Blog written by:
SharePoint & .Net Consultant
Many Big Analyst companies came up with the estimation that nearly 80% of the information within an organization is in the unstructured form. Information includes important documents, emails, contacts, images etc. It became nearly impossible when it comes to finding relevant data from this unstructured content. Also reorganizing this unstructured data will consume an ample amount of time and money.
It has been proven that the organization who adds metadata to their content gains a significant competitive edge. Much of this unstructured data is of very high value. Nearly 60% of companies admit storing important information in the form of Excel and Word document.
One of the most powerful features in SharePoint is metadata. The most common definition you will hear from SharePoint experts goes like this: “Metadata is data about data.”
As a practical example, let’s talk about your metadata. Your name, address, phone number, height, hair color, weight, blood group and basically anything else you’d find on your government-issued ID is data about you, your metadata.
This information allows the government or your organization and anyone else with to organize their information into a system that makes it easy to search and find people of a certain type in emergency/urgency—or even a specific person—based on their characteristics… their metadata.
In much the same way, SharePoint metadata is the information about your files, not the content of the files. So, the name of your file, title, author, creation date, last modified date, last modifier, file size, type, etc. are all metadata. You can see the metadata in a standard document library view: each column is a metadata field.
Here are some of the areas that will be vastly improved with metadata added to your documents:
- Search (finding relevant documents even refining by type (.pdf,.docx etc.))
- Organization (displaying, sorting & filtering documents)
- Compliance (retaining or disposing of documents, eDiscovery and records management)
- Insights (Business Intelligence (BI) from documents)
Introducing metadata allows the user to rapidly refine the search results to get to the documents/content they are looking for both quickly and accurately.
Using our Financials’ example below, we could allow the user to refine financials by Financial Year, department or Regions. In the figures below the users are presented with interactive charts allowing them to further refine their initial search for financials.
Financials FY-19 computed from the above metadata:
Financials FY-19 by Department computed from the above metadata:
When we can find relevant information either by using search or metadata navigation then governance of documents (retaining, disposing and auditing of information) is very simplified which is the very first step of eDiscovery.
Information management policies can be applied to documents/content depending on the values of metadata. For example, we could decide that all financials raised in North America must be retained for ten years, whereas East America they should be retained for five years. With metadata applied records management can be significantly automated with records be stored in the correct locations with the correct governance supplied.
Introducing Metadata to SharePoint documents/contents makes them structured which allows us to understand relationships and trends across large document sets.
We can query and display all the relevant information from related documents as if they were records in a database.
We can answer questions such as:
- What is the Total sale of the Marketing Department?
- What is the Total sale of the Sales Department?
- What is the Total sale of the Administration Department?
And compute graphical view of these questions in the form of below example.
SharePoint Folders vs Metadata
Most organizations have stored the documents in folder structures. Saving documents in a folder structure introduce 2 major issues:
- People will save the documents to the wrong place or save it in several places which will lead to redundant or duplicate data everywhere
- Each folder only contains a subset of documents which belongs to that folder making it difficult to view documents according to different criteria (for example by year rather than by Department)
When we apply metadata to our documents, we can easily and quickly group, sort, filter and navigate on our metadata to show any documents we would like to see. We save all our financial invoices to a single location and use the metadata to view the documents in any way and in a more detailed way. Here is how our list of invoices would look with some simple metadata applied:
One can easily group, sort, filter and search financials based on the metadata of the file.
A taxonomy (from the Greek phrase meaning “Arrangement method”) is an area where an organization can define lists of related terms to aid with classifying content.
In SharePoint, this terminology is known as the term store.
A SharePoint taxonomy is organized into groups, term sets and the terms themselves.
Metadata can be managed in:
- Term Stores: Web Service that will manage the enterprise terms
- Term Sets: Predefined lists of applicable terms—vocabularies, such as states, locations, jurisdictions, projects, etc.
- Terms: Applied to content through Managed Metadata Fields in columns
Provides a way to set up Synonyms
We all call things differently. We tend to abbreviate. For example, you call it Proof of Concept, I call it POC. We all mean the same thing though. With the term store, we can both be happy. SharePoint Term Store has a concept of synonyms (secondary labels). For each “master label” you define, you can specify other labels (synonyms).
Here is an example of a secondary label being set in SharePoint Term Store:
Provides a way to create Term Hierarchies
This is the key feature of the managed metadata which let you create hierarchies of terms. The Out of the Box “regular” choice column, you can only create a single level list of tags. With Managed Metadata (Term Store), you can create multi-level tags, which comes in handy in the certain situation where you want to represent content with hierarchy.
Provides a way to display Term Hierarchy
When a user tags content with the certain label that is part of a hierarchy which is mentioned in the Term Store, you can also visualize the whole path (just like the folder path or directory path)
Provides a way to setup owners/managers for different sets of Metadata tags [Term Sets]
One of the awesome things about the SharePoint Term Store is that it allows you to setup different managers/owners/Point of contact for different term sets. Say, you created some metadata used by the HR Department. And, some metadata used exclusively by the Development department. You don’t want HR folks to play with Development metadata and vice versa.
Provides a way to do Sorting either Automatic or with Custom Sorting
Another feature of the Term Store is an ability to easily sort choices. By default, Term Store tags will be sorted alphabetically, but if you need some custom sorting, that option is available too in the settings section.
Provides a way to set languages
You might need to tag data into the regional site where we have multilingual package enabled on SharePoint sites. With Term Store one can also set synonyms of these terms into multiple languages.
Provide a way to move, merge, reorganize terms and Reuse Term
Another beauty of the Term Store is that you can re-organize the terms at any point.
You created an entire set of hierarchy and down the line if some items changed from the hierarchy, no need to worry or delete and re-build. Term Store gives you easy UI to re-organize your terms. You can move the terms or even complete terms sets from one “folder” to another.
Provide a way to use terms in Global Navigation
You can use Managed Navigation as the Top navigation in SharePoint Site. It lets you define the hierarchy in the term store which can be displayed onto your Top Navigation of your SharePoint Site.
Provide a way to import terms in bulk via excel
Term Store gives you the ability to upload terms in bulk. When you have a small number of terms – you can just type them in, one by one. But what if you have listed in hundreds or thousands? Term Store allows you to import terms in bulk, using an Excel file. The terms must be in a certain format, which you can follow from sample import template that Term Store provides for you.
Overall Metadata plays a key role in the Content Management System. Most of the information in your organization is likely to be unstructured. Adding metadata will help you find, organize and gain insights from your documents.
Additionally, it will help you to quickly search, reorganize the things fast and with a smooth experience.