ACA Blog

ACA Blog

April 2021


Metadata: buzzword or key to driving a business?

8 pointers in how to start with effective metadata management

Dorien JorissenDorien Jorissen

When talking about Enterprise Content Management solutions or projects, we often hear people going on and on about the importance of metadata. But how important is it and how can it create added value for you and your company?

A definition of Metadata

Forrester Research defines metadata as “the information that describes or provides context for data, content, business processes, services, business rules and policies, … that support an organisation’s information system.” Wikipedia states that it is a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. In my opinion, the most important aspect is that it gives your data a frame of reference.

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In Enterprise Content Management environments, there are several relevant types of metadata:

shutterstock_168114398Does every document or content type need the same metadata? Does a document need all the metadata you can think of? Do you have to oblige your users to enter all when uploading a document?

I think we can all agree that the common answer to these questions is NO. Key to successful metadata implementation is proper management – the frame of reference giving data its context and meaning.


Metadata explained in three examples


What’s the ultimate goal of using Metadata?

The goal should be to deliver trustworthy, timely and relevant information in order to support informed business decisions. Besides facilitating the search functionalities, effectively governed metadata can provide a view into the flow of data, clarify data, perform an impact analysis or an audit trail for compliance, reveal bottlenecks in processes, … Effective management begins with a definition of its strategy and goals as well as the scope of its success.


8 pointers on how to start with effective metadata management:

    • Think big, start small, scale fast.
    • Visualize the metadata
      you are going to track as well as the goal.
    • Set a focused and reasonable scope.
      Data governance efforts fail because they attempted to accomplish too much at once.
    • Pick a high-value, low-complexity target
      as your pilot.
    • Investigate the possibilities of automatic extraction from your current ECM platform.
      If none exist: consider migrating to another platform.
    • Tie metadata management to a business initiative.
    • Enable the management to visualize the process or workflow of the data through its lifecycle.
    • Limit the number of metadata elements to a minimum, though define most of the fields as mandatory. Optional data fields tend to be disregarded.


So is metadata just a buzzword? Definitely not. Is it a key to driving your business? Maybe. But only if governed well throughout the entire organization.


Interested in knowing more? We’re just a phone call away.


Blog written by Jelle Van der Linden
Business Unit Manager COIN (ACA IT-Solutions)