Metadata is center stage in SharePoint 2010. The cliché is that metadata is data about your data. But what does that really mean? There are related pieces of information that help to create a clearer picture of something. For example, you can have a family picture. The picture is the item in point. Facts such as the format, people in the picture, location, occasion, and date of the picture are all related data that creates a clearer depiction of the item. In another more technical example, the item is a customer ID reference. Metadata for this can be name, location, items purchased, account manager and so on.
Metadata becomes important because we can begin to slice and dice data (using metadata) to glean helpful or useful scenarios about our item in point. So let’s look at the examples above. If I have metadata regarding pictures in my picture library I can now arrange these pictures by different criteria, such as location (all pictures in Las Vegas), or people (all pictures where dad is in the picture), or occasion (all camping pictures). In the other example I can look at the data by account manager, or by location, or by product. It is not required to incorporate complex analysis or sorting of the data I need. I simply look to the metadata that is associated with the item in question.
An organization can surface meaningful information about data using metadata. They can see which region of their service area sells the most of a particular product to make sure they produce enough of that product to meet demand, or where the least is sold and can create a campaign to increase sales in that region.
Organizations can also pre-define the type of metadata wished to be collected. This gives the organization a head start in collection of metadata. This planned start is crucial as it is cumbersome and extremely time-consuming to assign metadata to data already in a SharePoint environment.
This pre-defined mechanism is called term stores. Terms stores hold the dictated pieces of information to be collected when a user uploads items and data to the site. This is represented in the SharePoint form a user completes when uploading. Additional sections can be added. These additional sections can be delineated as required fields as well.
In the example below, additional sections to the SharePoint form were added to an Issues list.
As a result of collecting this data, analysis can be conducted on issues based on the time frame to resolution. Which issues are resolved quickly and which tend to take longer? What are the circumstances involved with the issues that take longer to resolve? This may identify a sluggish vendor, or a clumsy process creating this delay.
Term stores allow for a central place to set the terms sought. The previous mechanism was to create columns, but this is limited to a more one-level application. Term stores can be set over entire site collections and can be managed by assigned persons.
Another perk of optimizing a term store is that synonyms can be created for terms. For example, if the term in the term store is East Region, a synonym of East Coast and Eastern US can be added. This still captures the intended data, but allows the use of common vernacular of the users. Remember that end users do not necessarily see or care about metadata. They do not have to actively participate in this collection of data which would add tasks to their everyday work. They can passively contribute to collection of metadata without viewing it as an extra thing to do or burdensome.
Terms stores execute an organization’s taxonomy. These should consistently be managed. There should be analysis to see if additional synonyms need to be added to the store, or if new terms altogether are emerging. Term stores allow the flexibility to combine stores, deprecate stores for waning terms, and adding terms to keep stores relevant. This empowers the organization to stay agile with business needs and adjust quickly to emerging business demands.
Management of term stores can also be spread among a few people. This will help the stores in being kept up to date with departmental and market vernacular. This will lessen the burden on IT staff as well.
Term stores are a part of the Managed Metadata Service new to SharePoint 2010. To capture the most out of features requires adequate planning. It is imperative to take the time needed to seek the necessary input from across the enterprise to ensure the term stores are relative to the desired data capture. This does not mean there is one shot at defining terms. By efficient management of the health of the stores this will allow for adaptation. In the end, users will be able to maximize the metadata and uncover business insights to keep business moving toward identified business goals, and expose new opportunities.
Everyone is interested in hearing about SharePoint 2013. While that may not translate into an immediate rush to move the latest version, most organizations are trying to keep up with the changes that are coming tomorrow so that they can better plan for today. One of the key drivers for interest in SP2013 are the new social capabilities -- more and more organizations are thinking long and hard about their social strategies, and not just for SharePoint. Companies want consistent social experiences across their enterprise applications, ensuring productivity as employees move between work streams, such as moving from a customer interaction to providing feedback on a product design.
On that note, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a great example of an area where companies are striving for integrated and seamless social experiences to improve productivity, with Microsoft and other vendors providing social solutions that allow internal resources to better collaborate with customers, and with each other regarding the customer, giving the company a more holistic view of what is happening with that customer. This will allow the company to be much more responsive to the immediate and long-term needs of the customer, while providing visibility of each interaction to the broader team so that they can better track where customer requirements originate and how to respond.
Within SharePoint, there are four key facets of improving, specifically, Information Worker (end user) productivity: workflow, forms, taxonomy, and social. The first three seem obvious enough: workflow automates the interactions between individuals, forms simplify and make more comprehensive the inputs, and taxonomy helps end users better classify their content and add context to their activities.
