Rethinking Your Metadata


About 30% of our clients used another Laserfiche partner to implement their system. For various reasons, the client became dissatisfied with their initial install and looked to CPS to make improvements. First, we meet with them to determine what they are unhappy with and then dive in to determine constraints and root causes. Generally, the first area we audit is the organization’s usage of processes, in particular, their templates and metadata because, in ECM, metadata is truly the root of all things. When organizations implement Laserfiche applications and services into their technology ecosystem, if the metadata on their documents is not already in place (or sufficient or correct), that task must be done first and can be quite harrowing.


Metadata is the Architecture for Laserfiche, Sometimes You Have to Rebuild

Document metadata (often known as “data about data”) provides context that can help you better organize, search and retrieve. Additionally, search tools can usually read metadata much faster than a document’s full text, saving time when searching. When deciding if you need to update your templates (metadata fields) the key question is this “Is it necessary to create a new metadata architecture, or are there already existing metadata s which can be adapted for use?” While this seems obvious, you might be surprised at the number of clients that spend a good deal of time deciding what their new metadata architecture should be without checking with other departments and/or neighboring agencies. If you are brand new to metadata, Laserfiche provides this quick primer.


More Templates Does Not Equal Better

Principally, the fewer templates, the better. We recommend standardizing templates across the enterprise. Standards are used to improve interoperability and reduce complexity. For instance, setting fields for integrations with business systems such as ERP. It is simpler to adopt something that already exists, is well modeled, and is comprehensively supported. For instance, I am working with a client who redid their retention and disposition schedules and now we are in the process of correcting and reassigning new templates to documents already in the Laserfiche repository. We’ve worked with the departments to see what metadata they need to capture, alongside the standardized records management metadata scheme (plan).

Just to be clear, we’re using the concept of the scheme as it is defined by ISO 23081 “a logical plan showing the relationships between metadata elements, normally through establishing rules for the use and management of metadata specifically as regards the semantics, the syntax and the optionality (obligation level) of values.”


Standardization Characteristics to Consider

Let’s take a look at three metadata characteristics, which make metadata vital to any organization’s success, be it an agency, law firm, insurance company, healthcare institution, or manufacturer. By standardizing metadata with these factors in mind, Laserfiche initiatives have a far greater chance of succeeding.


Findability- For files like documents and PDFs which have been processed with an OCR engine, full-text indexing does an excellent job of making documents “findable.” Yet with raw scanned documents or electronic documents, metadata is critical to surface documents when they are needed.

Many organizations automate as much metadata creation as possible such as file type, file name, author name, and permissions. Having a well-documented, effectively communicated metadata standard is beneficial for users, administrators, and information management executives alike. Just as internet search engines find websites with keyword-rich meta titles, tags, and descriptions, ECM systems rely on keyword-rich filenames, descriptions, and context-specific data.


Security- Access control and digital rights management are especially important in highly regulated industries and organizations which handle a great deal of personal information such as patient data, case files, and other agency forms. Access control can enable a more secure way to share sensitive information with some of the following controls:

  • Allowing or denying individuals or groups the ability to find a document

  • Enabling or denying a user to view, edit, or delete a document, its contents, or its metadata

  • Allowing or denying a user to see the entirety of a document including annotations, with or without the redacted information

  • Automating the redaction of PII

  • Defining how long a record will be kept before being retained, deleted, or destroyed

In addition, profiling a record or document with metadata can help users understand how it should be used. In addition, it can help employees understand whether a document can be printed, shared outside the organization, or deleted.


Personalized Navigation- Today, most users are concerned with accessing content that has context to their job, goals, and priorities. Content personalization has come a long way on websites and online stores, in large part because of the metadata which is applied to content as it is generated. For documents and records, the same principles can be applied—where metadata can help users in different roles to find the same file. When standardized metadata fields are associated with files, users will become accustomed to the most effective search terms to apply to their files as they create and file them.


A salesperson may search for a record by company name, while a finance employee might be more effective in finding that same customer by their account number. In addition, two lawyers might search by precedents. Again, the user is empowered to search intuitively because of the correct application of metadata. Ultimately, users can be spared browsing through hundreds of files that aren’t important to them and navigate to what they need.


If you are frustrated by your current setup and suspect metadata might be the issue please contact us.

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