What is managed metadata in SharePoint 2013?

Managed Metadata was first introduced into SharePoint 2010, and since then it has played an important role in helping users easily tag and structure their enterprise data and content.

The 2013 release of SharePoint fleshed out the core Managed Metadata features and it’s again been further advanced since the release of SharePoint 2016.

Managed Metadata has some great practical uses for your business. It imposes consistent use of metadata terms and improves content discoverability, which, regardless of the size of your business, you’ll see the immediate value in.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at how managed metadata can help you make your SharePoint environment a more productive place.

What is Metadata?

As the names suggest, metadata is ‘information about information’. But what does that mean in a practical sense? Well, okay, let’s say you created a word document on your desktop.

When you do this, there is automatically data created with this document that exists from the moment you hit ‘Save As’. For example, the name of the file is created, the file size, the author’s name, etc. You don’t have to do anything to make these pieces of information exist, they just do so automatically.

In SharePoint, when you upload or create a document or file a piece of data, these same basic properties are also created – name of the item, name of the creator, the date, etc.

But SharePoint metadata is much more versatile than that found in your ‘My Documents’ folder. It brings with it the ability to create custom metadata for the content.

You can file multiple files in a document library under these metadata terms, enabling you far more utility than you would get if you were to store your documents outside the document management platform.

It’s worth noting here that while per single file, the benefits of managed metadata might not sound exactly inspiring, but when you’re talking about hundreds or thousands of company files that can be sorted and filed in a way that allows them to be searched for and found as quickly as possible, the ability to create and manage metadata becomes much more crucial for your teams.

Pinning and Reusing Terms

One of the features that was added to the SharePoint 2013 platform was the concept of pinning terms. This is different from reusing a term in your SharePoint metadata.

When you reuse a term in your sites, the changes or modifications you make to the term can be seen across your entire SharePoint environment—wherever that term is reused. Pinning a term is like reusing a term, except that the terms cannot be modified from the location where the terms are reused. And the pinned terms are read-only.

Let’s see below in more detail.

As you might or might not know, terms can be reused in the Term Store. For example, let’s say you have a term structure with your company’s departments and the software you make:

Metadata term structure

Well, what if you want to reuse the software terms and put them under IT?

Metadata reorganized term structure

With term reusing, they become linked and modifying the term will reproduce the changes everywhere it’s used. If you want to reuse the term and also keep control of its changes (and refinement configuration), you can pin the term.

For example, pinning the term “Sharegate” under IT allows me to have a read-only access of the label. Keep in mind, the Metadata Navigation changes are not read-only and are still available for a pinned term.

Manages metadata in SharePoint

Managed Metadata Columns Support the Datasheet View

When it comes to document management functionality in SharePoint, the datasheet view is one of the most useful aspects.

Essentially, it enables you to edit multiple pieces of metadata, across multiple files, in an Excel format. This is a major plus for efficiency. But until now the datasheet view was hampered when it came it metadata. That changed in SharePoint 2013, when the component was upgraded.

The Metadata Picker in Datasheet view allows for three options:

  1. Replace all selected values with these terms
  2. Add these terms to all selected fields
  3. Remove these terms from all selected fields
Metadata Picker in Datasheet view

The first option is straightforward. Drag to select and replace the values:

Metadata Picker in Datasheet view

The second option relies on the fact that the column allows multiple terms to be set.

The third option is just as straightforward as the first, even removing a single term within values with multiple terms:

Metadata Picker in Datasheet view

While being fairly minor changes to the whole of the Managed Metadata aspect of SharePoint 2013, these two features are certainly welcome to a product that’s growing and maturing.

Building the appropriate infrastructure for your team sites—making documents and other content more easily searchable—is what makes SharePoint such an effective platform for taking document management and turning it into a primary productivity driver.

Making the most of Managed Metadata

To get the most from managed metadata in your SharePoint environment, you will need to do some careful planning. The extent of this planning will depend on how much control you would like to have over your metadata.

And also, how formal your taxonomy is going to be. In a less formal manner of taxonomy, you can allow users to help develop it by adding keywords to items and from there you can establish term sets based these keywords.

Of course, you may wish to use managed terms sets to develop more formal taxonomies. If this is the case, you need to bring in key stakeholders to take part in the planning and development of things like term sets. Once these have been agreed upon, you can use the Term Store Management Tool to import or create your term sets.

This tool is also convenient for managing the term sets as your users being working with the metadata. Accessing the Term Store Management Tool is easily done by going to Site Settings, and under Site Administration, clicking Term store management.

It’s important to understand that for this to available, your web application needs to be configured correctly and the appropriate permissions activated.

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