A small company with a handful of employees working out of a single office used to have a single, very strong advantage over large companies with multiple offices spread out across the world: communication. Before the internet, it was much easier for that small office to share information, transfer documents, and work with a single filing system. After the development of the internet, however, came programs and platforms that made document management across borders even easier than dropping a file in the inbox of the office next door. One of the most popular examples of this is SharePoint, though the platform does not work as well as intended.
What Is SharePoint?
Before they are properly introduced to SharePoint, many people are confused as to what exactly it is. Rather than a program that is installed or downloaded onto a computer, it operates as a back-end system that ties multiple computers and mobile devices together—synchronizing each device so that seamless and instant communication between all of them is possible. It is a network of sorts, and the ultimate goal is to make coordination between employees of a large company with multiple offices as easy as it is for a small company with a single office. In the end, though, SharePoint ends up being more trouble than it’s worth because it focuses too much on metadata. Metadata will be defined and explained after first looking at the importance of document management.
One thing that every company must deal with is document management. Document management is incredibly important because documents are the lifeblood of any company. They contain all sorts of vital information—contracts, schedules, budgets, memos—the list goes on. If a company doesn’t keep their documents organized, they can quickly find themselves in a state of chaos, which will ultimately lead to them hemorrhaging money before they eventually go out of business.
The definition of metadata is “a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.” When it comes to document management, metadata is used to “tag” certain documents with specific keywords to make those documents easier to search for and find in the future. The problem is that doing this for every single individual document is incredibly time-consuming, especially when you’re dealing with thousands upon thousands of documents.
One area where metadata does shine, though, is online shopping. For instance, when a customer visits a shopping website, they are given the option to search for a specific product. Let’s say they want to see the website’s selection of Timberland shoes. They can type “Timberland” into the search bar, and they will be shown the entire stock of Timberland products. However, they’re a male with size 12 feet that’s only interested in work boots, so they use the filter options to select “Men’s,” “Size 12” and “Boots.” This narrows the search exponentially and shows them the only four products that match the search and filter criteria.
A retailer with a limited amount of products is not, however, a business with thousands of documents that need assessment at any given time. The retailer can easily “tag” each product with keywords, but when it comes to “tagging” documents, the process is time-consuming and honestly more hassle than it’s worth. Consider this: to learn how to tag a single document using metadata, the best tutorial slideshow on the internet is 67 slides long.
The Problem with Filing Using Metadata
Digital filing systems can often be way too confusing and take up way too much space as well. For instance, let’s say a single businessman has been asked to pull the total amount of “service charges” his company has charged their customers from 2013 – 2015. They’re a company that handles big projects, so they’ve only had about 75 customers during this period. Using SharePoint, the man can pull these numbers with documents that have been “tagged,” which seems as if it would be a simple process. Consider, though, how long it took to “tag” the documents in the first place.
Each invoice, each project, each customer and each year would have to undergo the lengthy metadata process that SharePoint requires to be even marginally functional. That aforementioned 67-slide tutorial shows how you have to dig deep into the bowels of SharePoint to create and log “tags” for each document, which ultimately takes up way too much time when compared to other document management systems. If each of the 75 customers has 10 invoices a year for two years, that’s 1500 separate documents that require tagging for later retrieval.