Having good metadata is the key to good search. Some of the primary benefits:
- Improved usability and findability of content;
- Enhanced search applications;
- Less time spent with not finding the content;
- Better overall user satisfaction.
With good quality metadata not only the usability but also findability of the content skyrockets. The result is happy employees who can get their jobs done much faster and easier.
In SharePoint, there are several metadata types, both managed and unmanaged. Let me summarize these, primarily from the perspective of findability.
Unmanaged Metadata Types
In most cases, we use unmanaged metadata in SharePoint:
- Single line text
- Multi-line text
- Date / time
In case of these metadata types, users can enter their own values (with some level of validation); therefore, the set of values might be very broad, uncontrolled and inconsistent. The users are free to use different forms and synonyms without any (external) control. We can set up rules and governance practices about what values should be used, but it’s everyone’s own responsibility to follow these guidelines.
Managed Metadata Types
Or to avoid confusion with “managed metadata”, probably it would be better to call these metadata types “managed types of metadata“.
In this case, metadata is managed by “metadata owners” or taxonomists: a group of users who are responsible for creating, maintain and curate the metadata as part of the organization’s knowledge management system.
Using managed metadata has several benefits, of course:
- controlled, consistent set of metadata values;
- rules and governance practices provide the quality of managed metadata;
- simple data discovery;
- increased confidence;
- rely and usage of staff knowledge regarding to business rules and definitions;
- improved cooperation between business and IT.
In SharePoint, there are several ways to store managed data types:
- Choice – best to use when the options won’t change (days of the week, months of the year, etc.)
- Lookup – best when you want a specific group of users to be responsible to maintain the list of values, without giving them administrative roles (contribution right on the lookup list is enough).
- Managed Metadata – the most sophisticated type of metadata. You can store the values in a hierarchy. It’s a great choice for enterprise-wide values which require stricter governance.
Since Managed Metadata is a huge topic itself, I’m going to write about it in more details in one or two of my next blog posts. I’ll introduce its primary features, benefits as well as limitations.