July 24, 2023

How to create a Metadata Advisory Council

Adding metadata to Microsoft Teams unlocks all kinds of value for organizations, helping them classify, categorize, and organize files for easier discovery, retention, and compliance. But, when improperly managed, metadata initiatives can also easily spin out of control and become an unsustainable, unusable mess.

To prevent that chaos and ensure essential metadata gets captured with a consistent taxonomy and nomenclature, businesses must bring an intentional, thoughtful approach to how they use metadata. One of the best ways to accelerate that process and build stakeholder alignment is by convening a Metadata Advisory Council.

What is a Metadata Advisory Council?

Different parts of the organization have different needs when it comes to how they classify and categorize things. The Metadata Advisory Council serves as the central clearinghouse to make sure all those requirements are met without introducing duplicate, redundant, or unnecessary metadata to the process.

Who should be on a Metadata Advisory Council?

A Metadata Advisory Council is a group of stakeholders representing each part of the organization. The specific makeup of this group is obviously dependent on each company’s individual nuances and needs, but the goal is to have every possible interest represented directly or by proxy.

Participants don’t need to be data scientists or the highest-ranking executive in each team. Rather they should understand the key business needs of their portion of the business and/or be well-versed in any regulatory compliance requirements or internal policies regarding how data is handled. This combined brain trust should have enough knowledge to confidently make recommendations and finalize which metadata properties and values should be captured and the best ways to do so.

What does a Metadata Advisory Council do?

A metadata advisory council is tasked with finding the sweet spot that ensures everyone has the metadata they need without creating such a lengthy onerous process that end users simply opt-out. This helps prevent ad hoc, shadow IT solutions that defeat the primary purpose of metadata standardization.

The final output of the Metadata Advisory Council will be a very specific, detailed matrix of each metadata property, the options for each, and which properties are needed for each location. But this exercise must begin by surfacing the underlying business requirements of their department, business unit, product line, etc. By taking this approach, the conversation begins at a higher level to better identify overlaps and common needs between different stakeholders.

With the aggregate requirements collected and socialized among the Council, they can now get into the grunt work of specifying each mandatory and optional metadata field and compiling it all in a data dictionary for reference. This collaborative work helps streamline and rationalize what metadata gets prioritized, with the goal of capturing what’s essential without making it too onerous for end users.

The Council will also be responsible for educating and communicating the metadata strategy and how it will work in practice for the overall organization. This likely entails meeting with various teams to explain why metadata is so important and how it can help individuals in their day-to-day work along with what specific metadata should be captured and how to do so. Getting everyone to understand the value of metadata to themselves and their colleagues creates the momentum and enthusiasm needed to boost adoption and compliance.

The Council can also play a role in defining how and when metadata will be collected, including making technology recommendations. For example, provisioning end users with harmon.ie 365 Suite not only allows them to drag and drop files from Outlook into Teams or SharePoint, but it also integrates metadata collection right into the workflow, prompting them to define any mandatory or optional metadata fields as part of the process.

How often should a Metadata Advisory Council convene?

The Council will initially need to meet a few times to define metadata that meets each team’s business objectives.

Going forward, the Council should establish a regular cadence of meetings where stakeholders can elevate any new requirements or concerns about the existing set of metadata being collected. Metrics concerning metadata fields and specific tag usage should be on the agenda to consider if any metadata fields or values should be “retired” or switched from mandatory to optional (or vice-versa) due to underuse or changes in the business.

It’s also a forum to discuss any challenges or share best practices concerning the adoption of metadata across the organization.

Oversight without overburdening

Ultimately, a Metadata Advisory Council’s success can be measured by the organization’s overall adoption of metadata as well as employee satisfaction with both the utility of the metadata itself and the process required to enter and maintain it. Finding and maintaining the right balance is key to creating a sustainable metadata strategy.

When done correctly, it can fuel employee efficiency, increase compliance, and facilitate automation and information management. To learn more about using metadata to organize files in Microsoft Teams, check out our most recent Q&A on this subject.

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