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Learn why using folders in SharePoint may be holding you back and why document management using metadata will set you free.

What’s wrong with using folders in SharePoint?

Folders can work well in SharePoint in a limited number of scenarios, but there are some significant drawbacks to using them.

Firstly, how do you arrange the folders? By date? Project name? Document type? Will everyone who needs to use the folders understand your logic? Will you understand it a year from now? How about the folder names? Folder URLs have a limited length and if you exceed it by using lengthy folder titles and building a too-deep folder structure, you may find yourself locked out of the files stored in the lowest-level folders – a tedious time waster. File URLs will change if you move a file, possibly breaking links in other documents or on web pages.

Once your folder structure is in place, how do you search the folders, or rather, how do you deal with the limited capacity to sort the results? You may have to spend time looking at each document title and a mixture of file formats before you find what you need.

Navigation is time-consuming as you may need to open several levels of folders to get to the documents you’re looking for, which may or may not have been filed correctly. And what about security? Who has access to which folders and how is that managed? Can just anyone create a folder? How do you prevent duplication?

Making a major change to a complex folder structure is difficult, which is why you can often see top-level folders bearing the name of an obsolete or long-since-renamed division. This is confusing for staff and gives the impression that document management is not all that rigorous in your organisation.

But the worst thing about using folders in SharePoint is that you miss out on the powerful benefits of document management using metadata.

What’s great about document management using metadata?

Document management using metadata lets you quickly and easily sort, group and filter documents to find only those that have the precise characteristics you specify. You decide what metadata to capture when you set SharePoint up, based on what kind of data you know you’ll need from your documents in future.

SharePoint captures some metadata by default; for example, the date and time of document creation or amendment, and the name of the author. You can add to these criteria easily, and you don’t need to be a programmer to do it. As you upload each document to SharePoint, you ‘tag’ it with certain characteristics. Let’s say you’re storing customer feedback records in SharePoint. You may set metadata tags for:

  • customer type, e.g. pharmacy, hospital, doctor’s surgery
  • city, e.g. Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne
  • feedback type, e.g. complaint, suggestion, praise
  • date received.

You can then create a ‘view’ in SharePoint to give you all the suggestions received from Sydney pharmacies in the past 12 months – and all in less than a minute. Compare the ease of that with trying to find all those records using a traditional file share!

Security and access are also easier to manage in SharePoint using sites and document libraries, rather than fiddling around with setting permissions for folders. For information on SharePoint security best practice, see this article.

SharePoint document management using metadata frees up the time you’d normally spend on finding data and lets you spend more time using your data for evidence-based decision making. Speak with a QikSolve consultant today to see how you can get the most out of your SharePoint document management system.