Managing Enterprise Metadata in SharePoint Server 2010 (ECM)
Published: May 2010
Learn the core concepts of SharePoint Server 2010 managed metadata and how to use it.
Managed metadata is a hierarchical collection of centrally managed terms that you can define, and then use as attributes for items in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.
This topic introduces the core concepts about managed metadata, and then describes ways to use managed metadata. The final section presents several benefits of incorporating managed metadata into your SharePoint Server 2010 solution. This topic includes:
This section introduces several key concepts that are used in managed metadata, and that are the basis of objects that developers create and manage when creating custom managed metadata solutions.
Terms and Term Sets in SharePoint
A term is a word or a phrase that can be associated with an item in SharePoint Server 2010. A term set is a collection of related terms. You can specify that a SharePoint Server 2010 column must contain a term from a specific term set. Managed metadata is a way of referring to the fact that terms and term sets can be created and managed independently from columns.
Local term sets are created within the context of a site collection. For example, if you add a column to a list in a document library, and create a new term set to bind the column to, the new term set is local to the site collection that contains the document library.
Global term sets are created outside the context of a site collection. For example, the term store administrator could create a term set group named Human Resources and designate a person to manage the term set group. The group manager would create term sets that relate to Human Resources, such as job titles and pay grades in the Human Resources term set group.
Users can see only global term sets and term sets that are local to the user's site collection.
For example, assume that your company has adopted the RACI model, in which each document that is created must include a list of the people who were Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed about the document.
To implement this, you would:
Define terms based on each person's name.
Group these terms into a global term set named RACI-trained people.
Create four new columns: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.
Specify that the value or values of each of these columns must come from the RACI-trained people term set.
Associate these four columns with the content type that represents the documents.
In this example, whenever a user creates or uploads a document to SharePoint Server 2010, the user would have to select the person or people who are associated with the document in each of the four roles. If the company hired a new employee, you would add a new term to the RACI-trained people term set, and it would become a valid value for the four columns.
Managed Terms, Enterprise Keywords, and the Term Store in SharePoint
Terms can be divided into two types:
Managed terms, which are usually predefined, can be created only by users with the appropriate permissions, and are often organized into a hierarchy.
Enterprise keywords, which are simply words or phrases that have been added to SharePoint Server 2010 items. All enterprise keywords are part of a single, non-hierarchical term set called the keyword set.
Managed terms and enterprise keywords are used differently. For more information, see the Using terms section later in this topic.
The word "managed" is often omitted when referring to managed terms when the meaning is clear from the context.
Managed terms and enterprise keywords are stored in a database referred to as a term store.
The following sections describe how terms are created and used.
Creating Terms in SharePoint
SharePoint Server 2010 includes the Term Store Management Tool, which you use to create and manage term sets. If you have the appropriate permissions, you can use the Term Store Management Tool to:
Create or delete a term set.
Add, modify, or delete terms.
Arrange managed terms within a term set into a hierarchy.
Make enterprise keywords into managed terms by moving them into a term set.
To enforce the RACI convention on all documents, start by using the Term Store Management Tool to define a term set to represent all of the people who could serve in any of the RACI roles. Then you use the same tool to add a term to the term set for each person. You define the following term set and terms:
RACI-trained people (term set):
The term set is becoming unwieldy, because there are so many names. You decide to reorganize the term set based on the reporting structure. The new term set and terms now have this structure:
RACI-trained people (term set):
Using Terms in SharePoint Managed Metadata
A column is a location in a list in which to store information about a SharePoint Server 2010 item. When you define a column, you provide a name for the column, specify the column's type, and provide additional information that depends on the column type.
SharePoint Server 2010 introduces a new column type named managed metadata. When you create a managed metadata column, you specify the term set from which the column's values must come. When you want users to provide information for list items (including documents), and the valid values for the information are contained in a term set, use a managed metadata column. Create a new content type or modify an existing content type, and then add the managed metadata column to the content type.
Because all documents will have to identify the people responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed, you decide to create columns for each of these attributes. You create a site column named Responsible, select Managed Metadata for the column's type, select the term set RACI-trained people to provide values for the Responsible column, and indicate that the column can contain only a single value. You then create three additional columns by using the guidelines in Table 1.
Allow Multiple Values?
After creating the columns, you create a new content type to represent documents that must have their RACI contacts identified. You create a new content type, name it RACI document, and select Document for its parent content type. You then modify the RACI document content type, and add the Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed columns to the content type.
Finally, you modify the shared documents library and add RACI document to the set of content types that are available in the library.
Entering Terms for SharePoint
When a user creates or uploads a new SharePoint Server 2010 item of a type that has columns that require a value, the user must provide a value. If the column is a managed metadata column, the managed metadata control is displayed, and the user interacts with this control to enter the value.
The managed metadata control enables the user to type a value or to select a value by hierarchically navigating the term set that is associated with the column. If the user begins typing a value, the control displays all terms in the associated term set that begin with the characters the user has typed. The name of the term set and the term's position in the hierarchy are indicated along with the term itself.
