Metadata: How businesses can use it to its fullest

Earlier this year, the announcement that Siri’s creators had successfully placed an order for pizza with voice commands made a splash in the technology community.

The success of the pizza order is one realisation of the Semantic Web envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee, a vision that sees computers intelligently communicating with each other to automate complicated tasks. And if the voice-commanded pizza order is any indication, the future is bright for increased productivity through digital assistants.

Much of the promise of the Semantic Web is built on a platform of metadata, which is used to identify data in a machine-readable fashion. For example, metadata can be used to differentiate between types of doctors so that someone asking their digital assistant for a nearby doctor isn’t directed to a doctor of veterinary medicine. 

In fact, metadata can be useful wherever machine intelligence is required, including in an organisation’s business-critical content. Take, for instance, online policy documents that are peppered with important terms defined in a glossary: it might be useful for key terms to be automatically linked to the definition of those terms, or a window with the definition to appear when your audience hovers over the term. As another example, financial reports may need public companies automatically linked to stock data.

What’s the catch?

Yet, in the above examples, glossary terms and public companies still need to be marked as such for the system to identify where linking or hover behaviour needs to be added. The problem is that, for a business, leaving the marking responsibility to its Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) is an undue burden.

Firstly, manual marking of metadata is an inefficiency that wastes their time. Secondly, the potential exists for metadata-appropriate content to be overlooked, which means that a company’s audience may not receive the full benefit of its metadata-enriched processes.

How can businesses make the most of metadata?

Automated marking of metadata is one way to help organisations enrich content processes. Rich metadata can be added at a very granular level, even down to an individual word level and with multiple values to ensure the content is truly smart.

For example, a business can tag a specific run of content for a specific audience type. Documents can then be scanned for glossary terms, public companies, or other such important words or phrases and have the necessary metadata inserted at key points automatically using content automation software.

Organisations can place the power of the automated metadata marking into their SMEs’ hands so that they can see where the metadata is being added and supplement or remove the marking as needed. Alternatively, the metadata can be added to content during the publishing process without any human intervention. Either way, a business’s published content will be all the more rich for the intelligence added through metadata.

The challenges which come with the use of metadata applies to every organisation, however content automation can act as an ideal solution. Not only does staff productivity go up, with experts able to focus elsewhere, but it can also take the ability to make mistakes within data linking out of human hands, subsequently improving the quality of metadata for business and customer use.

Content automation paired with metadata truly has the power to transform a business, the question is: will your business take note?

Autumn Cueller, Technical Services Consultant at Quark Enterprise Solutions

Image source: Shutterstock/Imilian