Meaningful use of metadata increases the usability of documents
The key that unlocks the full usability of metadata is appropriately managed metadata structure, which reflects the specific needs of the company and its clients.
Contemporary workplaces produce tons of documents, churning out contracts, presentations, correspondence and invoices day in and day out. The success of every employee (and the company as a whole) is measured by how efficiently we manage to navigate this enormous volume of documents and contents. When employees become more involved with the comprehensive information contained in these documents, this improves their 'visionary' ability to add value to the company’s operations and business results. Effective metadata management provides the company with the agility and balance to navigate the massive number of documents.
Metadata is ‘information about data’ and should describe the characteristics of specific content as well as, for example, document name, type, size, and the name of the user that created the document.
However, before we can start using metadata in practice, we first need to understand its overall role. Only then we will be able to create a meaningful and comprehensive system delivering added value, and avoid the most common pitfalls of metadata use.
Experience shows that many organizations still fail to comprehend the full relevance and usability of metadata. This is understandable, though, as it is still early days for the corporate digital transformation and employees have not yet fully internalized the common refrains that ‘data is the new oil’ and ‘the lifeblood' of their business. Until fairly recently, structural metadata was the main type of metadata used. Hidden behind a user interface and practically invisible to an average user, structural metadata was mainly a concern of programmers. We are now entering a new era – the era of digitalization – and it is time for organizations to become better acquainted with the role and relevance of metadata and its usability in business.
Unlocking the full potential of metadata with a well-designed system
Let us explain this on the case of a grocery store. When you walk through the door, you know exactly which department to go to if you need specific food. You do not go to the Health & Beauty department if you want to buy fruit, and you will never find pasta in the Wine & Beer section. We are hoping to create a similar structure for our documents, which can be assigned to a particular location in our system using metadata. This means the system will store invoices in the Invoices ‘section’, contracts in the Contracts ‘section’, and so on.
This comprehensive structure is a great basis for processing and management of all documents the business receives or produces. With metadata, we can now further improve their usability.
Electronic documents are tagged with specific metadata on entering the company, and this metadata can be supplemented to meet the requirements of the department and the organization. The process is slightly longer for paper-based documents, which have to be captured in electronic format before they can be assigned company-relevant metadata. But the work does not stop here – metadata is added to the document throughout its life cycle.
METADATA IN PRACTICE – INCOMING INVOICES
To show you how this works in practice, let us take a look at incoming invoices. When an invoice is received, the organization captures its basic data, e.g. the place of issue, total amount, the issuer. As the invoice passes through the validation process, important further metadata is assigned, containing information about the person responsible for the cost and the contract associated with it. This set of company-specific metadata is very important for the organization because it means that the invoice will be assigned a logical location within the organization.
What is the usability of context metadata in content management?
Below listed are several advantages of using metadata in content management:
- Needed information is just a few clicks away. When documents are tagged with appropriate metadata, they can be accessed quickly and easily at any moment. The document trail can be followed since metadata allows us to define in advance what will happen to the document throughout its life cycle.
- Meaningful relations for better understanding of documents. Metadata can be used to relate pieces of content. For example, when our organization receives an invoice, it is useful to know the transaction behind the invoice. This information is usually contained in a contract or another type of agreement. And since the contract and the invoice are disparate documents, they can be easily associated using metadata, which will greatly simplify any subsequent information search.
- Metadata is managed throughout the document life cycle. Using metadata, we can place documents in a meaningful manner based on their content. Metadata is also used to specify the life time of a document, which means that it is also a key factor in document storage.
All these functionalities are also provided by the InDoc Edge platform, which enables users to retrieve desired information quickly and simply using metadata and supports tagging of personal data within the metadata scheme, which is particularly relevant to GDPR. Specific metadata is likely to contain personal data, which is an aspect that must be considered when setting up the metadata structure. (More in the next blog.)
How to avoid the most common pitfalls of metadata management?
When assigning metadata, we need to be aware that all document types cannot be tagged with the same metadata as the result would be very chaotic.
It is therefore crucial to set up a clear classification schedule early on in the process in order to define what types of documents are being managed, and then consider all metadata through the prism of whether it delivers added value to our information search.
Also, it makes little sense to tag the document with a lot of different metadata if ultimately, when specific information is needed, these not perform their basic function. When defining the quantity of metadata, moderation is advisable and, most importantly, we must keep in mind the big picture, never losing sight of how the document will fit inside out document management system.
Most companies make a mistake when deciding on the quantity of metadata used. If documents are tagged with too much or too little metadata, this will either negatively impact the document search or create electronic anarchy, preventing us from locating and logically structuring our documents. Common sense is the most important principle to be applied also when it comes to metadata.
At Mikrocop, we are fully aware of this. That is why the first step in collaboration with a new client is always to learn as much as possible their organization, the types of documents they manage, and their primary concerns and needs. As highly experienced ‘data stewards’, we use the organization’s specific needs to pinpoint the solutions that will deliver the greatest added value. Our key advantage is our agile approach, which allows us to move swiftly from theory to practice. We strive to involve the client into the practical application of implemented solutions as soon as possible to make sure they successfully deliver value to the client’s organization.
This blog explores the role of metadata in finding the needed information in the ocean of documents. Next time, we will focus on another important aspect of metadata – its role in ensuring the traceability of document use, which is required for proving audit trails and demonstrating compliance.
Keep in mind: if you are determined to get rid of electronic anarchy and understand the importance of using metadata for content management, Mikrocop can assist you.
Want to know more? Contact us!