Working with a client on the implementation of SharePoint 2010 as a document management solution, we were bound to start talking about metadata. SharePoint 2010 offers a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of options regarding metadata and information. Here’s a view of them.
Metadata is information used to identity other information (or, “data about data”, which is not entirely correct). Within SharePoint you can use this metadata to organize your organisation’s content.
Metadata (or mostly used as columns), can be anything. From drop-down lists, queries to other lists, external data (using the BCS) or from the company’s taxonomy (Managed Metadata, see below). The metadata fields can be mandatory or voluntary. If needed, the metadata field can be designed to have a standard value.
Using the document library settings, you can create new metadata columns or modify existing ones. All documents (regardless of content type) which are stored within the library will use this metadata.
If the metadata is mandatory, the document will not be checked-in when the metadata has not been entered.
Another way to associate metadata to documents, is to link the metadata fields to the content type. You can either modify the current content type (by default “Document”) or you can create a new content type and add the (new) metadata fields to that type.
Nice little feature: if you use the content type hub, all changes to the content types (like adding or changing metadata fields), will be replicated to all documents using the content type.
Heads-up: try doing this in a document library which also has custom metadata. All documents based on a content type with custom metadata will have the metadata of the library attached as well. So: you’ll have a lot of metadata associated with the document. Something to think about when designing your DMS…..
Like I mentioned above, a metadata field can be configured to have a default value. But that’s not all! You can configure the document library to assign default value’s based on the location of the document.
For example: let’s say you have a document library with three folders X, Y and Z. You have a custom metadata field “category”. Documents placed in the X folder need to have the default value of “category” set to X (you can figure out the rest for Y and Z).
Using the Change Default Column Values option in the document library settings, you can assign default values to the folders. So, I can assign X to the metadata field “category” in folder X, et cetera. Very nice!
A documentset is a contenttype of the type “Folder”. Which, by the way, means that it cannot be declared as an in-place record, but that’s not the subject of this post…..
You can assign metadata to a documentset or have custom metadata associated with the documentset content type. Which is one of the features which makes the documentset stand out against the basic folder. One of the nice features of the document set is, you can assign the custom metadata to all documents within the set.
An example. You have a content type “Dossier A”, which is a documentset. This set has the following custom metadata fields:
- Assigned to
- Related dossier
Using the documentset settings, you can assign one or more of these fields to all documents within the documentset. For example: Category and Related dossier. When a document is added to the set, it will automaticcely use these metadata fields.
Heads up: again. If you use this within a document library with custom metadata or with document content types with custom metadata, the metadata fields of the document set will be added to these fields. So, again, you will have a lot of metadata fields. Something to remember when designing the DMS….
Taxonomy, enterprise keywords and social tagging
One of the most impressive new features of SharePoint 2010 is the Managed Metadata service. Using this service, you can setup a centralized taxonomy of termsets and terms. The metadata fields can be configured to use this taxonomy. The taxonomy itself is managed by delegated entities within the organisation.
In the design fase, you will need to establish if you are going to use this managed metadata service, who will be responsible for its maintenance and where this shared metadata will be used (document libraries, document centers, content types, et cetera). Also, you will need to have a clear overview of your current taxonomy or the to-be taxonomy in order to set it up in SharePoint 2010.
Another thing to think about is the use of social tagging/enterprise keywords. This is a more free-for-all way of associating metadata to documents, but can be highly effective if used properly. Users can tag a document and leave notes on the document. The tags can be aggregated to form a tagcloud, to display the most tagged documents within the environment.
Social tagging is an option which is not turned on by default. It takes some time to figure out the implications of this functionality. Like everything else in this post: it all comes down to making the right design choices…..