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Editorial

Data at Work: Metadata Matters

5 minute read
John Horodyski avatar
Why does metadata matter? Because we interact with it each and every day. And we need a solid asset-management foundation across our orgs.

“Workflow is understanding your job, understanding your tools, and then not thinking about it any more.” — Merlin Mann

We are being tracked, and our activities are being watched, as much as we are tracking ourselves and our own activities. We use metadata to help us organize our folders on our computers, so we have somewhere to place our files, so we may one day use them again in our work. We describe and organize our music into playlists that match our feelings and emotions so we may find them again.

You, above all, know your assets and what they can do for you. Defining a strategy demands that you collaborate with those who best know the systems and other resources needed to release your assets’ potential.

Why Metadata Matters

Metadata matters because we interact with it each and every day in both our professional and personal lives. We need to know and understand more about it and care about what metadata is and the power it has to find what we are looking for in our content. We collect data to make meaning, and then we use that meaning in order to allow for some form of access, whether it be to track or record events, to analyze trends over time for decision-making actions and to provide the information back to others seeking knowledge.

Related Article: Why Metadata Matters for Kyiv

Digital Assets Have Multiple Touchpoints

The key to good workflow is both to understand the issues involved in identifying, capturing and ingesting content into the system and to make them accessible and available for retrieval. For example, a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system aims to improve workflow efficiency through the automation of tasks such as ingest, metadata creation, and authenticated access. It is critical to not only develop but document your workflow, from ingestion to approval, and even during migration of assets.

With multiple touchpoints along an asset’s lifecycle, potentially spanning multiple versions and incidents of reuse, a content system can help teams across an organization — from IT staff to all users, past and present — and make coordinated and educated decisions about the strategic use of their digital assets. A DAM ensures that the right asset is being used by the right person(s) at the right time for the right reasons. But it needs metadata-powered workflow to make it work.

Related Article: Build Your Martech Stack on a DAM Foundation

When Metadata's Best in Content Creation

DAM may be understood as a workflow device to assist in the marketing operations critical to your organization’s needs. To determine how a DAM will accommodate your project, it is important to think how and when data is created and modified in your projects, and then think how this data moves through the projects.

Learning Opportunities

Metadata should be populated throughout the workflow and throughout all stages of content creation by those actively doing the creation. Metadata at content creation is best as knowledge of the what it is, the who it is, the when it is and the why it is. It is best understood because it is happening in real time: A graphic artist making a logo. A video producer making an edit to a marketing video. A content writer adding copy to the language on a promotional brochure.

These examples all show content creation at the moment it is happening and the ideal place to enter metadata. And it’s not always just one person, but many along the way, as that particular piece of content moves along its workflow journey from ideation to distribution and at all stages in between. And, as the content moves along that workflow, there will be different user roles to ensure accuracy and timeliness of asset information; and as it does, the following workflow considerations apply:

  • Is there metadata in headers, file systems, naming conventions, query logs that could be extracted automatically?
  • Who adds the metadata? Creator(s)? Librarian?
  • Will there be checks and balances along the way?
  • Does your organization employ automatic classification tools for some or all types of assets? Results are not as accurate as humans can provide, but they are more consistent.
  • Semi-automated is best.
  • Degree of human involvement is a cost/benefit tradeoff.
  • Importance of automated/manual validation processes.

Metadata: Access in Action

It is important to be prepared for this and to ensure that your solution is flexible and well governed. Successful collaboration starts by defining what your customers and business want to do with digital assets and then creating the plan to achieve it. After that, communicating how your assets are used to drive business will inspire others — from IT staff to all users present and future who seek to innovate those assets for future use. It’s access in action.

Metadata matters. Data is complex; it is growing. Organizations will need to show how they are acting responsibly in safeguarding it in order to build trust and confidence. The best way to manage your data is with the power and rigorous application of metadata. It is the best way to protect and defend digital assets from content clutter and mismanagement.

You need to invest the time, energy and resources to identify, define and organize assets for discovery. Access is everything. Classification is meaningful. And action is needed now for the volume of digital assets on our desktops, storage drives, shared drives, collaborative spaces and content repositories throughout the corporate structures created to manage content.

That’s good work to be done, now.

About the author

John Horodyski

John Horodyski is a Managing Director with Salt Flats for the Insights & Analytics practice with executive management strategy experience in Digital Asset Management (DAM), Metadata and Taxonomy design, Data strategy, Analytics, Governance, MarTech, and Marketing Operations.John is a world leading expert and has provided strategic direction and consulting for a variety of Fortune 10, 50, 100, and 500 clients from Consumer Packaging Goods, to Media & Entertainment, the Pharmaceutical industry, and Insurance.

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