That last point ties directly to the argument in favor of social. Everything within SharePoint runs on metadata: it provides context, it allows you to standardize the application of taxonomy to content as your end users add their documents and other artifacts. Social can be a primary driver of folksonomy, which is to say, end-user generated keywords. As content is shared within SharePoint, social provides an opportunity for end users to apply additional tags that make sense to them, that help define the artifact in a way that makes sense to them, and that will help them search for and find the content again. Folksonomy may not follow a defined hierarchy or taxonomy, but can be any value entered into a keyword field. Social is a way to correlate and connect discovered content (through search or social interactions) in a way that cannot be automated.
How does all of this help you improve or optimize your metadata, you ask? If your end users are using the social capabilities within SharePoint to interact around content, adding their own tags, as well as commenting, liking, rating, and sharing that content, you'll end up with a wealth of rich contextual data. Assuming your organization has a good handle on its governance model and management of your taxonomy, you can then go through these end-user generated keywords and promote relevant keywords up to your formal taxonomy, expanding your list of synonyms, deleting irrelevant tags, and so forth. As a result, your taxonomy improves, ensuring new content being added to your portal is more searchable, more findable, more shareable.
Metadata is improved in SharePoint when people interact, and social is quickly becoming the leading method for how people interact in enterprise applications -- and SharePoint 2013 is a huge step forward in supporting this model. I presented on this topic at SharePoint Saturday UK in Nottingham over the weekend, and you can find my slides here.
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Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 2:00PM-3:00PM EST
Another successful SharePoint Saturday Los Angeles is in the history books, and I’m back in the Seattle office for a couple days to get some work done around an upcoming release. Next up for me? I’m headed to Axceler headquarters in Boston for a couple days, followed by SharePoint Saturday Boston (#SPSBOS), and a quick hop across the pond for the Best Practices Conference in London. A lot of traveling, but I relish the opportunity to meet with customers, partners, and the community to better understand what is happening out in the field around administration and migration, and to use that feedback to help drive the direction of Axceler. Having a constant dialog with the community helps us improve our products and refine our partner relationships, and I’m grateful to be able to meet with so many of you each month. Axceler was a Gold sponsor, and gave away a Kindle in the event raffle.
What made this past weekend a little bit different is that I was the co-host of the event, working with San Fernando Valley SPUG co-founder Nedra Allmond to put on the LA event. Of course, we didn’t do it alone – we had an amazing committee, including Wahid Saleemi (Avanade), Melissa Layupan (K2), David Constantine (K2), Jamie Aliperti (Axceler), Kevin Marshall (TechAwakening), and Henry Ong (Quest), and a dozen helpers who help manage registration, food setup, the speaker dinner, and the post-event SharePint. These events are truly a community effort, and everything came together for an enjoyable event. I highly recommend that everyone participate in some way when the next SharePoint Saturday rolls through your region.
In addition to giving a 101 session on metadata and taxonomy, I was also asked to moderate a panel event discussing best practices for building out a SharePoint community. The panel included Vancouver SPUG and SharePoint Saturday Vancouver (#SPSVAN) co-host (and newest SharePoint MVP) Michal Pisarek, SharePoint Saturday Redmond (#SPSRedmond) coordinator and Decibel Festival organizer Erica Toelle, international speaker, SharePoint architect and fellow Mt. Doom hiker Michael Doyle, and San Fernando Valley SPUG cofounder and SPSLA committee member Wahid Saleemi. The panel provided some great advice on how people can get involved and build out their individual brand, as well as how to build out community where they stand, within their own company. Pictures from the panel session are online, taken by Ken Lo.
SharePoint Saturday’s are nothing like attending the SharePoint Conference or one of the other major (paid) SharePoint events: the atmosphere is much more casual, and the experts who attend do it purely as a way to give back to the community. They are a great opportunity to ask questions and get to know the names and faces you may know from their blogs and from Twitter. For more information about SharePoint Saturday, and for a listing of upcoming locations (online as well as in-person), please visit SharePointSaturday.org
This past week I was able to travel to Sydney, Australia to participate as a speaker and expert panelist at the Australia SharePoint Conference. Axceler was onsite as a sponsor, and also celebrated the opening of our new office in North Sydney. Joining me for the event from the Seattle office was Garry Smith, GM of the echo products at Axceler, as well as Sergio Otoya, Architect and Project Manager of our migration development team, who is based out of Sydney. Also on site was the newest member of the Axceler team in Sydney, Vijay Raghvani, who leads our channel sales and business development efforts in the region.
The event brought in more than 500 SharePoint professionals, and some of the leading ISVs and integrators serving the region. My session at the event was a business user topic that walked the 100+ attendees through the basics of metadata -- what it is, where you can find it, and why it is important to your SharePoint strategy. The full title is "Looking Under the Hood: How Your Metadata Strategy Impacts Everything You Do" and the slides are below:
It was a tremendous week in Sydney with dozens of partner and customer introductions, and a great start for Axceler in the region. We're all looking forward to doing more in Australia and New Zealand this year.
