Going paperless is just the first step. After you have switched to a digital office, the next step is to make the most out of this technology by using the proper tools. One such tool is metadata.
What is metadata?
In short, metadata is structured information that allows you to classify and organize a document. It is included as a part of a document, but is not seen unless you intentionally access it. With certain document management systems, it will also give you a detailed preview of what a document contains.
Why does metadata matter for my company's documents?
Due to the increased value of online searches, the most common references to metadata mostly relate to Google searches. However, the importance of metadata goes well beyond the web. Your company's internal documents should also include metadata.
You may feel as though your current document filing system is adequate enough. No matter how organized your company is, though, metadata is an invaluable tool for you to use. Here are the reasons why:
Efficient document classification
Under normal circumstances, you have to take the time to find a folder to place a newly created document. This creates busywork that will end up wasting a lot of man hours during the day. Metadata eliminates this problem by giving your document an identity as soon as it is created. This allows your document management system to automatically put the newly created document in the right place. This will also make moving reclassified documents into different folders easier. All you would need to do in this case is update the metadata.
Easier document searching
When you need to find a document, you shouldn't have to dig through countless digital folders and sub-folders to find it. You should be able to access it in seconds. Metadata allows this to happen, because it gives your document management software a point of reference that gives the system the power to find it with the use of a keyword. This means that accessing your internal documents will in effect be as easy as a Google search.
Streamlined data sharing
The detailed way in which metadata describes a document also makes collaboration easier. This is due to the fact that your metadata will allow you to place all relevant documents into a group that makes them ready for viewing and management within your collaborative group.
Benefiting from metadata requires you to use it correctly
Now that you can answer the question "What is metadata?" and you know why it's important, you must learn how to optimize its effectiveness. If you don't, your metadata could end up being nearly worthless. Here is what you need to do:
Make sure your employees understand the value of metadata
If you just tell your employees to use metadata without explaining its value, then they will just see it as arbitrary. Such a mindset leads to sloppy, incorrect or missing metadata. Avoid this by clearly explaining how using it properly makes their jobs a lot easier.
Implement an effective metadata policy
Successfully using metadata requires consistency. For example, if an employee wants to find all documents related to "Accounts Payable," then all relevant documents should have this key phrase within their metadata. Identify and classify each type of document, so that your metadata will be as accurate as possible.
Streamline your document management with quality metadata
Staying ahead in the digital era requires you to optimize the value of the technology that you have available to you. Knowing how to answer "What is metadata?" and understanding how to use it will give you a huge advantage.