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How to Standardize your Metadata

Picture of three rulers. Standardizing Your Metadata

Summary This article outlines how to manage / organize your organization’s metadata terms, how to standardize them, and how to organize them within your existing metadata structure, all while:

  • Meeting your organization’s standards

  • Reducing content sprawl

  • Increasing overall efficiency when managing your information

Scenario Metadata in your organization is the key to accurately track and report on your organization’s performance.

Good data is the foundation of any efficient operation.

Without it, you can’t forecast, plan, or track your business performance, which in the long term can ultimately affect its success. Data helps support decision-making with real-time information that saves time and money. Therefore, how do you standardize your organization's metadata?

Resolution Step 1: Is your Metadata useful? Data is used for reporting purposes. If you are not reporting on the data you are collecting, there is no need to collect it. Only keep what is useful. This is much easier said than done, therefore when looking at your existing metadata, ask yourself:

  • When was this metadata last used?

    • If it hasn’t been used in the last 6 months get rid of it.

  • What is the purpose of collecting this type of metadata?

    • If the purpose is not directly linked to reporting or user experience, get rid of it.

Step 2: Does your Metadata have structure? Organize your metadata like you would with your information architecture. Three pillars are usually found in an Organizational Metadata Architecture:

  1. Functions: are usually described as the primary organization function that utilizes the metadata. (Example: Human Resources Department)

  2. Activities: are usually described as the organization activity or relationship that utilizes the metadata. (Example: Job Titles)

  3. Metadata: are descriptive values of the defined activities. (Example: Accountant)​​​​​​​

Maintaining a 3-level relationship between your metadata value, its function and activity helps reduce redundancy across terms and simplifies your content. It can happen that you need to add additional relationship levels to your metadata but when you can, reduce it as much as possible.

utensils storage, organized and tidy
Having a standardized hierarchy and defined purpose or category for each item is essential to keeping your workplace tidy.

Step 3: Remove Duplicates! If your organization allows end users to create new metadata without supervisor or implemented standards, you are bound to create duplicates. When cleaning your metadata, consider looking for these types of duplicates/errors:

  • Use of Symbols: “Policies & Procedures” vs. “Policies and Procedures”

  • Upper and Lower Cases: “POLICIES AND PROCEDURES” vs. “Policies and Procedures”

  • Typos: “Policies and Procedures” vs. “Polcies and Procedures”

  • Abbreviations: “P&P” vs. “Policies and Procedures”

  • Adjectives: “Old Policies and Procedures” vs. “Policies and Procedures”

Step 4: Is your Metadata singular?

Sometimes when creating metadata, users try to be as precise as they can. However, contrary to what they may think being more precise, doesn’t mean it will be reflected in the system. Adding Adjectives to metadata values can lead to the over usage and content sprawl. See the example below: Before (15 Metadata Terms)

After (6 Metadata Terms)

By separating the metadata values into 2 components it reduces the overall amount of metadata values in the organization while enhancing your organization’s reporting capabilities. Before the cleanup, it would have been very hard to report on the quantity of finance employees vs. after the cleanup, now users can simply filter by the department value to generate the report.

Step 5: Is your Metadata used in multiple activities? Generalize terms that have the same values. In the example below, we have broken down the 2 different activities into a single one.

By following these practices, you should be able to standardize and organize your metadata and start implementing your new Organizational Metadata Architecture. This includes adding your new metadata to your SharePoint Term Store according to your new metadata architecture.


About Cadence Solutions

Jordan Uytterhagen founded Cadence Solutions starting on the client side of the table. His mandate has been to help organizations struggling with digital transformation implement projects without losing their trust and confidence. Our solutions include automation of human resources, finance, accounts payable, contract management, document capture, drawing and records management, as well as managed services. Cadence Solutions has proven, time and again, that our client's projects will be successful because we are authentic with unmatched experience.


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