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SharePoint Metadata: It Takes Time To Make Time!

SharePoint Metadata: It takes time to make time!

As a SharePoint Consultant I find myself coming up against a common barrier when discussing Metadata, Taxonomy and Folksonomy to enable to creation of Document Management Systems on SharePoint. First of all, lets understand those three terms…

Metadata:

This is the terminology used to describe “information about information”. These are your documents’ properties. I commonly describe these as ingredients; you understand the ingredients in your packs of food without having to purchase, open and try the item. Metadata provides you that same ability, but with your documents.  

Taxonomy:

This is the term given to STRUCTURED tagging. Tags are properties that are assigned to documents, enhancing the documents’ metadata. However, the use of Taxonomy ensures that users have a selection of common tags to use. These are required when the selections are limited. For example, a taxonomy would define that a user can select a relevant location to assign to a document. These locations may be UK, USA and Germany if they are the only locations you operate in. Giving users a free selection for this would only cause confusion.

Folksonomy:

This is the term given to UNSTRUCTURED tagging – the ability for your users to have a free choice. These free choices will then begin to build up, allowing users to receive suggestions based on what their peers have entered. This approach is already available within the Skills section of your My Site/Delve profile. Skills are subjective. A user may decide that they are a keen cyclist, whereas their peer may in fact be a pro unicyclist. These tags could not be determined by the organisation. The only downside to folksonomy is the lack of control, therefore it is not recommended to use this too frequently. So now back to the barrier. Upon launch of a SharePoint Document Management System you are guaranteed to hear “I do not have time to fill in those properties!”, “It was quicker for me to save documents before now!” or words to that effect. Now I am not saying that these statements are wrong, but with training (and perseverance) these views will be switched. I believe that the way to bring these individuals on to your side is to sell them the benefits as opposed to just enforcing the new way of working. So what do I mean by that. Well in actual fact it is quite simple: the use of Metadata, Taxonomy and Folksonomy will actually save more time than it takes. The issue is that a user cannot see past the time they need to use now, and recognise where they will save time in the future. Here are two core time saving benefits;

Findability & Searchability:

Metadata will allows users to filter results, create views (for example, only show me the documents that were created by me) and to refine search results. It is my belief that spending 5 minutes extra when uploading a document will in fact save each user who needs to locate the document 20 – 30 minutes when performing a search. As opposed to trawling through pages of documents (do any of us navigate past page 3 of Google?) the user can refine their own search. A user can enter their search term, and state that they are looking for a Contract, written in English and delivered by the supplier AMT Evolve. This approach will now provide users with a manageable number of results – maybe even display the single!a document that is required.

Efficient working environment:

How many times have you either received an email, received a Skype for Business Instant Message, received a phone call or even had a colleague walk over to your desk and say “Where is Document. . .”, “Can you please send me Document . . .”. The assumption is that the colleague in question has already wasted time trying to find this document (not always true!) and now they are wasting your time, as you will have to locate and send the document in question. However, had you have spent the additional 5 minutes adding metadata to your document then your colleague would have found it quicker and would not have disturbed you. This disturbance should also take into account the time needed for you to refocus and re familiarise yourself with the work that you had your attention taken away from. If these benefits are announced at the start of the project, and delivered during training then user adoption into a new way of working should increase. In summary, I believe that it takes time to make time. It takes time to review the current document management system. Takes time to define and create your taxonomy. It takes time to build the system. And finally, it takes time to train and it takes time for your users to enter some metadata. However, all this time ensures that you have a more efficient work force, can find documents more quickly and can keep focus on the more important jobs at hand. Saving more time than was originally spent long into the future. Do you agree that the early cost of time and resource provides the best return on investment for your SharePoint Document Management System?
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