By: Mason Prewett
SharePoint & Business Intelligence Consultant
As a SharePoint administrator, teams often ask me for advice to help them design their content in a structured way. Here are some common questions I receive:
How can we make it easier for my end users to find content?
How can we make sure that our list and library items have common metadata?
How can we help our teams collaborate with common metadata across sites?
Managed Metadata is a SharePoint service that allows you to create common term sets to be used in your SharePoint site. These terms can be used to standardize the values that populate your list or library columns. This makes it easy to provide a consistent set of column values across all of your list and libraries.
Follow these steps to set up a basic set of terms for column values in multiple libraries.
Access The Term Store
You can access the term store in your site or through Central Administration. For this example, we will be using a site to create our terms, but note that using Central Admin has the same interface. To access the term store in Central Admin, go to Manage Service Applications ->Managed Metadata.
From your site, go to Site Settings ->Term store management under Site Administration.
*Note – Whether you add terms from Central Admin or from a site, the terms are visible to all web applications and site collections in the farm. You may want to coordinate with others before adding terms that everyone can see.
Creating Term Groups, Term Sets, and Terms
I will be creating some terms to be used for completing requests that have been submitted to an organization.
Once you are in the term store, you will see the following:
The default node represents the Managed Metadata service itself, and you can create term groups underneath this. No options are available because rights need to be given to this service first, even if you are a site collection admin. You have to be an admin in order to create a term group, so add yourself to the following box or have someone with rights do this for you.
Once you have admin rights you will see the ability to create a new term group, as shown below.
The term group will represent a group of term sets for a specific purpose. We will create a group for all organization terms and call it Org Term Group for this example. You simply enter the name to create the group and then click outside of this to have it saved. If you click enter, it will automatically prompt for the creation of a new group. Once this is created, click the arrow down for the group and select New Term Set as shown below.
The term set will represent a set of terms for a specific purpose. Since we are creating terms to facilitate requests, we will call our term set Request Terms. Click outside to save. Once the term set is created, you can click the drop down for that and begin creating a term hierarchy. This is done in the same way as groups and terms. I have created a term hierarchy for Departments, Statuses, and Fiscal Years, as shown below.
The term creation is now complete. There are many settings that may be configured at every level of the term store, but this example is just focused on getting the terms created and then using them. This quick setup should give you most of what you need to get up and running. To read a complete overview of what can be done with the term store, see this Technet article.
Using Terms to Standardize A Library
I have created a document library called Annual Reports. I will now create 3 columns for this library: Department, Fiscal Year, and Status. These columns will allow values only from the respective term hierarchies in the above term set.
Create a new column on the list and name it Department. Select Managed Metadata as its type. Scroll down to Term Set Settings and select the Department term hierarchy as shown below.
Repeat these steps for Fiscal Year and Status. Once this is complete, I will upload a new document and then be presented with the Edit Properties screen as shown below.
Notice that each of the Managed Metadata columns has the tag symbol above it. If you click this, you will only be able to select a term from the respective hierarchy that was designated for that column, as shown for Department below.
If you try and enter a value that is not in the term hierarchy, it will not be accepted as shown below.
When saved, I end up with predefined values for all 3 of the columns that were created.
Now, any entry to this library will have consistent values for these columns. Creating views on this library will always have reliable results for these columns.
You may be thinking this is just as easily achieved by using a choice column type. That may be true, but only for this library. What if you have 50 libraries in a site collection that all need a similar setup? If you use Managed Metadata, then editing the term store would update the values for every column connected.
To take the standardization a step further, you could create a content type with these columns already set up on it and then simply add the content type to your library. I highly recommend this approach.
One last benefit of this approach is that it is highly compatible with a customized SharePoint search solution. You can configure your search service to be able to search based on libraries that contain this content type. The search results would be very relevant due to the consistency of your metadata.