In case you’re new to the topic, metadata refers to the data about the data within documents that you have stored. Some simple examples might include the document title, relevant keywords, and the names of contributors or owners. Initial discussions about metadata tend to revolve around the ways that proper metadata makes searches work faster and better, as we’ve discussed in the past and how metadata adds structure to unstructured information.
At the same time, you need to consider your metadata as more than just input for the kinds of searches that you perform as part of your routine workflow. If you don’t take some effort to plan out your metadata strategy, you could regret leaving out important information that can serve you, your customers, or your partners later.
How Metadata Quality Can Translate Directly to Extra Profits or Losses
Obviously, if searchers can find the information they seek faster and more efficiently, they can work more productively. The oft-quoted IDC statistic says that “the knowledge worker spends about 2.5 hours per day, or roughly 30% of the workday, searching for information.” If that figure is even half right, the consequences of not finding data are huge. In the context of find-ability of information, metadata is like a weathercock pointing users to relevant content — and with M-Files pointing them to that content, regardless of which system that content may reside in.
Your organization should have an easy time translating that benefit into additional profits. Still, improved metadata can even more directly translate into improved profits, better data and security, and lead to money getting paid or spent where it’s supposed to be. Consider a couple of examples that may help you think of some metadata you should plan to include.
An Example of Metadata Issues in the Music Industry
CMSWire addressed this topic by using the example of streaming music with services like iTunes, Pandora and Spotify. Most people who use these services search with obvious tags like musician, song title, or music genre. Still, a contract to pay royalties for each time the music gets played may include plenty of people besides the musicians. Sometimes the sound engineer, producer, and others earn a share. These days, streaming content is not just for amateurs, so the data required to pay royalties has grown more complex and massive since some of these services began.
Apparently, making sure that everybody who deserves a royalty payment is recorded in the song’s metadata has become a real problem in the music industry. Thus, billions of dollars of lost revenue are sunk into a digital black hole because of the different ways that various services record or fail to record this kind of information.
Streaming services can face legal problems and damage to their reputation if they neglect to pay everybody on the contract. Skilled professionals can lose their hard-earned royalties. Pay-per-play services like this must make sure they can track their content reliably.
Saving Metadata for the Future
Most of us probably focus on managing enterprise data for internal use, so nobody’s direct paycheck depends upon it. At the same time, you may be presented with extra tags from certain systems that you don’t need currently to fuel any features of your system. The decision to include or exclude that information can make an impact on your current or future bottom line and, of course, impact profits and perhaps, paychecks.
Certainly, you need to consider features that improve the current user experience and support business functions. You also need to avoid using tags that could have a negative impact. For instance, you may need to take care that personal data from customers doesn’t constitute a privacy violation. However, you should also look ahead to think about some future features that you may need.
An example of metadata you might consider may not just include document authors but also every document editor. Let’s say certain errors have been consistently introduced to certain documents, and you need to find the source of them in order to provide training.
In a potentially worse case, you could need to trace a chain of custody for information in the case of suspected fraud. Even if you don’t need to know everybody who edited a document for your routine business process, you could save yourself a lot of grief if you have it on hand when you do need it.
And let’s not forget the tremendous impact that artificial intelligence has in automatically suggesting metadata values. Today’s artificial intelligence will help create and add better metadata with less effort. Plus, it will work with all types of files, including text, graphics, audio, and video.
Your Metadata Strategy Can Have a Real Financial Impact on Your Company
You can’t always predict the future; however, you can prepare for it by taking these steps to develop your metadata strategy:
- Consider involving various stakeholders when developing your metadata requirements. Certainly, you could invite typical system users and also people who work upstream and downstream of the business area. You might even call in an attorney to discuss potential compliance and other legal areas.
- Besides considering routine business practices, try to think about rarer but essential uses of search tags. What kind of information should you keep in case of errors, audits, or even digital mischief?
- Finally, consider the direction of growth trends in your business or industry to ensure you capture data when you have it and won’t regret failing to capture it in a couple of months or years. The extra effort you take to plan your metadata strategy today can save your organization money, work, and in some cases, grief.