Guest Column | January 30, 2017

The Promise Of Metadata: Bringing Order To Content Chaos

Content Metadata

By Mika Javanainen, Senior Director of Product Management, M-Files Corporation

Managing business information is more complex than ever. The amount of content businesses generate and manage is growing fast and will continue to explode in the coming years as more systems, applications, and devices are introduced into the corporate ecosystem.

The problem is, a significant amount of structured data and unstructured content is scattered across a variety of applications, network drives, and devices. With important content assets residing within these disconnected information siloes, finding the right information is not only difficult, but also time-consuming. Bringing order to this environment of content chaos is fast becoming a strategic imperative.

Metadata Is Changing The Game

There's a better approach that will enable organizations to take a quantum leap forward in solving the content chaos conundrum. To take control, forward-looking organizations are turning the power of metadata.

Metadata is defined as data about data, and it can take many forms. For example, metadata attributes are imbedded into songs in iTunes that help you search for music by artist, song title, album or genre. In the context of business information, metadata attributes in documents and other information objects may include the author, date created or modified, file type, size, and more.

Those who have been in IT for a while know the concept of metadata isn’t new. However, it has forever been a lightning rod for misinterpretation which has undermined its significance and fueled misunderstandings about the impact it can have.

A primary example is that many organizations still believe metadata is too difficult or time consuming to deal with. However, when it comes to information management today, there may be no better way to ensure your organization is making the most of its time and resources than by implementing a metadata strategy.

When some businesses first begin working with metadata in a proactive manner, they sometimes use too many different attributes which tends to make metadata management more daunting and complex. But in most cases, only the few core attributes that are most important to the business are needed for a metadata structure to deliver immediate benefits.

There’s More To Metadata Than Meets The Eye

Metadata can do much more than improve the ability to quickly find information. Metadata can also be used to enforce access rights to files and to initiate workflows (for approving invoices, contracts, agreements, etc.). It can also help eliminate the duplication of content. For example, there’s no need for employees to take a file out of Salesforce or other CRM systems, copy it, and store the copy elsewhere. Files and other data objects are stored once and anyone can find them by searching appropriate metadata tags.

Furthermore, metadata enables organizations to create associations and relationships between various information assets, even if they reside in different applications, whether on-premises or in the cloud providing a 360-degree view of the relationships that exist among all objects (structured data and unstructured content). Not only does this help to eliminate information silos, it provides deeper insight into the actions taking place across businesses — powerful intelligence that can help drive better business decisions.

The “Ah-Ha” Moment

Luckily, in our increasingly digital world, we are finally getting to the point where people truly understand how to use metadata and appreciate the importance of it. According to Gartner, “Metadata unlocks the value of data … failure to manage it properly will hamper critical activities such as information management, business process management, and service-oriented architecture (SOA) initiatives.”

Changing how we think about metadata will enable organizations to take a quantum leap forward in the way they manage information and processes, allowing faster, more efficient search and navigation, as well as more effective access controls and workflow management. It’s clear when it comes to realizing the power of metadata, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. And as organizations begin to see metadata and a new light, they too will realize the value and being to use it more. The “ah-ha” moment is yet to come.

About The Author

Mika Javanainen is Senior Director of Product Management at M-Files Corporation. Javanainen is in charge of managing and developing M-Files product portfolio, roadmaps, and pricing globally. Prior to his executive roles, Javanainen worked as a systems specialist, where he integrated document management systems with ERP and CRM applications. A published author, Javanainen has an executive MBA in International Business and Marketing. Follow Mika on Twitter at @mikajava.