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How SharePoint 2010's Metadata Services Increase Usability

It’s no secret that the new managed metadata service in SharePoint 2010 (news, site) will be a welcomed addition to the product. What may not be apparent is exactly how this service will benefit your end-users. It will. Here's how.

With SharePoint 2007, managing your metadata has been more of an operational hazard than a real feature. In an enterprise document management environment with many site collections and content databases, providing a unified set of metadata creates an increased workload for IT that is rarely a top priority.

In the field, I generally find that many organizations just don’t have the expertise or resources to create a clean and centralized taxonomy. I attribute this to a very cumbersome and often frustrating metadata architecture in SharePoint 2007, and how it affects your content.

But as mentioned previously by CMSWire contributor Stephanie Lemieux, "Microsoft has taken a sizable leap forward with SharePoint 2010" in working to ensure that metadata becomes a seamless part of your organization’s content management design.

The usability improvements are for the end user and for SharePoint Administrators.

A True Metadata Framework

Without a doubt, the most attractive feature of the managed metadata service is that it is a truly centralized storage of terms. No longer will you have to rely on a 3rd party tool or programmatically deploying your taxonomies to multiple site collections.

The managed metadata service allows you to integrate a unified collection of terms to any web application in your farm. Once the link is made, you can easily expose the managed metadata by use of the managed metadata column.

2010-02-SharePoint-2010_MetadataService-01.jpg
SharePoint 2010 — Managed Metadata Governance Architecture

Setting Up Managed Metadata

Although not enabled by default, the setup of the managed metadata service is straightforward. From a high level view, you start by creating a new managed metadata service in Central Administration. From there you create managed term sets that can be used in the managed metadata columns in a list or library.

SharePoint 2010 Tagging Interface
SharePoint 2010 — Tagging Interface for Managed Keywords. Image courtesy of EndUserSharePoint.com.

When you create a managed metadata service, you can also associate that service with a content type hub. The content type hub is essentially a site collection that contains content types that you want to share. Since metadata is very much a part of content type deployment, sharing both at the same time is now a much easier process.

Improving End User Usability

Increased search relevance and list filtering were buzz words when SharePoint 2007 was released, so simply reiterating that again isn’t enough for me. But there have been some modifications worthy of note.

Navigation Features

One of the new ways to expose your metadata to your end-users is by way of new navigation features for lists and libraries. When turned on, you give your users the ability to quickly filter a list or library by selecting the appropriate managed metadata and/or enterprise keywords.

Couple this with the ability of lists and libraries to handle millions of items, and you’ve given your end-users a very powerful enhancement to content findability.

Search

Search in general has improved simply because of the ability to utilize the managed metadata service. If your enterprise is using a centrally managed term store, then the end-user does not need to question the relevance of the search itself.

This can be a problem in SharePoint 2007 if you aren’t replicating metadata columns to all site collections. Each department may have their own ideas of how to store terms, so a centrally managed one across all web applications instantly improves the user’s experience.

Making Moves in the Enterprise CMS Market

As with any pre-release software, these features are subject to change, but Microsoft has remained committed towards making SharePoint 2010 a serious enterprise content management contender.

The much improved metadata services are only a part of the larger push to solidify SharePoint's status in the Enterprise CMS and document management software space. Stay tuned here as we continue to explore the brave new world of SharePoint 2010.

[Editor's Note: For a solid overview of SharePoint 2010's metadata features, see the article Overview: SharePoint 2010 Metadata and Taxonomy Management.]

About the Author

Mike Ferrara is a Senior Architect for Software Solutions at GDSI, a South Florida software developer offering document management, imaging, CRM, and custom database solutions. He has over 10 years of experience with information systems integration, and he specializes in SharePoint Products and Technologies. Mike is actively involved in the SharePoint community, and he is an editor for SharePointReviews.com, a respected source for SharePoint 3rd party product information.

 
 
 
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