Most everyone knows what metadata is. And, we know that if we are organizing and categorizing electronic files, “metadata” can be our best-friend.
Perhaps the simplest definition of metadata goes something like this: it is all the “data about the data”. In other words, information that describes a file or its content. It can be basic things like ‘when a file was created’, or ‘who created the file,’ etc. But metadata can (and should) extend much deeper to be fully useful in the management of information.
Let’s say, for example, you are a project manager and your projects involve thousands of critical documents, emails, and faxes. You might need to organize this information for several reasons; you might want to be able to quickly retrieve it later, or you might want to easily hand it off or archive it at project completion. How you choose to describe your files – how you apply metadata – will impact your success in finding and organizing information later on. A project manager might, for instance, want to have metadata that describes the project name, the project ID number, the project team member name, the project client name, and so on.
With metadata, there is one most basic consideration to keep in mind. Determine at the outset what metadata you need to capture. The main factors to consider are all the ways you might want to organize, search, and categorize information now and into the future. For instance, if you think there is any chance you might want to sort or find files based on the ‘project account rep’s name’, start capturing that data from the start.