I'm now in Wellington preparing to attend the speaker's dinner for the New Zealand SharePoint Conference, delivering the same topic as above. Hope to see you there!
For more information about partner opportunities in AUS and NZ, please contact Vijay (vijay.raghvani@Axceler.com)
If you follow me on Twitter (@buckleyplanet) you’re probably aware that I have two sessions at the upcoming Best Practices Conference being held in Washington, D.C. from August 24th through 27th I thought I’d provide a bit more detail about my sessions:
11 Strategic Considerations for SharePoint Migration
Audience: Admin, IT Pro
Session Level: 200-300
Abstract: Migration is a roadblock to moving forward you’re your SharePoint strategy. Migration is phased, iterative, and error prone. But migration itself is not the goal – an optimized and user-friendly environment is your goal. Beyond the Microsoft-provided overview of how to plan for an upgrade and migration, there is a lot of room for error. This presentation outlines 11 critical strategies for migration planning that no project should move forward without.
Enabling Social Media through Metadata
Audience: Admin, End User
Session Level: 100-200
Abstract: Many companies, whether considering further investment in their SharePoint 2007 deployments or planning upgrades to SharePoint 2010, are reviewing their social media strategies. Many users are chomping at the bit to deploy and use the new, natively supported social media features in SharePoint 2010. But most administrators do not fully understand the taxonomy and data governance issues within SharePoint that are associated with these kinds of solutions. The intent of this presentation is to walk participants through the taxonomy and governance implications of the social media capabilities within SharePoint 2007 and 2010, to provide them with the information they need to prepare their organization for these tools, and to provide guidance, best practices, and working examples on how to approach setting up and managing metadata, aligning these tools with their broader corporate content management strategies, and to maintain manageability of their SharePoint environment through governance.
For those who have never attended (this is my first, as well), this is one of the biggest SharePoint related conferences of the year. You can find some of the industry’s best speakers and many invaluable sessions on all sorts of SharePoint topics -- all centering around best practices. As the site says:
Best Practices is about doing things the right way: the most efficient, effective ways to achieve goals, distilled into adaptable, repeatable procedures you can use.
If you’re planning on attending, please look for me. When not presenting, I can be found in the exhibit hall at the Axceler booth, giving demos of our latest product: the Davinci Migrator for SharePoint 2010. See you there!
Originally published on EndUserSharePoint.com
When setting up your new SharePoint environment, one of the questions you’ll need to answer is centralized or de-centralized? Do you want to tightly control your environment, as you do with your external-facing portal, or do you want to enable the full capability of SharePoint and allow people to collaborate, ad hoc, as they see fit? Or maybe you want to do something in-between?
Unfortunately, the same question pops up again around managing your metadata, regardless of your environment management decisions. You can have a locked-down, controlled site creation model within your organization, and people can still “run amuck” with how they assign (or don’t assign) metadata.
To help with your planning, let’s review some of the pros and cons to both centralized and decentralized models:
In a centralized model, the site architecture is centrally controlled, and metadata is always applied to content – usually as required fields when uploading or modifying content. Site Columns and Content Types are created at the site collection root, and lists get “bundles” of columns.
There are a number of advantages to this model:
- It improves consistency
- It reduces metadata duplication
- Because everything is controlled, it’s generally easy to update
- It’s easy to support and train on
- It allows document-level DIP, Workflow, Information Policies, and document templates
The downsides to metadata management in a centralized model include:
- It requires a lot of planning to ensure you get it right up front, as well as make the right ongoing, global changes
- It requires upfront work. It’s a much more complex deployment
- It’s difficult to manage across site collections and portals, as you need to work with various teams and organizations to find consensus on enterprise designs and templates
- From an end user perspective, they have less ownership over their environment and have to wait longer for changes, making adoption slower and decreasing “stickiness”
In a decentralized model, the site architecture is ad-hoc, with teams and individuals able to create sites and pages as needed. Metadata may not be well-defined, or applied to content at all. Columns are created on lists, and are combined in an ad-hoc basis on each list.
The advantages to this model are:
- It requires no metadata planning
- It requires little upfront effort – deploy SharePoint, and let people self-manage how (and if) they assign metadata
- It works across site collections and portals
The downsides to this model include:
- A lack of consistency across your environment
- It increases metadata duplication
- It’s difficult to update
- It’s hard to support and train on
- It only allows list-level Workflow, Information Policies and document templates
- It is difficult to reverse
There is no “right answer” to how you manage your metadata policies. However, few companies will find themselves at the far ends of this range, but somewhere in-between. The important step is to define your policies up front – decide how you want to manage your environment and metadata, publish those policies so that people understand them, and then be consistent. Your end user will appreciate it, measurable through increased adoption of your SharePoint environment and overall usability.
