Alfresco Data Capture and Sorting for Business
Head honchos in the business world consider metadata pointless. With their mind on the big picture rather than backend data management, they don’t understand what metadata is used for.
Tech folks, on the other hand, know how important metadata is. The developers on the cutting edge of business software use metadata because it’s second-nature in the industry. They know metadata is the key to making computerized systems run smoothly.
When a company’s data management system runs obstruction free, it makes sense that the business will run smoothly as well.
Any decent Document Management System (CMS) will allow for the recording of metadata, but the input and use of metadata is what sets apart an average CMS from a great one.
Let’s see how putting metadata to work can save your company time and money.
What are Metadata?
Metadata is a plural word that includes all the little bits of information or “tags” that put big data into context. Anything that communicates information about a data set can be called metadata.
Let’s look at a picture of a car.
Though we all see a car, we can use metadata to convey more information than the photo provides. The make, model, year, color, engine, tire size, and other classifiers are all metadata.
Metadata can also provide related information beyond what the original data represents: the name of the photographer, the location of the photo shoot, the lighting setup, a list of staff on the set, etc.
If a staff person was tasked with producing a new photo similar to the one here, the metadata would provide the crucial elements to getting the job done correctly.
Common Metadata Elements
Although metadata can be practically any kind of information, there are a few common elements.
- Basic keywords or “description tags” that summarize content
- Title tags that help search engines rank information
- Canonical tags that consolidate distinguish between pages
- Structured data that denotes aspects and promotes content in search results—similar to how Google search engine finds information
Metadata plays a critical role in Search Engine Optimzation (SEO) by placing data into context.
Whether your search engine is on a web browser or within your Document Management System, metadata helps to classify your information using micro-communications.
Using Metadata Within in a CMS
A Content Management System (CMS) uses metadata as a “hook” to execute actions that help the company to do business.
As in the car photo example, metadata provides a powerful business resource that saves time and man hours. Beyond quick information access, organizing large-volume data sets supports effective customer service and marketing outreach as well.
The capture of metadata or “tagging” while storing documents electronically creates intelligent database mining. It makes document search results consistent and useful, saving time.
All this contributes to the company’s bottom line.
Today’s business software supports metadata, but a lot depends on input. Providing the CMS with meaningful descriptions is up to the company.
How to Ensure Good Metadata Input
A high-quality CMS must have a powerful way to capture metadata. There are two ways to input business-crucial information: manually or via automation. A CMS worth its salt must be able to handle both.
Let’s look at a popular Content Management System called Alfresco as an example of a platform that is tackling both of these input strategies.
Manual Metadata Input
For companies with low-volume data, metadata capture can be handled manually. The Alfresco addon that handles this is called Alfresco Sky Upload Plus. It prompts employees to manually edit metadata tags the moment a document enters into the company’s system. It also indexes the metadata as soon as the document gets uploaded so that searchability within the system remains high.
Automated Metadata Input
For companies with high volumes of data and varied sources, automated metadata capture is at the forefront of CMS technology.
The Alfresco addon that handles this process using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology is called Alfresco Data Capture Lite.
Alfresco Data Capture Lite enables the computer to electronically “read” documents. It uses this text to populate the metadata tag index. This way, companies can input every type of incoming document with the ease of a simple image scan.
What Happens after the Metadata are Recorded?
Whether manually or automatically, once the data is captured, the document is now ready for secondary action—automated data sorting.
Your company tells Alfresco how you want data sorted and Alfresco follows your instructions. The Alfresco addon that automates this work is called SkyArea Sort.
This sorting module has dynamically programmable parameters that will dictate how actions such as these are carried out:
- Classifying data by document type
- File naming
- Grouping alike files
- Deploying a file structure to organize the files
- Assigning tasks to employees
The vital bits of metadata that have been collected along the way acts as a guide for the Alfresco system to deal with the documents according to a company’s filing policies.
Automation in Action
Let’s imagine how Human Resources processes can be streamlined with this technology.
When HR posts an online job application form, incoming documents are dropped directly into the system. Alfresco Data Capture Lite will scan the form and extract the application properties, including a timestamp of arrival. Alfresco SkyArea Sort is triggered and automatically creates an Applicants folder within the department that is hiring. An email notification alerts the department manager that the folder will be done populating on the date of the application’s deadline. This folder contains all the candidates’ applications and is organized by last name. When the candidate is chosen, SkyArea Sort will check if this name exists in the employee records. If not, the system will create and deploy an HR folder for the new hire.
What about how this technology can work in the manufacturing industry?
Let’s say that a purchase order arrives at a small factory. The intake officer prints out the PO and an accompanying QR code. The officer fills out the order information and affixes the QR code to the PO, which gets scanned into the Alfresco system. Alfresco Sky Upload Plus determines the type of document based on the QR code and prompts the officer to manually type a few identifying pieces of information such as PO number, customer name, customer ID, date, and units requested. The system uses this information to record the business details of the QR code embedded in the image. Next, SkyArea Sort is triggered by recognizing this document as a PO and the document is automatically sent to the warehouse to fulfill the order.
Every step of the process has been recorded and can be reviewed, and it’s all possible thanks to metadata.
The Future of Business Data Sorting is Here
Automated capabilities like these that can massively impact a company’s bottom line—this is the power of modern-day enterprise content management. We have the ease of speedy data sorting and storage while simultaneously extracting pertinent information. The slow pace and mistakes of human data capture are a thing of the past.
Automated metadata capture and computerized data sorting are key elements to an effective data intake strategy of any twenty-first century business.
Although not every successful CEO can explain the importance of metadata, the global business technology community is delivering the automation that today’s business world needs.
For more information on the data sorting capabilities of an EMS, contact your local Alfresco developer here.