Social Will Improve your SharePoint Metadata

SharePoint makes metadata a social activityEveryone is interested in hearing about SharePoint 2013. While that may not translate into an immediate rush to move the latest version, most organizations are trying to keep up with the changes that are coming tomorrow so that they can better plan for today. One of the key drivers for interest in SP2013 are the new social capabilities — more and more organizations are thinking long and hard about their social strategies, and not just for SharePoint.

Companies want consistent social experiences across their enterprise applications, ensuring productivity as employees move between work streams, such as moving from a customer interaction to providing feedback on a product design.

On that note, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a great example of an area where companies are striving for integrated and seamless social experiences to improve productivity, with Microsoft and other vendors providing social solutions that allow internal resources to better collaborate with customers, and with each other regarding the customer, giving the company a more holistic view of what is happening with that customer. This will allow the company to be much more responsive to the immediate and long-term needs of the customer, while providing visibility of each interaction to the broader team so that they can better track where customer requirements originate and how to respond.

Within SharePoint, there are four key facets of improving, specifically, Information Worker (end user) productivity: workflow, forms, taxonomy, and social. The first three seem obvious enough: workflow automates the interactions between individuals, forms simplify and make more comprehensive the inputs, and taxonomy helps end users better classify their content and add context to their activities.

That last point ties directly to the argument in favor of social. Everything within SharePoint runs on metadata: it provides context, it allows you to standardize the application of taxonomy to content as your end users add their documents and other artifacts. Social can be a primary driver of folksonomy, which is to say, end-user generated keywords. As content is shared within SharePoint, social provides an opportunity for end users to apply additional tags that make sense to them, that help define the artifact in a way that makes sense to them, and that will help them search for and find the content again. Folksonomy may not follow a defined hierarchy or taxonomy, but can be any value entered into a keyword field. Social is a way to correlate and connect discovered content (through search or social interactions)  in a way that cannot be automated.

How does all of this help you improve or optimize your metadata, you ask?  If your end users are using the social capabilities within SharePoint to interact around content, adding their own tags, as well as commenting, liking, rating, and sharing that content, you’ll end up with a wealth of rich contextual data. Assuming your organization has a good handle on its governance model and management of your taxonomy, you can then go through these end-user generated keywords and promote relevant keywords up to your formal taxonomy, expanding your list of synonyms, deleting irrelevant tags, and so forth. As a result, your taxonomy improves, ensuring new content being added to your portal is more searchable, more findable, more shareable.

Metadata is improved in SharePoint when people interact, and social is quickly becoming the leading method for how people interact in enterprise applications — and SharePoint 2013 is a huge step forward in supporting this model.

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