“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers" -- Calvin Coolidge

Any organization looking to manage and exploit its knowledge more effectively can't afford to ignore metadata creation. Metadata's application, however, can't stop at creation. Organizations must continually update, manage and exploit it in order to provide optimal content and knowledge management opportunities.

Applying the metadata maturity model to content management initiatives provides an agnostic framework through which to understand the current state of metadata, and prioritize its use and management into the future. The model outlines five maturity levels as benchmarks that provide an opportunity to discuss ongoing metadata development and improvement. 

What is Metadata?

“Metadata is a love note to the future.” -- unknown

Metadata is information that describes other data: data about data. Fundamentally, this includes Descriptive, Structural and Administrative metadata.

A well-planned metadata schema creates foundational value, providing the conceptual architecture needed to make content more discoverable, accessible and ultimately, more valuable. Metadata turns video, audio or graphic files into “smart content” that is available to re-use, re-purpose or simply to inspire.

The strength and relevance of the metadata associated with an asset is what makes it findable, and therefore usable. When done well, metadata is imperceptible and intuitive.

Providing a Clear Roadmap

A maturity model allows organizations to assess its methods and business processes against best practices by providing external benchmarks. Once an organization identifies where it falls on this course and where it wants to be, stakeholders will have a clearer view of the path to achieving goals.

Business and other enterprise requirements will dictate the importance of reaching the higher benchmarks. Applying a maturity model will not only establish an organization’s placement on the maturation grid but also, and more importantly, provide a precise, actionable roadmap for how to grow and improve.

The Metadata Maturity Model

The metadata maturity model highlights aspects of asset organization that businesses can use to increase information value in an electronic system or between systems. A useful first step in understanding the current state of metadata management is to compare an organization’s commitment level to each aspect.

By taking a self-assessment against five well-defined levels, organizations can start identifying the goals and tasks required to reach the desired future state. 

The metadata maturity model includes dimensions of maturity across nine categories and five levels designed to provide a framework for understanding an organization’s use and progress with their metadata and their content. The model suggests graded levels of capabilities, ranging from rudimentary information collection and basic control, through improving levels of management and integration, to finally resulting in a mature state of continuous experimentation and improvement. The breakdown of this structure is as follows:

Maturity Levels

The five maturity levels:

  1. Ad Hoc -- Exposure to the application of metadata, including managing content and content workflows
  2. Organize -- Casual understanding of content technologies, often starting in the form of content management systems and centralized, shared document repositories
  3. Measure -- Demonstrated experience with implementation of content management systems (e.g. DAM, Web CMS, MAM) and core competencies, such as ingestion, cataloging, transformation, transcoding, distribution, etc.
  4. Analyze -- Managing repositories and workflow systems that are fundamental to business leadership with organized knowledge transfer
  5. Optimize -- Understanding and forecasting enterprise needs in preparation of future business requirements

Metadata Aspects

Nine aspects contribute to evaluating progress through the model:

  1. Files and Folder Organization
  2. User Permissions and Access Controls
  3. Descriptive Keywords
  4. Search Methods
  5. Workflow
  6. Standards, Policies and Business Rules
  7. Rights Management
  8. System Integration
  9. Reporting and Usage

Metadata Dimensions – the Collections

The vertical columns in the metadata maturity model represent “Collection Levels” or the development levels within an organization where content is managed. This ranges from basic collections, where file-folder hierarchies and pre-assembled collections are the basis for meaning, to curated collections, where meaningful collections organized for anticipated user groups to access, to semantic collections, where audience-relevant content and experiences are assembled and managed as personalized finished digital goods.

Metadata Maturity Level Assessment

Apply the metadata maturity model as a framework to current practice(s) in an organization. Start by documenting the internal stakeholders -- across functions and departments -- who depend on metadata. Involve IT as early in the process as possible.

Develop and administer a set of questions for stakeholders to provide detailed feedback about their current and desired future state of metadata. These questions should focus on workflow, use, creation, distribution and management as well as key staff roles and responsibilities.

At the end of the exercise, the organization will know its place on the maturity continuum, its strengths and weaknesses and see a clear plan of action to prepare for advancement.

Metadata Serves the Business 

“Nothing limits you like not knowing your limitations.” -- Tom Hayes

Metadata demands attention for effective business solutions. This model provides a common framework through which organizations can understand the use and management of their content’s metadata.

Applying the model to content management initiatives allows for strategic understanding of current use and priorities for discovery, accessibility and preservation of content. Keeping metadata relevant, usable, clean, consistent and governed will assure that it serves the business.