Using metadata to classify policies and procedures in SharePoint

By Mark Jones posted 01-03-2013 14:21


As part of an on-going series of posts illustrating how SharePoint can help manage the life-cycle of a policy, this post explains how SharePoint can meet the requirement below: 

"It should be possible to tag and classify a policy to make it more discoverable". To view all of the features for a policy management system, please look (and contribute) at "Policy Management Software - Features" on Or, find out how DocRead for SharePoint can distribute and track your policies and procedures that are stored in SharePoint document libraries.

Along with search, managed metadata is a service in SharePoint that operates at the organization level to allow for comprehensive classification and tagging of enterprise content. As metadata is managed at the organization level, far greater governance and control can be utilized. When used with Search managed metadata is extremely powerful as it’s entirely possible to return documents and web pages that are tagged with a metadata term regardless of location and type. For example, a user could use Search to return all documents containing the words ‘Adequate Procedures’ that have been tagged as ‘Bribery Act’. This could then return contracts, policies, corporate letters, emails, newsletters, web pages or even pictures.

To find out more about how SharePoint Search and Managed Metadata can be used to help make policies easier to locate, it is highly recommended that you read ‘The Methodist Hospital Case Study’ which is located at the link show below. The hospital managed to lower the time taken to locate a policy to 30 seconds from 15 minutes.

Configuration of Managed Metadata

The Managed Metadata Service in SharePoint allows a set of global terms to be configured in a hierarchy to be used throughout the farm. This has many advantages and uses beyond policies, but as we are specifically dealing with policies let see what it would look like.

The first step in the process is to analyze your policies and decide how you want to categorize or tag them. In most scenarios they will be categorized by department; however it’s possible and recommended to add multiple classifications to your policies.  The more a document is classified, the more meaning it takes on, resulting in it being much easier to find.

Once the category structure (TermSet) is agreed it can be imported (as a comma separated file) directly into the global metadata service as Term set. Once this is done, it is then available to be used as a way to categorize the policies, making them easier locate using search and library metadata navigation.

Obviously, to make a policy searchable by metadata it must be tagged and this is achieved by created a ‘metadata’ column in the library. The picture below illustrates how an ‘Email and Internet Usage Policy’ can be tagged as an IT department.


In addition to this, the ‘Enterprise Keywords’ column also allows the policy to be tagged with more keywords generated ‘on the fly’. These can also be used to aid navigation and search.

As the policies are tagged with keywords and metadata, it’s now possible to conveniently browse them as show below.

Causing only those documents that have been tagged with that category to be show:

#Policies #SharePoint #Procedures #and