Brilliant! It’s 5:36 p.m. on Friday evening and you’ve just finished your last document of the week. Laptop closed! And after a nice weekend, a new work week begins. It was another productive week with an impressive volume of documents sent off, off and away. Always a great feeling!
Two weeks later Joyce from Customer Service is at your office. Ms Jones received the lease you prepared and thinks that a few things aren’t quite right. Joyce tried to find the lease agreement in question, but to no avail. If only you could track down the document in the system, it would make the discussion with the now slightly irritated Ms Jones a bit easier.
Uh huh… ‘just’ track it down. That ends up taking quite a bit longer than either you or Joyce had expected. At first, it looks like the document is lost, but after some proverbial ‘blood, sweat and tears’, you manage to ferret it out. You’re relieved, Joyce is happy, and Ms Jones… well, hopefully she will be happy soon, too. The harrowing search cost you half your morning. And you really had other things you needed to do. What went wrong?
A document without document properties
We know exactly where things went wrong. But you probably saw that coming. If we didn’t have the answer, why would we write these blogs? But we digress… Your document probably had little or no document properties assigned to it. And it’s precisely these properties, also known as metadata, that make your document easy to find. They indicate the basic details of your document. When you assign the right properties to your document, you can use them to find it later. Some examples include project-specific documents and properties such as ‘document type’. In this case, you could have given your document the property ‘lease’.
No metadata, no document management
A document without metadata (properties) can be rather useless in some regards. Metadata provide information on the document and its contents. It’s simply not possible to manage a set of documents properly (or at all) without metadata. Because you can’t manage what you can’t find, right? Metadata are actually small labels (tags) that make sure the document is stored at the right place and in the right way. Though it may go without saying, the more specific your document properties are, the easier the document will be to find. For instance, if you could have searched for ‘Jones’, ‘lease’ and the contract date, you could have saved Joyce (and yourself) a lot of time. But the right metadata do more than just help you find a document. They also make it easy to interpret documents (thanks to metadata like ‘title’, ‘subject’ and ‘summary’). Metadata such as ‘retention period’, ‘authorisation’ and ‘file format’ also make document management a breeze.
The importance of metadata: an example
Microsoft SharePoint is one of the most commonly used programs in the world, and metadata play a prominent role. This is because SharePoint works best if you ‘dump’ all your documents into one big environment, rather than into lots of little folders and with seemingly endless clicks to get to the file you need. So, you have to work with metadata if you ever want to find your documents. All it takes is giving your documents the right, carefully selected metadata (document properties). SharePoint’s powerful search function makes sure you can find your documents again.
SmartDocuments: never lose your documents again
We're not sure how you feel about it, but we love it when we can find our documents quickly. (And so does Joyce.) That’s why we’ve built the document properties feature into our SmartDocuments environment. This lets you add extra information (automatically!) to a document during document creation, so you can find it easier later on using the search function in the explorer. This comes in handy when working with external applications (such as a DMS, case management system or ECM) that offer the option of searching by document properties. These systems will automatically read the documents properties generated with SmartDocuments.
Want to learn more? We're happy to discuss the possibilities with you.