Metadata is critical to to help the user find the reports he or she are looking for as it adds additional information about what’s in the reports. What’s metadata? Strictly it is “data about data” or additional descriptions, tags, fields that describe the data or report. Here’s a suggestion for small reporting portals:
- Brief description [short 140 char description of report purpose, content]
- Long Description [longer text description of report purpose, content]
- Update date [last data updated]
- Geographic range [geographic hierarchy — continents or countries]
- Frequency of update [how often report is updated]
- Thumbnail [image of report]
- Audience [audience of who can access report or who it is targeted at]
- Notes [update notes on report, data issues or changes]
- Reporting alias [who to contact with questions or to get access]
It’s possible to do this as individual fields or combine into one long field (eg Long description). One key thing is to standardize the vocabulary for each field. For example:
- Frequency of update: Daily, Weekly, Biweekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Annually
- Report format: Spreadsheet, PDF, HTML,PNG
- Geographic Range: North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa
Some examples of metadata, using the reports mentioned in the earlier post:
Online Page View Report
All page views on main website during the calendar month for North American visitors.
All page views on main website during calendar month. Summary and detail with graphs. Refreshed: 4/15/2012. North America, Monthly update (week 3 of month). Online Team access only, spreadsheet + html format, Data is missing for several states (NJ, NY) , included in next refresh.
Sales report including revenues and units by product for the Central Region.
Sales and units for all products during calendar month for the Central Region including pivot tables and graphs by account. 4/1/2012. Central Region. Monthly update (week 1 of month). Sales team access only. spreadsheet format. Data now includes all new accounts added during prior month.
Some key best practices to making the metadata work correctly:
- Be consistent in the vocabulary for each metadatum. Plan out the words you will use (controlled vocabulary). If you do one long description, keep the order of data points consistent (same order) for each report.
- Document all the reports in this way as it will facilitate use. Minimally document the most used reports with metadata.
- Once you have attached metadata, you can easily create summaries, filters, or tags for your data to enhance findability of data and reports.
Next we will look at how to set up a folder structure to make information easy to find and use. (3 of 9 Best Practices)