Many organizations continue to rely on paper-based processes. According to a survey of global workers and IT professionals conducted by IDC, document challenges and inefficiencies account for a 21.3% productivity loss. This steep drop in productivity is largely due to difficulty locating documents and finding information. In fact, employees take an average of 18 minutes to locate each document and an estimated 50% of their time searching for information.
Remedying these inefficiencies requires implementing formal document management procedures and automating the process through a document workflow management system. With this system, organizations can manage the flow of documents through their lifecycles. The ability to manage the entire lifecycle is a key distinction between document vs records management. Document metadata operates behind the scenes to make it all possible.
What is Document Metadata?
Document metadata is non-visual information in a document that provides additional context. For example, the author of the document and the date that it was created. It can also help to classify documents. For instance, users can specify whether a document is for internal use only or publicly available.
Adding metadata to a document helps organizations to simplify document search and retrieval. This is because search tools can sort through document metadata much quicker than scanning through a document’s full text. Moreover, document metadata makes it easy to sort, route, store, and control documents.
Types of Document Metadata
There are many different types of document metadata, such as:
- Fields. Fields store metadata. Each field has its own unique set of properties associated with it. Examples of fields include names, dates, numbers, and currency. Document management systems will often include an option to set fields as required so that each new document has the necessary document metadata.
- Templates. A template is essentially a group of fields that are arranged in a certain way. Using templates, organizations can input relevant metadata to automate document creation.
- Links. Links are used to associate documents with each other. For example, accounts payable may file invoices in an “invoices” folder for all invoices received from independent contractors. However, independent contractor agreements might be stored in a file labeled “contractor agreements.” If these documents are linked, then someone that wanted to verify the hourly rate included in an invoice could quickly pull up the independent contractor agreement.
- Versions. Organizations often use versions to keep track of changes and avoid destroying an earlier version by saving over the file.
- Tags. You have likely encountered tags when viewing articles on your favorite news website. Tags provide a simple way of classifying content. They are also used to classify documents based on their access level (i.e., for internal use only).
- Digital signatures. This type is useful for keeping track of approvals. For example, a supervisor can add a digital signature to a document to indicate that it was approved. This improves compliance, transparency, and accountability within an organization.
Role in Document Management
Every organization uses metadata to some extent. However, for organizations that regularly create a lot of documents, it provides a means of adding structure and control to paper-heavy processes.
Document metadata aids document management systems in several key ways:
- First, adding document metadata to a document as soon as it is created gives it an identify. A document management system will automatically analyze the metadata and route the document to the correct place.
- Second, document metadata makes it easy for users to find what they are looking for. For example, by inputting a keyword into your document management system you can find relevant documents as easily and quickly as conducting a Google search.
- Finally, document metadata improves collaboration by grouping together related documents and making them accessible to the relevant stakeholders.