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7 Crucial Metadata Management Best Practices

12/08/2022
Metadata Best Practices
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Metadata allows Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions to manage, store and organize business documents in real time.

In short, metadata is information that describes an aspect about a document. It explains how information is structured within the document, is searchable and is stored alongside the document it describes. Metadata can be accessed via search queries.

If you are searching for a handy way to make your content more easily searchable, by indexing information, including aggregate information from multiple documents – you need to use metadata as a part of your ECM strategy. This information can be exported into reports or used as a part of an automated workflow to move documents along a pre-configured process.

Examples of metadata include fields, versions, tags, links and digital signatures. 


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When creating a metadata plan for your organization, consider the use of these seven best practices:

  1. Give your fields generic names so that they can be reused across templates.
  2. Place commonly-used fields toward the top of the template and less-used fields toward the bottom.
  3. Set crucial data fields as “required” to fill out in order to save your document.
  4. Add links to navigate quickly between frequently used documents.
  5. Use security tags on confidential documents.
  6. Add a version comment when you save a new version of your document.
  7. Use the “document checkout” function to prevent other users from editing while you are in the document. 

1. Give your fields generic names so that they can be reused across templates. 

Standardizing template fields with generic names such as Customer Name, Street Address or ID Number, can aid in reusing these fields and applying them to multiple document types. When you reduce the number of fields that a user can choose from, you’ll decrease user confusion and increase understanding of your process with a better chance that your user will complete the entire form with ease.

Pro Tip: Field names should be self-explanatory. Do not use acronyms.

2. Place commonly-used fields toward the top of the template and less-used fields toward the bottom.

Reduce user reading fatigue by placing commonly-used fields (with generic names as noted above) at the beginning of your templates and the more variable fields at the end. This allows users who are scanning and filing documents to quickly type their values into the most relevant fields without having to tab or scroll down. This method will also keep the most relevant fields in a position to be viewed first by the user when searching for or opening the document.

Pro Tip: Use drop-down lists and dynamic fields to assist users in filling out fields and prevent data entry errors.

3. Set crucial data fields as “required” to fill out in order to save your document.

When you set a field as “required,” the user is forced to enter a value into the field before it can be saved. Make sure to use the required field constraint conscientiously.

Pro Tip: Too many required fields can slow down indexing, but too few could also lead to inconsistent information.

4. Add links to navigate quickly between frequently used documents. 

Links connect related documents even if they are stored in different sections of the repository. Help your users find related documents quickly without cluttering the repository full of shortcuts. Use links! When you use links, you give documents additional context and save time for your user. As an example, if a user is working on a project with multiple documents, links assist in helping the user move quickly between the documents without having to navigate the folder structure. 

5. Use security tags on confidential documents. 

If you have confidential documents, using a security tag is a good idea. Security tags allow only authorized users the ability to view. 

6. Add a version comment when you save a new version of your document.

Versioning is a great way to keep your repository organized. Whenever you save a document as a new version, it’s a best practice to add a version comment. Doing this will help users easily see the changes made between versions, without needing to open the actual document.

7. Use the “document checkout” function to prevent other users from editing while you are in the document. 

Prevent the possibility of multiple users editing over each other at the same time within a document. Use the document checkout function. This will allow one user at a time to “checkout” the document, collect and save changes as a single version and then check the document back into the repository or folder. It’s similar to a patron checking out a book from the library and when finished, returns the book.

Including best practices as a part of your metadata plan, is always a good idea. Because planning now will help to reduce confusion and lead to better user adoption, later.

How can ECM solutions and metadata help streamline your business processes? Contact the experts at Gordon Flesch Company for a free, no-obligation needs assessment to discuss leveraging your data to increase efficiencies, improve compliance and make better business decisions.

The amount of data being generated by the average business is increasing at a rapid pace. How will you better organize and manage this avalanche of data? Learn about five major technology advances that your business can leverage to streamline your operations and get ahead. Click the link below to download the infographic.

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