Wikipedia defines metadata as “structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use or manage an information resource.” Examples of the most basic metadata associated with documents include informational properties such as author, date created, date modified and file size.
Those who have been in IT for more than a few years know that the concept of metadata is not new: it’s a term that emerged in the late 1960’s. It has been used since the advent of the Dewey Decimal System in libraries for classifying and categorizing materials based on title, author and subject so that they can more easily be located on shelves from among many thousands of others.
Libraries provide an early example of metadata applied in the physical form, but in our increasingly digital world, the primary purpose of metadata management remains the same: to more quickly navigate across data repositories in order to efficiently find, manage and track information. This, in fact, continues to be the essence of what makes metadata management so critical to today’s most widely used applications, for both small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) and enterprises alike.
After all, an information asset is not of value unless it can be found and reused, and for businesses that need to operate at breakneck speeds, finding data fast can mean the difference between work getting done today versus tomorrow — or not at all. Metadata offers a powerful and more effective way to access, organize and track vital business information and processes.
Also important is the value that metadata offers for creating associations and relationships between items and users across one or more repositories or related applications, such as an ERP or CRM system, as well as its benefits for instituting consistency in the way information is used, stored and shared. Metadata also provides clarity about data origins and data histories, and ensures workflows and business processes are properly followed and administered. For example, metadata may include information on the development and lifecycle of a document, including the users, processes and applications involved in its creation, revision and archival, retention and destruction, with granular details that drill down to the exact timestamp of changes and actions, such as reviews and approvals, as well as the access permissions involved in performing them.
In other words, metadata organizes and tracks the entire digital lifecycle of important business information, including the processes, procedures and users that affect it, providing a precise audit trail that can prove invaluable — or mandatory in highly-regulated industries — to your business at any point in time. Protecting and organizing this audit trail is yet another reason why metadata should be a cornerstone of your ECM strategy.
The value of metadata lies in its ability to more efficiently classify and organize information, as well as to yield deeper insight into the actions taking place across your business, providing more intelligence and higher quality information to fuel big data initiatives, automation, compliance, data sharing, collaboration and more. Yet, many ECM applications use metadata as an additional information layer and rely on traditional folder structures to organize information. Consequently, users consider metadata administration as extra work, which often leads to bad metadata quality. On the other hand, effective metadata-based ECM systems only ask users to describe the document or data object with tags and properties when saving it. This enables users to search the information in a manner that is most logical to them (i.e., project name, date, contract type, customer, etc…).
Next time we will consider the what v. the where of metadata. Be sure to subscribe to the blog or email newsletter to get regular updates.
Laminin Solutions is all about optimising information management and connecting different solutions within a business. Through consolidating information and document flow with powerful easy to use and configurable software tools, Laminin Solutions sets the information in the business free from the boundaries of individual systems. Our focus is to improve the productivity of your business whilst reducing the cost to produce and use information.