Better SharePoint through managed metadata

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SharePoint 2013 can deliver a great deal of information-sharing value with its flexible, robust features. Microsoft continues to update and enhance this venerable platform, adding managed metadata features and other improvements for records management, eDiscovery, social collaboration and mobile access. Since the company’s acquisition of Yammer, Microsoft continues to integrate the two platforms for creating a more comprehensive social networking and information ecosystem.

Yet in too many cases we have seen SharePoint turn into a mess – a hot mess, to use a popular idiom.

We find companies that do a great job of implementing the technical infrastructure, setting up servers that will run through thick and thin. Yet the information-sharing value of SharePoint gets left to chance it seems, resulting in disorganized libraries that are difficult to navigate and leave users confused, frustrated and blind to useful content.

The difference between SharePoint as an information-storing mess and SharePoint as an information-sharing and discovery masterpiece relies on a few key considerations:

  • Pre-implementation strategy and planning in regard to information goals, objectives and requirements.
  • Post-implementation training, orientation and change management initiatives for all users.
  • Suitable use of Managed Metadata in SharePoint 2013 as well as other features and tool sets.

We can’t over-emphasize the need for planning and training/orientation, and a fair amount of our consulting work is focused on these areas. Yet the rest of this article will touch on that third consideration – specifically the use of SharePoint 2013’s Managed Metadata and Term Store services.

Managed Metadata

The subject of metadata is near and dear to the hearts of the professionally trained and disciplined librarians who work for LAC Group. And discipline is exactly what’s needed to create and maintain any successful library of information, which is the essence of SharePoint.

Metadata offer distinct advantages for searching, sorting, filtering and categorizing information. Chiefly, metadata are dynamic, which better meets the diverse and changing needs of an organization, from individuals to groups or departments to the complete enterprise.

The traditional way of organizing information in SharePoint is through static folders, and many users seem to prefer the folder paradigm. Yet heavy reliance on them, with no metadata or poor metadata, often leads to the worst SharePoint implementations.

In subsequent versions of SharePoint, Microsoft has added Managed Metadata Service and Term Stores and today this functionality can be used to define metadata centrally, allowing you to:

  • Pre-define terms and control who can add new terms by granting permission to authorized users only.
  • Update metadata in one location and have it change everywhere.
  • Create more adaptable, taxonomy-based navigation.

Setting up Managed Metadata Service in SharePoint 2013 gives access to Term Store Management. Term Store is a taxonomy repository in which a term is the central object. A term is a word or a phrase that can be associated with an item, and a term set is a collection of related terms.

Metadata and term store functionality makes the information contained within SharePoint more accessible, which increases the value of that information while also saving time and improving productivity and satisfaction among users:

  • More flexible navigation and access reveals information otherwise confined to folders.
  • You can have user-friendly and search-friendly URLs instead of database-driven URLs.
  • You can improve search through “Did you mean?” spelling suggestions using the Query Spelling Inclusion/Exclusion term sets.
  • Taxonomy fields can be used to drive document retention policies.

As for Microsoft’s take on metadata, the company recommends a combination of metadata and folders, keeping the folder hierarchy as flat and minimal as possible.

For other recommendations from Microsoft, visit the comprehensive SharePoint 2013 Best Practices collection of resources, covering every topic from upgrading and migration to backup and recovery. Suggestions for “Every Day Use” are also included.

If you feel that your organization is not making the most of your SharePoint system, or you will be upgrading/migrating to SharePoint 2013 or starting from scratch, don’t neglect any of the three key considerations mentioned above – pre-implementation strategy and planning, post-implementation orientation and using the complete feature toolset, including Managed Metadata Service and Term Store Management.

Without good metadata, SharePoint is like a digital attic, storing lots of great stuff that’s not easily seen or found.

Click here to learn more about LAC Group’s expertise in metadata and taxonomy services.

Rob Corrao

Rob Corrao

Rob Corrao is CEO at LAC Group and is responsible for business operations and integration of all company service lines, mergers and acquisitions.

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