporting Category 2”, etc, which was silly.

Now, Noah Eisner deserves the credit for adapting the consumer-centric tags concept to eProcurement – but as we began to dig into how they would work as a replacement for “purchasing category”, I realized I had the functionality I wanted.. And in a Preview release! Who would have thought. The big advance, technically speaking, is dis-associating the category from content & creating an intermediary table to support a many-to-many relationship.

So by all means, think of taggings as classifications of a catalog item (or more generally, content). They can be authored by the Procurement department or by employees in a true decentralized fashion. Or both. The concept is very, very flexible.

Now you’ve probably used tags on YouTube or Flickr. One beef I had was the limit to a single word. I don’t know if people will like our implementation, but it does support use of “double quotes” to encapsulate a phrase.

Tags turn the classification problem over to the user. But leave it in the hands of the Procurement department. And the truth is, it belongs both places.

Now tags don’t just apply to content. So there’s more to cover on this thread another time…

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Written by Dave Stephens

07/28/06 7:45 AM at 7:45 am

Posted in Coupa, Open Source, Opinion

One Response

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  1. Sure tagging is the way to go !
    Pick any photo organization software worth its salt , it has this tagging functionality. If a user feels that a photo needs tagging functionallity because a photograph may belong to so many categories such as category (a) based on time line category (b) based on object in the photo category (c) based on the pixel quality therefore “size printability” such 4X6 vs 8X 10 etc etc. , I fail to understand why a user would not want to have a similar functionality for a ton of other things they come across in their daily personal or work life.
    Take for example – from the minute you log into your PC you interact with Files – I am yet to find a system that let you Tag the file the way you assign tags to the photos.
    Google has a desktop tool – great ! it does it’s own indexing – ( ofcourse consuming a lot of space and also making the PC somewhat vulnerable to attackk also … to some extent – anyways that’s not the point.) – Then you hope to find the right file by making it’s own search – I have lot of faith in Google’s indexing technology – currently best in the mortal world , but still it can not index a file based on the worrd that is NOT there is the file or it’s properties. Here’s a file – say a .jpg of teh Twin Towers (WTC – NY) – an extremely intelligent google like indexing engine may index the entry of the file with various words such as World Trade Center – may be even 9-11 etc etc. But you and only you know that this picture was taken by your 6 year old son Alex , so no matter how many searches you do based on Alex , you will not find it till … till you have the pwer to tag the file with the word Alex.
    Ok – Point belabored but hopefully driven home – any utility , application that creates and stores data has to have an inbuilt strang mechanism to provide “tagging” fcaility. Period.

    Abhay

    07/28/06 10:12 AM at 10:12 am


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