Remember when “tagging” was used to describe the action of someone spray painting graffiti on walls and trains? The term has taken on whole new meaning these days where everyone is “tagging” or perhaps “hash-tagging” is a better descriptor. There are hashtags for whatever you want to use to associate your latest tweet, Facebook post or Instagram message to a particular topic such as #this and #that. The hashtag(s) you include in your next tweet is essentially a form of user applied metadata to the information you just created. It’s a normal part of social media interaction for the generation that has grown up with mobile connectivity and has become commonplace even for those of us old enough to remember when the main context for tagging was #graffiti.
The recent article by Richard Kessler, CGOC faculty member and head of group information governance at UBS, Make Data More Accessible and Valuable to Business (Baseline) discusses the need for a “common paradigm for aligning information.” In it, he brings to light the simple fact that people are already tagging information on social media and that by “Augmenting data as early as possible in its life cycle with standard attributes would create the desired alignment.” Richard highlights the downstream benefits to organizations of tagging information early in its life relative to legal requirements and compliance as well as data quality, and the impact it has on analytics/Big Data.
The reality that a whole new generation of business users already in, or preparing to enter the workforce with a predisposition to “tagging” information they create with metadata is exciting. Organizations have long struggled with the challenge of modifying user behavior to take the time to tag files they create, e.g. presentations, documents, and spreadsheets. If it can be made as simple as adding a hashtag, perhaps the timing is right to see metadata applied early in the lifecycle as Richard suggests. The value to organizations is tremendous as it can have a significant impact on both top line and bottom line performance.
It’s important to note the importance of sound information governance practices in creating a standard set of attributes (tags and values) to be used. With this in mind, now may be the opportune time for organizations to seriously start looking at getting users to start tagging their own data at the point of creation.
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