Originally published on EndUserSharePoint.com
Ask a crowd of people whether they believe social computing is important within the enterprise, and you usually see -- at best -- an even split of yes and no answers. More often than not, the majority of people answer no. As I present on the topic at various conferences and SharePoint Saturday events, most people attend my session not because they believe social computing is critical to their business, but because they want to understand why they should care.
With so many people ambivalent to social computing, why is it that one of the top technology trends is the expansion of social computing features across enterprise applications? One problem with perception is that people tend to focus on the consumer social media applications without considering the underlying application of the technologies that power them, and how those features and capabilities might improve the enterprise.
So why should you care about social media in SharePoint? Well, let’s take a look at some of the problems you may be experiencing within your environment:
- You’ve spent months migrating content into your shiny, new SharePoint environment. You’ve moved your information silos from your old, proprietary portal or file shares to SharePoint. NOW WHAT???
- You were sold on the idea of search, but you can’t find anything.
- You can’t tell who owns what.
- You can’t tell what’s new, what’s old, or what has changed.
- You realize that all of your data is now disconnected.
How do you solve these problems? The answer is managed metadata, thoughtful taxonomy, and a solid governance model. The answer is to roll out social computing tools within SharePoint to improve search and provide additional methods for surfacing data within your environment. Think of it as a software stack:
Metadata powers both structured (taxonomy) and unstructured (ad hoc) collaboration, which is then filtered by the various social media tools, which is an extension of search, which makes your team site, portal, and content relevant to end users. Across all of these pieces is your governance model, ensuring all of the moving parts are working together.
Metadata is the key to making social media work inside the enterprise. It makes social media work within SharePoint, it makes your content visible to end users, and it powers search. Metadata makes your environment useable, linkable, relevant. Metadata is the building block of social media within SharePoint.
When thinking through your own social media strategy, its important that you recognize this connection between social computing, metadata, and search. It will help you to sell your team and management chain on the powerful impact of social media in the enterprise, and, more importantly, help you realize the full potential of your SharePoint investments.
I’m sitting here at Gate D29 at the Dulles International airport, reflecting on this past weekend and the SharePoint Saturday DC event (#SPSDC). Great venue, excellent planning by @meetdux, @usher and team, and close to 1,000 participants. Amazing!
I also want to thank @usher and @gvaro for unwittingly becomes the punch line to a couple last-minute jokes in my presentation on Enabling Social Media in SharePoint 2010 through Metadata (now available through SlideShare below), and to @ruveng for stepping up to help demo managed metadata service (MMS) when I was unable to connect to my environment. Overall, great response and feedback. Hope people enjoyed the session.
You can find my presentation on SlideShare here
On a swing through Oregon in March, Joel Oleson and I presented to the Portland SharePoint User’s Group on topics surrounding social computing, metadata and taxonomy within SharePoint, and someone asked a great question: why can’t you just purchase a pre-defined taxonomy?
One of the most important aspects of a successful SharePoint deployment is a well-defined taxonomy and metadata library. Taking the time to define your metadata and content types, build out your taxonomy, and set in place a governance model will ensure that your users will be able to find their content (granted they are assigning the metadata!). But defining, building, and governing your system takes a lot of effort – both at startup and as an ongoing activity. So why can’t someone just purchase a canned taxonomy and vast lists of keywords from a consultant to jumpstart their work?
While I’m sure there are consultants who offer this kind of service, providing guidance and expertise on process and best practices, is that really the right thing to do? (I’m not knocking these consultants by any means, just talking about what is right for your business) They cannot offer more than generic taxonomies based on broad industry knowledge, or around competitive product and service verticals. How useful is this information, really? How much time will you spend trying to match this generic taxonomy to the nuances of your business, instead of outlining your own business taxonomy and expanding on what is unique about you?
I go through these questions as part of my presentation on the topic at user groups and SharePoint Saturdays (tomorrow, at #SPSDC). The hard work must be done by those who know your business – you and your team. Of course, there will be plenty of consultants who will be happy to charge you to embed themselves, offering to learn everything about your business and then build out your system. You might get to deployment more quickly this way if you don’t already have the SharePoint expertise within your organization. But what happens when the consultant leaves post-deployment? Where is the expertise to maintain and update what was built to keep your system relevant?
I came across a great quote in the Harvard Business Review by Dan Ariely in ‘Why Businesses Don’t Experiment’ (April 2010, Page 34):
“Companies (and people) are notoriously bad at making trade-offs. There’s the false sense of security that heeding experts provides. When we pay consultants, we get an answer from them and not a list of experiments to conduct. We tend to value answers over questions because answers allow us to take action, while questions mean that we need to keep thinking.”
The net-net: you need to do the hard work of planning out your taxonomy. Get help, sure, but don’t think you can hand it off to someone else. But if you do decide to farm it out, ping me and I’ll send you my consulting rates ;-)