In today’s business environment records are everywhere. In documents of course, and also in emails, chats, social media, SMS and in structured databases. The amount of data created in the universe will skyrocket from 16 zettabytes in 2017 to more than 160 zettabytes by 2025, according to the IDC report “Data Age 2025”.

In this time of information explosion, information professionals and industry workers need a helping hand with finding and classifying the growing document archive.

Figure 1: Figure 1: Annual Size of the Global Datasphere from the Data Age 2025 report by IDC.

Figure 1: Figure 1: Annual Size of the Global Datasphere from the Data Age 2025 report by IDC. 

To be more efficient in their work, information workers want to be able to quickly capture and intelligently classify their documents so they can easily find, use and share them.

Information professionals want effective mechanisms for tagging content for information governance, data protection (e.g. New Zealand Privacy Act), retention and disposal, all in accordance with current legislation and regulation.

Professionals such as Chief Information Officers (CIO) in many organisations want to be able to manage information infrastructure more effectively.  C-suite professionals desire their team to be more efficient at information management, and to be able to focus more on the core organisational objectives and deliverables while minimising any information-related risks. 

To achieve that, we need a new holistic scalable approach to information management assisted by modern technologies, machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation. As Stephen Clarke, New Zealand Chief Archivist pointed out “Humans are good at creating and machines are good at classification, let them both work to their strengths. In any case, at the scale we now create information it’s beyond human capability.”

Introducing New Zealand’s all-of-government ontology 

One of the information management milestones of 2021 was the commissioning of an All-of-Government Ontology Options Paper by Archives New Zealand, Te Rua Mahara o te Kawanatanga. Archives New Zealand is the agency that establishes the regulatory framework for information and records management across the New Zealand public sector.  

The Public Records Act 2005 provides for the Chief Archivist to exercise a leadership role in this, setting standards for the creation, maintenance and efficient management of public records (including data). The purpose of this options paper is to explore the benefits of an all-of-government ontology in helping agencies to find, use, manage and share their information and data. 

What is an ontology? 

Ontologies are shared vocabularies that are used to describe components of a particular discipline and the relationships among these components. By using ontologies, you make it easier for others (or even the future you) to understand your information.

Ontologies support interoperability, the semantic analysis of content, autoclassification of content and automation of business processes. As Archives New Zealand points out, taxonomies and ontologies play an important role in facilitating the use of artificial intelligence and machine-learning tools, widely thought to be the future of information management.  

Figure 2: Figure 2: Benefits of the New Zealand All of Government Ontology.

Figure 2: Figure 2: Benefits of the New Zealand All of Government Ontology. 

One of such promising artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning tools is Microsoft 365 Viva Topics, released by Microsoft in 2021 and rapidly evolving.

What is Viva Topics? 

Viva Topics is a Microsoft 365 service that helps organisations transform information into knowledge by using AI to identify and organise topics in your organisation.

A topic is a phrase or term that is specific or important within an organisation, such as the name of a project or a frequently discussed subject.

Viva Topics automatically compiles information on topics such as a short description, related people, sites, files, and pages. All of this occurs within the flow of your work in Microsoft 365 and Office sites and apps.

Additionally, Knowledge Managers and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can edit these pages to add details and further references.

Viva Topics helps to address a key business challenge in many organisations — providing the information to users when they need it in the context of their work.

Figure 3: Figure 3: Viva Topics topic page with a brief description of the topic and a list of suggested people with expertise in that topic area.

Figure 3: Figure 3: Viva Topics topic page with a brief description of the topic and a list of suggested people with expertise in that topic area. 

Viva Topics for users 

The topics that Viva Topics compiles are available to your users, which means that for every instance of the topic that appears in a modern SharePoint site in news and pages, the text will be highlighted. 

Users can choose to select the topic to learn more about it through the topic details. 

Topics can also be found in SharePoint Search. 

Figure 4: Viva topics card in Microsoft Teams

Figure 4: Viva topics card in Microsoft Teams 

It’s not always perfect 

Not every automatically identified topic by Viva Topics will be useful to your organisation. It’s not always perfect and might not have identified the correct alternate names, descriptions, appropriate people, or content. 

The ability to remove topics or add topics that aren’t identified, to keep suggested topics, and to curate topics is critical to improving the quality of the topics that are discoverable in your organisation and is valuable in this instance. That’s where taxonomies and ontologies can provide a lot of value. 

How taxonomies and ontologies can help improve Viva Topics 

Taxonomies and ontologies can provide Viva Topics with a list of topics that are likely to be prominent for users. Ontologies and taxonomies can also be used for suggesting relationships between topics, that will be reflected in the knowledge graph on the topic pages. 

Figure 5: Viva Topics Knowledge Graph displaying related topics

Figure 5: Viva Topics Knowledge Graph displaying related topics 

Is it worth it 

Yes, most definitely. Users will be able to find the relevant information and professionals more quickly and intuitively than ever before with Microsoft Viva Topics. 

This intelligent AI-powered solution brings knowledge to your people in the context of their work, improving productivity and facilitating collaboration both now and in the future. 

The development of the all-of-government ontology combined with the latest advances of Microsoft Viva Topics promise an exciting future for information management.