The Battle Rages – SharePoint Folders Versus Metadata
I am a huge proponent of metadata. Even though we generate metadata as a business, I will go so far as to say that any metadata is a good thing, even if we didn’t create it. Yet how do I approach managing my own content? Well, I put it in folders. Then often I can’t find what I am looking for. I never fill in the properties field in a document.
So, what’s the problem? I like folders I guess, or I am just used to them. Even though I know metadata is more flexible and creates numerous opportunities to improve business applications everywhere, from search to records management, I guess I am just a typical end user who frequently can’t find what I am looking for.
Folders and metadata in SharePoint, if you are still using an older version of SharePoint, don’t play well together. In 2016, a truce was called but the battle hasn’t ended. If your organization is like most, then folders reign. A few organizations require end users to add metadata, which isn’t one of their favorite tasks by the way, and it does not typically yield accurate and usable metadata – but that’s a whole other blog.
There are benefits to becoming metadata driven. You must just decide if it’s worth the effort. If you have a taxonomy, and you should, then metadata provides the flexibility to rapidly change the taxonomy to adapt to business needs. The taxonomy provides end users with a robust search environment, as they can use multiple criteria rather than traversing trails of files, resulting in potential dead ends, or executing a folder search, which uses only the document title, if you can guess what it is. Another downside of folders is a broken URL, which usually occurs when a document is deeply nested. When a document is moved, well, the link is broken.
What about metadata? Using folders, you can reuse a document name, if it is filed in a different folder. With metadata, it has to be a unique name. Although I don’t understand why you would have documents with the same name in the first place. For the poor IT folks, metadata opens a can of worms at the permissions level. Folders let the administration team apply permissions on a group scale. Using metadata means administrators will have to apply permissions at the document, site, or library level instead, which can be a hassle.
Users are quite comfortable creating their own folders when they need to. Being metadata-driven, administrators and designated end users can create new columns for metadata. This may be good or bad, depending on your environment.
Those are only a few of the differences. Is your organization folder-driven or metadata-driven?
Join us for the next webinar in our Metadata-Driven World series, Going Meta in SharePoint – Tricks of the Trade, on Wednesday February 14. Robert Piddocke, our Vice President of Channel and Business Development and author of SharePoint Search books, discusses SharePoint functionality and how metadata can be used to automate and drive business processes, to provide an enterprise metadata framework and proactively manage content.