Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How Much Value is Your Organization Getting From SharePoint Managed Metadata? – and, My Top 5 Benefits

SharePoint Managed Metadata Term Store ToolI can remember sitting in the session at SPC 2009 in Las Vegas where the Microsoft Program Manager in charge of the SharePoint 2010 Managed Metadata Service Application proudly proclaimed that Managed Metadata was the best new feature of SharePoint Server 2010.  Normally, I don’t care for braggarts, but after seeing how the features worked and how good it was, I really felt like this guy truly had a license to brag on himself and his team.  They did a great job!

We will soon be coming up on five years of organizations having the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of Managed Metadata.  How much value has your organization got out of this feature set?  Have you even started to use it yet?

From time to time I teach an advanced SharePoint Document Management class named Designing SharePoint Document Management and Records Management Systems.  It is really a class that goes in-depth on all of the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) features of SharePoint, including Managed Metadata.  We launched it in 2012 and it is a great class, but honestly it hasn’t been that well attended.  I guess it could be that people don’t like my teaching, but I truly think it is something else in this case.

I think a lot of organizations lost their steam (or is enthusiasm a better term?) related to SharePoint’s ECM features just when those features got really good.  I think many organizations upgraded to SharePoint 2010 and even SharePoint 2013, but many of the ECM features are just sitting there unused in their SharePoint intranets.

Maybe I can fuel a little new enthusiasm by recapping here and now, in mid-2014, just how nice and beneficial some of those features can really be if you will get your team organized and make a fresh commitment to getting value out of what you have already paid for!

So, here goes a list of my top five Managed Metadata capabilities and why I think they are really beneficial:
  1. The Managed Metadata Service Application and Term Store database are not restricted to a site collection, web application or even SharePoint server farm – with Managed Metadata organizations can truly establish a “single version of the truth” when it comes to the Terms that are used in SharePoint, regardless of how many site collections, web applications or SharePoint server farms they have.  This is because the Term Store database can be shared among as many instances of these things as you want.  This picture doesn’t show the complete concept, but gives you a visual idea of what I am saying:
    Sharing the Managed Metadata Service Application and Term Store Database
  2. Once set up and populated, the Managed Metadata Term Store is super easy for end users to take advantage of – Microsoft just nailed it from a usability standpoint, if you ask me.

    First, look how easy it is to assign the appropriate metadata value using a Managed Metadata control in the Document Information Panel in Word.

    Here I am in my Contracts library starting the process of creating a new Contract document with Word:
    Create a document using the Contract Content Type

    Now, after clicking on Contract in the New Document drop-down, here is what I see in Word:
    Type Ahead Functionality in SharePoint Managed Metadata
    How much simpler and user friendly could it possibly be for an end user to assign the correct Vendor Name to this new Contract document she is creating?  The field is right there at the top of the document and it has “type ahead\intellisense” type of functionality for suggested values, and even a picker control if the person prefers to browse through a list to select a value.

    Furthermore, it performs incredibly well even at scale.  It has been tested by Microsoft to perform well with as many as 30,000 terms in a single Term Set and up to a 1,000,000 Terms total in the Term Store database.
  3. There is a big payoff in the Search experience by taking the time to use Managed Metadata values to categorize your documents – this was absolutely true straight out-of-the-box with SharePoint Server 2010, and can be made to be true fairly easily with SharePoint Server 2013, even though Microsoft changed the out-of-the-box experience with the 2013 version (not sure why they did this – I wouldn’t have).

    Here is how it works with Enterprise Search in SharePoint 2010. Managed Metadata values found in search result sets just flow automatically into the refinement panel on the search results page:
    Automatic Managed Metadata Refiners in SharePoint Search
    Then, users can quickly and easily narrow down the search result set by clicking on one of the Managed Metadata values in the refiner.

    Everybody complains that they can’t find what they are looking for when they search using SharePoint.  My experience is that in 99% of the cases the problem is not with the functionality of SharePoint’s search engine.  The problem is the old “garbage in, garbage out” syndrome.  Users are allowed to just upload documents to SharePoint without intelligent assignment of metadata values.  If the organization would just simply implement and require Managed Metadata as a policy, the entire search experience would improve vastly without doing any tweaking to the search engine itself.
  4. The Term Set maintenance workload can be appropriately and safely delegated to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in your business departments – Let’s face it, there would never be any adoption of Managed Metadata if it requires SharePoint server administrators to maintain the Term Sets and Term values.  Maybe that is what has been holding back the adoption of Managed Metadata?  Maybe organizations, and their SharePoint administrators haven’t understood that the Managed Metadata Service Application comes with all the features necessary to appropriately and safely delegate Term Set maintenance to SMEs?

    Here is a page from the TechNet documentation on SharePoint Server 2010 that lays out all of the different roles that can be established for maintenance of various portions of the Term Store:
    SharePoint Managed Metadata Roles

    Here is the link to that page:
  5. In SharePoint 2013, the extremely popular Quick Edit feature of document libraries and lists (this feature was named Datasheet View in prior versions of SharePoint), now support editing of Managed Metadata fields:
    Editing Managed Metadata in SharePoint 2013 Using Quick Edit
    This seemingly small improvement is huge to many end users.  Quick Edit is such a time saver when you need to make a lot of changes to the metadata values in a long list of documents.  Also, the “Fill” handle, like is present in Excel, is a big favorite of end users.   (Unfortunately, Datasheet View in SharePoint Server 2010 is not “Managed Metadata” aware and you cannot edit values in this way Sad smile).
There you have my top 6 capabilities of Managed Metadata in SharePoint Server.  Is your organization taking advantage of any of these?  If so, I would love to hear about the value you are getting.  Just drop me some comments below.

If your organization is not yet using these features, I’d be curious to know what is holding you back?  Also, have I inspired you at all to take a fresh look at them and develop a plan for moving forward?



Managed Metadata Term Store Sync 2013

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