Should we use metadata or stick with folders in our SharePoint document management system?


This is the most frequently asked question when I meet with clients to discuss their document management needs. The taxonomy guru in me screams USE MANAGED METADATA!!! Applying MMD to documents is the most efficient way to properly tag documents and find them down the road – plus it is just good practice.

I would love to end the conversation here, but that method is not always practical or favored.  Business users prefer saving documents in a traditional folder structure because it is the quickest way for them to save documents and move on with the rest of their workday; not to mention it has been work standard for decades!

Now there is a comparable median between metadata and folders called SharePoint Document Sets. This feature allows business users to group related documents and manage them as a single entity. For example, if a commercial real estate owner has a tenant improvement construction project, they can create a document set called “TI – Suite 260 March 2022” and associate the document set with the Tenant Name and Project Status. Now the magic here is any document you add to the document set will inherit the metadata associated to the top level “Document Set”. This allows business users to keep documents grouped like folders but managed by managed metadata.

In cases where document sets aren’t applicable, the decision between managed metadata and folders must be addressed.  There are two guiding principles that help arrive at the right approach.  Incorporating these best practices will ensure that you are setting the document management system and, more importantly, the business user, up for ultimate success.

Principle 1: Documents with a short life cycle or documents only accessed by a small group can be stored in folders.

Principle 2: Documents that will be referenced or searched in the future should be tagged with metadata.

This simple question does not have a simple answer. But if you use the principles and recommendation above and adopt them into your document management governance, then you have taken one giant step forward towards providing a well adopted system.

Contact us at [email protected] to learn more on how our experts can assist with your organizational document management needs.

Zero Email – Too Good To Be True?


Increasingly over the past decade, a major pain point in modern offices has been encapsulated in the phrase “This meeting could have been an email.” So much so that it’s earned a permanent place within the meme universe and is regularly included in the newest formats. It’s an issue worth addressing.

The driving sentiment being that interrupting people’s day to corral them into a conference room to review or present information that could have been summarized in a written memo is both inefficient and, honestly, a bit irritating. It is an artifact work of previous ways of doing when communication was limited and gathering everyone together was more efficient than physically distributing memos. As our workplaces continue to modernize – and especially with the rise of working from home due to COVID – this pain point is evolving to “This email could have been a Teams message.”

Ok, so maybe true zero is too good to be true, but zero internal email is an achievable goal within the Microsoft 365 environment. In the current era of instant messaging on pretty much every platform, small tasks like getting project status updates, requesting feedback on draft materials, or even just coordinating happy hour plans feel unnecessarily burdensome via email. This is especially important for those of us who file emails and see a clean inbox as a daily goal, but I would argue that everyone benefits from a less cluttered inbox.

The Microsoft ecosystem includes numerous features that make these enhancements seamless.

  • Teams interactions can be one-to-one messages with specific coworkers, group chats, or channel-wide posts. The ability to notify an entire channel or just tag specific team members helps elicit attention from the relevant people instead of having everyone tag along on a never-ending “reply all” chain.
  • Microsoft Planner allows users to assign tasks, comment on the task, and track progress throughout a project all within the project itself – no pesky update meetings or emails!
  • Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents can be collaboratively edited within Teams or their respective desktop apps without having to send drafts or comments back and forth via email.
  • Emails can be sent from Outlook to Teams for an internal discussion outside of the thread before responding to the external party. It’s also a great way to retain records of conversations without having to dig up dozens of emails later as the replies are all consolidated underneath the original post. 
  • Power App automation eliminates repetitive and tedious tasks and streamlines requests and approvals.
  • SharePoint documents can be shared directly eliminating the need to email draft versions back and forth.
  • And more!

All of these features are incorporated within the REALTY|share solution and add a whole new dimension of business transformation and efficiency to the workplace.

Many organizations pay the Microsoft licensing costs to just use Outlook and Office without really understanding the wealth of broader capabilities that are included. You might be surprised to learn how much of your organization’s internal operations can be consolidated with tools already at your fingertips. We’re here to help you maximize your investment in existing resources. Contact us at [email protected] for a consultation – it’s a meeting you’ll be happy to schedule!

Written by: Yolanda Hartley