One way to create a structure for documents is to create a folder structure in SharePoint’s document libraries. Some of the disadvantages of this approach are:
- Every time you create a new SharePoint site or a new document library within a SharePoint site, you first need to spend time creating the folder structure.
- To get a consistent navigation structure across your organisation, all the folder structures in the different sites/libraries need to be updated once you decide to do changes in your structure.
- A folder in a document library is one-dimensional (a document can just belong to one folder) and therefore you need to decide on one structure that all feel comfortable with. In reality users want to find documents in different ways, depending on what they are searching for at the moment. As an example, in one situation, when searching for a document, a process structure is suitable but in the next situation a document type structure would make more sense or maybe a structure of technologies. With a one-dimensional structure, there’s also a big risk that copies of documents will be placed in different folders.
- There are constraints in how deep folder structures you can have. A document’s full URL can be maximum 400 characters long and the URL consists of the Sites path + the document libraries name + the folder structure + the file name. So when working with deep folder structures it is very often that documents cannot be saved nor opened, as the maximum URL has been exceeded.
- As a document’s folder location is part of a document’s URL, the document’s URL will change if a document is moved between 2 folders.
Here you can download a white paper that further describes the advantages of using multidimensional structures as opposed to folder structures.
MetaShare instead uses taxonomy fields (managed metadata) to define metadata such as Document type, Process, Region and Keyword. The reason for this is that taxonomy fields can be reused across all SharePoint sites enabling a company to get a consistent information structure and nomenclature.
Another big benefit of using taxonomy fields is that they can very easily be managed by administrators, e.g. creating new terms, renaming old terms, moving terms into a hierarchical structure, merging terms, etc. None of these actions require batch updates of the effected documents’ properties, as the taxonomy changes are automatically reflected in the documents.
In SharePoint, the taxonomy values are stored in SharePoint’s Term Store and managed in the “Term Store Management Tool“.
If needed, documents in MetaShare can still be saved in folders. The folder structure will then be shown as yet another document filter, in the left navigation area, called “Folder”. You will then be able to combine the Folder filter together with other metadata filters, to narrow down the documents shown in the document view. A typical reason to use document folders would be to add permissions to folders. Any document that is located in a folder with unique permissions will then inherit the permissions set on the folder.