John Horodyski 6344696844a6e

Why metadata matters for manufacturers

Oct. 10, 2022
Metadata is meaningful because it connects content from creation to consumer.

By John Horodyski, author of “Metadata Matters

Metadata is more than just data; it is the essence of your content. Metadata matters because it gives structure and meaning to the data associated with all that we do in our business and personal transactions. Metadata matters because it is both identification and discovery; it’s about access. Metadata increases the return on investment of a content system by unlocking the potential to ingest, discover, share and distribute assets. Metadata matters because it tells you where your content came from, where it is going, and how it can be used.

It is the very foundation of your content.

Modern manufacturing involves working as teams to solve problems and produce high-quality goods. Manufacturers imagine ideas together, and later bring them to reality using technology like digital blueprints, 3D models and design software. The path to good metadata design begins with the realization that digital assets need to be identified, organized, and made available for discovery.

Metadata is meaningful because it connects content from creation to consumer. It is able to travel from idea to distribution via the creative workflow, along the way making the content more accessible with each step it takes in its lifecycle.

Workflow is best described as the sequence of processes through which content passes from creation to production, ending with distribution. The key to good workflow is understanding the issues involved in identifying, capturing, and ingesting assets within a DAM system and then making 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 touch points along an asset’s life cycle, 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 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.

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 understood 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 through 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. As it does, the following workflow considerations apply:

  • Is there metadata in headers, file systems, naming conventions, or 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.

Workflows intersect with content no matter what the lifecycle stage; understanding the intersections of people and technology unique to each phase is key to ensuring that workflow processes will support, and not hinder, content’s smart, efficient utilization. This may well confirm that streamlined, user-friendly workflows are enacted and that they allow necessary process actions to be taken while meeting deadline requirements.

Workflow and governance are the structure around how organizations manage content creation, use, and distribution, and they play a critical part in developing trust. Ultimately, governance is the structure enabling content stewardship, beginning with metadata and workflow strategy, through policy development, and more, and it provides technology solutions to serve the creation, use and distribution of content.

As mentioned, and it is worth repeating, content does not emerge fully formed into the world. It is the product of people working with technology in the execution of a process—the transparency needed for your content to be successful. The struggle in managing content within the digital world is as complex as the digital workflows underpinning the efforts. We can build trust through effective metadata and earn trust through good governance—in fact, your content depends upon it.

Creating the whole workflow solution—and connecting it throughout your organizational ecosystem—means that your digital assets can be put to innovative use in generating revenue, increasing efficiencies, and enhancing your ability to meet new and emerging market opportunities. The data-points to monitor and manage in this scenario are actually your metadata and the workflows that they support.

It is critical to understand that metadata is a snapshot in time representing the business processes and goals at a particular time. In an ever-changing business environment, metadata must be adaptable and must evolve over time to stay relevant to the digital assets that it supports. If maintained and governed well, metadata can be a very real contribution to your business goals. Metadata is the foundation for your digital strategy for your manufacturing workflow, and your supply chain. You want your assets to be discovered; they want to be found. Content may still be king, but the user is also worthy, because if you have great content and no one can find it, the value of the content is as good as its’ not existing.

The path to good metadata design begins with the realization that your digital assets need to be identified, organized, and made available for discovery. Metadata will help ensure that you are building the right system, for the right users, at the right time. Metadata done well will ensure that you and your content will never be lost again.

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 business structures created to manage content.