By Anthony Baratta
If you want your SharePoint site to be as well organized and easy to manage as possible, then you are going to need to venture into the depths of the SharePoint term store. The term store is all about the metadata management of your SharePoint site. By knowing how to use the term store, you will have the resources you need to put together an effectively managed metadata system for your SharePoint site. By using managed metadata, you will be able to achieve greater consistency of how data is entered, organized, and stored throughout SharePoint.
Why Use Managed Metadata
To understand why the SharePoint term store is going to serve a vital role in your SharePoint environment, it's important to understand why managed metadata is necessary in the first place.
If you are using SharePoint and reading this article, then you probably already know a thing or two about metadata, so give us a little forbearence while we summarize for the other readers. In the simplest terms, metadata is "data about data," or "information about information." It's data that you attach to your SharePoint assets—like documents and folders—to catalog it and make it easier to find. For instance, if you are working on a project for the human resources department, you might include the metadata tag of "HR" to make it easy to find for anyone in the HR department. In addition to tagging by department, you can use metadata to classify different files based on document type, associated client, subject, project, and more.
Sounds simple enough, right? You apply metadata tags to your SharePoint files so that, if you need to find every invoice or every document associated with a certain client, you can do it in a matter of clicks and keystrokes. Things tend to get complicated, however, when everyone in your organization is creating and tagging files. Each person in your enterprise might have a different idea of what qualifies as the "most logical" metadata tag.
One example might be a marketing project file getting tagged as "Marketing," "Marketing Department," or "Marketing Team." All of these metadata tags are perfectly logical ways of tagging the file in question. However, it doesn't make sense to use all three (or any other possible variations) in the same SharePoint environment. After all, the purpose of metadata is to make things easier to find. If files from the same category are unwittingly being filed away under three or four different metadata terms, it defeats the purpose of using metadata in the first place.
That's where the term store comes in. With the term store, you can configure a consistent metadata "language" or "taxonomy" that the rest of your team can follow in the future. To take the above example, you might introduce a metadata term for "Marketing," while making it impossible for anyone to tag anything as "Marketing Department" or "Marketing Team." In other words, you've "managed" the metadata so that everyone tags things in a consistent fashion. The result is better organization and more efficient SharePoint management.
Configuring Your Term Store
When you go to use the term store and set up your SharePoint's managed metadata system, it's important to realize that you aren't just picking terms. Configuration of your term store will also include building what are called groups and term sets.
With groups, you are essentially outlining who in your organization can manage term sets and their terms. SharePoint will allow you to designate different "Contributors" for the various groups throughout your site or environment. You would likely give these permissions to managers, team leaders, or other individuals throughout your organization who are in leadership positions. These leaders would be the most knowledgeable about the metadata tagging habits of their teams and would, therefore, be the most qualified to decide what terms their teams or departments should be using for tagging.
Term sets are easier to understand. When you (or one of your contributors) go to create a term set, you are creating a collection of related metadata terms. You can create term sets on both local and global levels. Local term sets would likely only be used on one particular site collection and would only apply to one department or team. Global term sets are more universal metadata tags that would be likely to be used throughout your SharePoint environment.
There are also open and closed term sets. With an open term set, the users of the site or site collection would be able to create new metadata terms while tagging. This option is beneficial if you want your team members to suggest terms based on how they tag files. However, it can also defeat some of the purpose of using the term store, as it risks inconsistency in tagging. A closed term store only allows users to choose from the terms in a specific term set while tagging a document. Though less flexible, this option guarantees more consistency.
Eventually, configuring the term store is a step every SharePoint manager should take. Metadata tagging can get messy when you let it work as a free-for-all. The term store is the secret to introducing more order and organization into your SharePoint ecosystem.
To learn more about how to configure term stores and term sets please do not hesitate to connect with us at (510) 652-7700 or complete this form to book a free consultation.