We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: In business, data is king. In the 21st century, businesses and data (be it electronic or physical) must go hand in hand.
Since it is understandable for firms to get overpowered by the amount of documents they see on the daily, metadata has become a dynamic tool that has helped businesses deal with this issue. In this article, we’ll look into what metadata is exactly, and how it is used by document management solutions (DMS) to streamline business workflow.
What is Metadata?
In the most basic sense, metadata is information about document data. Documents contain data that needs to be searched or retrieved by a certain set of information. We’ll go into the details under the elements of metadata, but for now, think of metadata as the ingredients of a document. Some of these ingredients can be visible, while other ingredients that are hidden can be looked up with the help of additional information about those ingredients.
In addition to text, document elements like pictures, charts and tables can have their own metadata. Metadata exists to condense the information stored in these document elements. Electronic DMS can thus, effectively leverage document metadata to help users find and work with documents without having to go through the contents of each and every one of them.
What are Metadata elements?
Basic document metadata elements in word processor and excel files include file size, author’s names, dates of creation and modification. Document management solutions, on the other hand, feature more advanced elements like indexing fields relevant to various document categories. For example, there would be a purchase bill whose indexing fields could include the invoice date, vendor name, invoice amount and such like. When retrieving that particular document, you could use these indexing fields to hunt it down!
Why is Metadata so important?
Since businesses today see such titanic amounts of data, metadata is crucial to their survival. Metadata helps you to categorize all the documents produced by the organisation, thus bringing in a lot of clarity and organisation in documentation. It also helps in reducing the TAT for important documents' retrieval. If your business does not use electronic DMS that operates with metadata, document management can overwhelm and consume your company in no time.
How does DMS use Metadata?
As mentioned before, metadata is important to categorize, search for and retrieve documents. When setting up a DMS, an administrator has to predefine the metadata that would be used by the organisation. This brings in a centralized process wherein employees/users have to compulsorily categorize their documents by the given metadata and also feed in the indexing fields. While it may sound like a tedious job initially, it brings in a certain kind of discipline in document management.
At a later point in time, when users have to search and retrieve a document, they just have to filter documents by their category and the data entry that they fed against the respective indexing fields. This feature gives users the ability to retrieve documents quicker. Thus, metadata can be leveraged to help you save time, energy, and resources.