Consider a small company with ten employees, each with their own desktop computer; some people even have an additional laptop. In a given day, each of these people may create or handle 20-30 different pieces of content ranging from budgets to contracts to lease agreements to proposals to photos, videos, and e-mails. How do they manage everything?
To create new documents, most people just boot up Microsoft Word and start typing. They save their files to the hard drive on their computer or to a shared drive on the company network. But what happens when Employee A needs a file created a week earlier by Employee B? Imagine the time it would take if employees had to e-mail each other, or walk by each other’s desks every time they wanted to “borrow” a document: “Hey, where did you put the resumes for the new property manager position? I’m supposed to begin interviewing people next week.”
Any organization could come up with an elaborate set of rules for naming and storing documents. But what if someone forgets how the rules work? Or, worse yet, what if a company stores thousands of files with one set of rules and then discovers it needs to change them?
Typically, when we save a document, we consider only two things: the name and the folder we put it in. And most of us don’t even think too hard about that. After all, we know how we like to name our files and where we like to put them. But what about everyone else in the office? What if you’re on vacation and a VP needs a file you created? Would it be better to get an angry phone call or to have a content management application let you catalog new files as you create them so that anyone can easily find them later on?
We put content into SmartCabinet® by uploading it through the Content Check-In Form:
The Content Check In Form allows you to provide information that describes the document you are putting into SmartCabinet®—in this case, Mike Smith’s resume—and to specify certain things about how the document will be used and how people will be able to find it later:
- Type and Subtype. We can tell SmartCabinet® that this document belongs with other Human Resources documents. We can even be more specific than that and indicate that it should be cataloged with other resumes.
- Title. We can give the document a title in SmartCabinet® that is different from the name of the file itself. Often, when we’re creating documents, we use shorthand naming conventions to make file names easier to read and remember. But longer titles can be more descriptive, making it easier for other people to find files after we’ve created them.
- Revision.SmartCabinet® can keep track of how many times a document has been revised. This helps you make sure you have the latest version of a document. It also allows you to backtrack through previous versions if you need to correct an error.
- Checked in By and Content Creator. SmartCabinet® automatically records the username of the person putting the document into the system. But if you’re putting something in that you didn’t create, you have the opportunity to tell the system who created it.
- Folder. Within SmartCabinet® your organization can use a standardized folder system, similar to the one you use on your computer, to organize its content. Clicking the Browse button associated with this field allows you to tell SmartCabinet® where you’d like the content you’re checking in to be filed.
Under Additional Content Information, you have the opportunity to add even more detail. You can determine whether other people should be allowed to copy or change the file. You can add a descriptive comment. You can also specify a variety of date-related information that might help you or someone else locate the file according to when it was created or when it entered the system. Finally, you can tell SmartCabinet® when the document should be released (made available to other users) and if it should ever expire (be made unavailable) at a certain point in the future.
This additional file information is called metadata. “Meta” is a Greek word meaning “higher-level.” Metadata is “data about the data” you’re putting into the system, data that describes what the content is, how it can be used, and how it can be found. The more metadata you include, and the more accurately that data describes how your organization uses the document, the easier the document will be for other people to find and use effectively.
Does it take extra time to enter this data? Maybe an extra minute the first time a piece of content enters SmartCabinet®. But think about how much time an entire company can save by having so many quick ways to retrieve it. If a piece of content takes a minute or two to put in, but taking that time saves other people just ten seconds whenever they try to find it, the extra entry time gets “paid back” after just five or six retrievals.
As a general rule, whenever you’re putting content into SmartCabinet®, include as much metadata as you can. Metadata takes little time to enter relative to its value later on. It’s one of the best investments you can make in the information your organization uses every day.