Microsoft SharePoint can improve an organization’s productivity in a number of different ways, such as by making it easier to locate the correct documents when they’re required. One reason why SharePoint is so effective at discovering information is the fact that it goes beyond the traditional folder-based approach to document organization by allowing users to add metadata to their files.
What Is Metadata?
Metadata is often defined as data about data, but this concise definition is more amusing than useful. Here’s a slightly longer but considerably more helpful definition: Metadata is data that provides information about other data.
Many great examples of metadata can be found on book covers. The typical book cover will tell you the name of the book, its author, publisher, year of publishing, and some will even provide a brief summary of what the book is about. Just imagine how difficult it would be to find a specific book in a library if books had no covers.
In much the same way, digital metadata in SharePoint provide additional information about files, and their examples include the file name, author, creation date, last modified date, file size, and so on. Some SharePoint metadata is created automatically, but users can also create additional metadata manually based on their individual needs and preferred approach to document organization.
Why Is Metadata Important?
Metadata is important because it makes it possible to group stored documents in many different ways. As such, teams can create personalized document views based on what’s most important to them. This is not possible with folder-based document organization, which always presents only one way of document grouping.
While very small teams may be fine with having only one way to group documents, the fact remains that different people have different approaches to organizing information, so having the flexibility to group documents in multiple ways is always a plus. What’s more, metadata also help users find the right files faster and provide several other important benefits that make them well worth the extra effort it takes to add them.
Top 3 Benefits of SharePoint Metadata
It’s important to highlight that metadata doesn’t replace folders. Instead, it helps overcome the inherent limitations of the traditional folder hierarchy all users are familiar with from Windows File Explorer or OneDrive. Let’s take a closer look at the top three most important benefits associated with using metadata in SharePoint.
1. Improved Searchability
The biggest benefit provided by metadata is improved search. When users place documents inside folders, they have their own mental maps that help them retrieve the right documents. The problem is that other users may not be aware of them, and the search feature in SharePoint certainly isn’t. Metadata, on the other hand, remains visible regardless of how deep in the folder hierarchy a document is nested, allowing users to easily narrow down the search results by filtering content across all folders.
2. Personalized Document Views
As we already explained, metadata empowers different teams to create personalized views of the data that is most important to them. When teams can effortlessly access the data they need the most, their productivity instantly increases. Since metadata can be added, removed, and otherwise modified independently of the underlying folder structure, teams can flexibly adjust their document views based on their current projects.
3. Compliance and Security
Metadata makes it possible for organizations to easily enforce data access policies by applying classification labels to individual documents, specifying retention and disposal schedules for different document types, and setting up group-based access controls to limit access to critical business information in order to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
SharePoint is a powerful document management and storage system designed to help organizations of all sizes store, access, co-author, and update files from anywhere. To unlock its full potential and enjoy improved searchability, personalized document views, and enhanced compliance and security, it’s paramount to utilize metadata in order to provide additional information about stored documents.
If your organization has yet to embrace the power of SharePoint metadata, or if you need help with designing the right metadata for your files, please contact us at TechGen Consulting, and we’ll take your document management to the next level.