What is metadata?

Metadata is data about your data, which makes working with and tracking of data easier. For example, on an invoice you could add metadata to define the customer, due date and the total invoice amount. This would make it easy to quickly find specific invoices, the data. In a SharePoint environment, such metadata fields are called columns. They are used to create specific views in your libraries or to use in the search engine.

SharePoint comes with a strong tool to centrally manage metadata, managed metadata. It will offer some great practical uses for your business. Consistent use of metadata, improved content discoverability, increased flexibility and the possibility to easily translate, add synonyms to, reuse and pin keywords are just a few of the many benefits of managed metadata.

Managed metadata in SharePoint

Taxonomy? Folksonomy?

A taxonomy is a hierarchical classification of words (termset), labels or terms that are organized into groups based on similarities. A taxonomy may be defined and centrally managed by one or more individuals.

A folksonomy is a classification of words (termset) in which users collaboratively apply words, labels or terms to content on a site. A folksonomy-based approach to metadata can be useful because it taps the knowledge and expertise of site users and content creators, and it enables content classification to evolve with the users’ changing business needs and interests.

When building your managed metadata, you are creating termsets (a set of terms) and terms. Those termsets can be closed (taxonomy) or open (folksonomy). The terms in a termset can be reused, pinned, translated etc.

While setting up a taxonomy is the safest way to guarantee consistent terms, though you might not be able to gather all the needed metadata since knowledge is spread within your business, it might be wise to also set up a folksonomy. As a folksonomy might get easily polluted with double and/or unwanted terms, it is wise to assign someone in the company to control it on a regular base.

Implementing managed metadata

Don’t dive in the managed metadata head first. To make it work, you will need to carefully plan the implementation. Depending on how formal and how much control you want to impose on metadata, you will need to involve different key users.

Be aware that implementing a robust managed metadata structure is a never ending occupation. It will need continuous revision and adaption as your business evolves.

A wise and thoughtful setup of managed metadata will make your SharePoint environment a more productive place than ever before.