If the column's definition allows multiple values, the user can select more than one term. If both the term set and the column's definition allow new terms to be added, the user can also create a new term and insert it at the appropriate place in the term set's hierarchy.
When a user wants to upload a new RACI document, the user identifies the document to upload, and then must fill in values for the Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed columns.
In the Responsible field, the user displays the hierarchy of terms within the people term set, expands Florence Flipo, and then selects Kathie Flood.
The user cannot remember the full name of the person who is accountable. The accountable person's first name is Eric or Erik, and he reports to Eugene Zabokritski, but the user cannot remember his last name. The user types Er, and the following terms are displayed as options:
Eran Shtiegman [people: Florence Flipo]
Eric Gruber [people: Eugene Zabokritski]
Erik Rucker [people: Florence Flipo]
Erlingur Jonsson [people: Florence Flipo]
The user selects Eric Gruber.
In the Consulted field, the user types Fred Vidul; Sunil Uppal.
In the Informed field, the user navigates the term set hierarchy and selects Eugene Zabokritski, Florence Flipo, and Mu Han.
Entering Enterprise Keywords for SharePoint
SharePoint Server 2010 includes a predefined column named Enterprise Keywords. You can add this column to content types. When a user adds a value to the Enterprise Keywords column, the enterprise keyword control is displayed, and the user interacts with the control to enter the value. The enterprise keyword control behavior is similar to the managed metadata control behavior, except that the enterprise keyword control allows users to select enterprise keywords and managed terms.
When the user begins typing a value, the control displays the terms that begin with the characters that the user has typed, from both global term sets and term sets that are local to the user’s site collection. The term set in which the term exists and the term's position in the hierarchy are also displayed. There is usually also an option for entering a new enterprise keyword. If the user enters a new enterprise keyword, the enterprise keyword is added to the keyword set.
The Enterprise Keywords column allows multiple values by default.
A user has created a new RACI document, and provided values for the Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed columns. However, two external consultants also worked on the document, and the user wants to associate the consultants' names with the document, so that searching for the names locates the document. Because the consultants are not members of the people term set, the consultants cannot be added to the Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed columns. The user notices that the RACI document content type includes the Enterprise Keywords column, and decides to add their names as enterprise keywords.
The user begins typing the first consultant's name, Sunil Kasturi, into the enterprise keyword field. When the user has typed Sunil, the following options are displayed:
Sunil Kasturi [Enterprise keywords]
Sunil Uppal [people: Eugene Zabokritski]
An enterprise keyword already existed for this consultant, so the user simply selects it.
To add the second consultant's name, Jan Kotas, as an enterprise keyword, the user types Jan. The only option that is displayed is Create New. The user selects Create New, and creates the enterprise keyword Jan Kota, which is now added to the Enterprise Keywords column of the document and the keyword set.
This section describes several of the benefits of using managed metadata.
More Consistent Use of Terminology
Managed metadata facilitates more consistent use of terms, and more consistent use of the enterprise keywords that are added to SharePoint Server 2010 items. You can predefine terms, and you can allow only authorized users to add new terms. You can also prohibit users from adding their own enterprise keywords to items, and require them to use existing enterprise keywords. Managed metadata also provides greater accuracy by presenting only a list of correct terms from which users can select values. Because enterprise keywords are also a type of managed metadata, even the enterprise keywords that users apply to items can be more consistent.
Because metadata is used more consistently, you can have a higher degree of confidence that it is correct. When you use metadata to automate business processes—for example, placing documents in different files in the Record Center based on the value of their department attribute—you can be confident that the metadata was created by authorized users, and that the value of the department attribute is always one of the valid values.
Better SharePoint Search Results
A simple search can provide more relevant results if items have consistent attributes.
As users apply managed terms and enterprise keywords to items, they are guided to terms that have already been used. In some cases, users might not even be able to enter a new value. Because users are focused on a specific set of terms, those terms—and not synonyms—are more likely to be applied to items. Searching for a managed term or an enterprise keyword is therefore likely to retrieve more relevant results.
Dynamic SharePoint Metadata Behavior
In previous versions of SharePoint Server 2010, to restrict the value of an attribute to one of a set of values, you would create a column whose type is "choice", and then provide a list of valid values. When you needed to add a new value to a set of choices, you would modify every column that used the same set of values.
By using managed metadata in SharePoint Server 2010, you can separate the set of valid values from the columns whose value must be one of the set of valid values. When you need to add a new value, you add a term to the term set, and all columns that map to that term set use the updated set of choices.
Using terms can help you keep SharePoint Server 2010 items in sync with the business as the business changes. For example, assume that your company's new product had a code name early in its development, and was given an official name shortly before the product launched. You included a term for the code name in the "product" term set, and users have been identifying all documents related to the product by using the term. When the product name changed, you could edit the term and change its name to the product's official name. The term is still applied to the same items, but its name is now updated.