In our previous articles, you may have seen us mention various document regulatory standards such as HIPAA, FINRA, ISO, and others. However, there is another lesser-known authority that provides important guidelines for document and records management called NISO.

The NISO Standards are developed by the National Information Standards Organization. According to their website, the development of the standard involves a rigorous process of peer reviews of proposed standards open to each NISO voting member and any other interested party. These voting members include a number of key players including the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), the Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA), the American Library Association (ALA), and the Association of Information and Dissemination Centers (ASIDIC) just to name a few.

The ANSI/NISO Z39.85-2007 titled “The Dublin Core Metadata Element Set” defines 15 metadata elements for resource description in a cross-disciplinary information environment. This standard gets its name due to origins at a 1995 invitational workshop in Dublin, Ohio, and the term core is meant to describe its broad and generic nature for describing a varied number of resources. The 15-element “Dublin Core” is part of a larger set of metadata vocabularies maintained by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI).


What Is Metadata?

Document metadata is simply information that is associated with a text-based file that may or may not be visible on the face of the document. The metadata summarizes the basic information about the data which may include file size, document creation date, names of the author and most recent modifier, the dates of the most recent changes, and other pertinent information. Further metadata can be added including title, tags, and comments.

Metadata provides the ability to easily search for documents by enabling the user to filter relevant document information, thus making it easier for someone to locate a document based on a number of various document attributes.


Document Management and Metadata

For document management systems, metadata is absolutely vital. All document management software in some form or the other makes use of metadata for search functions, document indexing, workflow capabilities, and more. For document recovery, document management systems should at the very least have the option to locate documents by its title, creator, or modification date. But, most importantly, the system should maintain the Dublin Core Schema with the possibility to provide flexibility to tailor to our needs by defining our own specific metadata for different types of documents.


Metadata Best Practices

Experience has shown that organizing data according to their metadata attributes is significantly more beneficial than traditional folder-based approach. This is the beauty of document management software such as eFileCabinet. Provided below are some tips for metadata best practices that will enable an organizations to make the most of document management software to reap the benefits that metadata management offers while complying with the requirements set out by the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set—ANSI/NISO Z39.85-2007

Ensure consistent metadata usage. A good starting point would be for organizations to gather all individuals who create or use metadata and identify the different types of documents and how they should be searched, thereby developing a standard. For example, users may want to organize proposals by client, author, date, or status. In this case, all of these metadata attributes would need to be added to proposals.

Manage the information life cycle. This entails identifying documents with life cycle management periods (e.g. contracts and invoices) and creating templates for these common types of documents that include predefined and pre-populated metadata attributes. This is helpful for the definition of workflows for reviews, updates, and eventual archival or destruction of the document.

Establish relationships between documents and associated processes and teams. Metadata is also used to describe how different information assets relate to each other. For example, metadata may be used to describe how structured data in a customer relationship management (CRM) database (such as customer account information) is related to a proposal document (for instance an unstructured PDF file) which is in turn related to an automatic workflow that requires an account manager to electronically sign off and approve the proposal.

Maintaining metadata compliance is second nature to document management software, as the software has specific metadata functionality built in right off the bat. Most of this information is automatically populated leaving the user with little to think about when it comes to compliance. As we can see, metadata is the preferred means of organizing and managing business information as file/folder organization is proving to be more and more inefficient. Metadata organization is the future of document management and many organizations can greatly benefit from it due to its simplification of tasks such as organizing, securing, searching, and archiving documents.