Getting Your DAM Ready with Metadata and Taxonomy

Metadata and taxonomy are hot topics in life sciences content management. They play a key role in defining and categorizing data, which is critical to effective digital asset management (DAM). A repository of content, DAM is at the core of your company’s marketing technology stack. And without an intelligent organizational scheme, DAM is essentially valueless.

What is metadata?

Metadata is data about your data. It encompasses the descriptive, structural, and administrative definition of an asset. It focuses on finding the right word for the right thing.

  • Descriptive data elements include a title—the name given to a resource—and key words (rheumatoid arthritis, chronic condition, etc.).
  • Structural refers to any technical information about an asset (file size, type).
  • Administrative is all about preserving an asset, including compliance, rights management, and other data logistics.

While this may sound a little dry and academic, it’s not. Consider the problems you and data users would have without an overarching scheme for organizing the assets your company creates and stores every day.

Developing a metadata strategy

Before you outline your metadata strategy, ask yourself what business problems metadata will help solve, who will be using it—and why—and what kind of information is important to your organization.
Begin by defining your metadata. DAM expert John Horodyski of Optimity Advisors suggests starting with the Dublin Core, a list of 15 fields that can help in building a metadata model. (See John’s presentation at the second annual Veeva “DAM in the Life Sciences” forum for the list.) In the spirit of first things first, he recommends creating your model before implementing a DAM solution. He also suggests hiring a DAM librarian to oversee and enforce your metadata structure and strategy.

What is taxonomy?

Taxonomy classifies information with similar characteristics into groups or classes. Imagine, if you will, going into a grocery store—particularly one where you have never shopped before. While looking for signage that tells you where to find what you’re looking for, you discover that rice and beans are on two widely separated aisles. Similarly, if your taxonomy is not well-thought-out, users will sift through data in frustration and won’t find what they need.

Creating an effective taxonomy

First, come up with categories that make sense. Users can likely be helpful in this effort. Then, consider creating a relatively broad and shallow structure with four or five levels, rather than one level with many subcategories. This is particularly important if you have millennial users. They typically won’t go beyond three or four clicks to find what they want.

Each level should contain content. It would be pretty disconcerting to click on a category and find it unpopulated—the taxonomic equivalent of a house with empty rooms. You should also think about the differences between how you search for information in a work context and how you search for strictly personal use.

6 tips to help you along the way

The work of digital asset management is never done; here are some other things to think about.

  1. Gather system requirements but be flexible; the solution will – and should – evolve
  2. Create a governance program and keep it updated
  3. Add metadata value tags to track it wherever it goes
  4. Listen to users and implement necessary changes
  5. Be aware of geography and language when you build metadata specifications
  6. Be mindful of those who will engage with content when building your DAM system

Metadata and taxonomy must meet the requirements of your people, process, and marketing strategy. They are at the heart of your company’s content and digital asset management. Without them, as Mr. Horodyski points out, “… You just have ‘stuff in a box.’”

View John Horodyski’s presentation “Metadata & Taxonomy: The Foundation for Content and Digital Asset Management” here.