When documents are created, edited and used within an enterprise the structure and organization of information within them can significantly affect the security, as well as the efficiency, of daily operations.
Employees are constantly searching for information, viewing and editing documents. Without enforcement of metadata structures for security and for workflows, employees may spend a great deal of time manipulating documents to complete their specific jobs.
The key to streamlining operations and increasing the security of document processing is to have an intelligent metadata convention across the enterprise that can be leveraged when needed within employee workflows. This article discusses the impacts of metadata availability across the enterprise on security and efficiency of daily operations.
The Value of Metadata Versus Unstructured Information Across the Enterprise
The use of metadata associated with documents can be a very powerful tool inside an enterprise. Whether it is for security classification or workflow processing, metadata provides structured information about a document that can make it easy to find and act on the relevant documents.
Processing Documents Without Security Metadata
As an example, for security purposes, a content creator may label a document as CONFIDENTIAL. A standard convention might be to put CONFIDENTIAL on the cover page of the document, as well as in its headers and footers. But often, the file name may not reflect the classification of the document, meaning that an employee would have to open the document to determine its classification for handling purposes. Once the document is closed, there is virtually no structured information that other office automation tools or employees can use to intelligently filter, categorize or sort documents in terms of their security classifications.
Processing Documents Without Workflow Metadata
From a workflow point of view, imagine that an employee’s workflow is heavily involved with processing information about employee travel expenses. Most of the documents that this employee handles would probably have travel related information within them. The documents may include authorization forms, trip reports, expense spreadsheets, or scanned copies of receipts.
Each type of document contains important data that the employee might need to access to perform their workflow. However, it can be time-consuming to sort through each document to determine it’s relevance and relationship to the employee’s workflow. So, even if the documents are stored in enterprise repositories (e.g. Microsoft SharePoint) the employee might have to open the document multiple times in order to identify, sort, file and extract information from it – because the key information related to their workflow is embedded inside the document.
How Metadata Can Enable Enterprise-Wide Security and Efficiency
On the other hand, when each document contains appropriately defined metadata (whether it is for security purposes or workflow purposes), automated tools across the enterprise can use that information to filter or display the authorized or relevant documents. This helps to streamline the workflow for both automated and manual processing activities.
As a result, with proper use of document metadata, employees can quickly identify the documents they need to work with. Manipulation of metadata through the document’s lifecycle can also allow for more efficient workflows that rely on document states, as well as automation of document processing based on those states.
Finally, organizations can enhance document security through enterprise-wide metadata that propagates security classifications, and can be used to apply access control rules across applications, messaging systems and document repositories. This consistency is difficult to achieve when important classification or categorization data is “locked in” to the documents’ internal content and, therefore, invisible to applications that may be trying to act on it.
Titus Solutions – A Case Study
Titus has developed a family of classification solutions which allow classification metadata to flow transparently across the enterprise. The following are examples of how metadata can be leveraged.
Leveraging Document Classification Metadata in Outlook Message Attachments
When a document is created in Microsoft Word an employee can use TITUS Classification for Office to easily classify the document into categories such as “Confidential”, “Internal Only”, or “Public”. When this classification is applied, the document’s header, footer and even a watermark can be automatically modified to reflect the selection. In addition metadata is applied to the document which can travel with the document and be used in other applications. This metadata can be stored in Office document properties and the underlying XML structure of the document.
If an employee then composes a Microsoft Outlook email message, and attaches the previously classified document to their message, the TITUS Message Classification product will recognize the classification metadata in the document. The user can then be notified if the classification of the document is not compatible with the classification they have applied to the email message. They can then choose to allow TITUS Message Classification to upgrade the message’s classification, return to editing the message, or send the message anyway (with log entry being created to provide accountability for decisions regarding classification conflicts).
Visibility on the Desktop
Once an employee applies a classification to a document, it can be very helpful to be able to check the document’s classification level without having to open it for editing. With TITUS Classification for Desktop, the classification level of any Microsoft Office document can easily be checked from Windows Explorer. By simply right clicking on the file in Windows Explorer, the menu will display the current classification of the document.
In addition, an employee might need to change the classification of a Microsoft Office document. Again, this can be easily done by right clicking on the file and selecting a new classification.
Importing Document Classification Metadata Into Sharepoint
When an enterprise uses a document repository such as Microsoft Sharepoint, it is important that document metadata, such as it’s classification, be automatically displayed to users of the document library. With TITUS solutions, any document classification metadata that exists on a document will be recognized and displayed to SharePoint users. The document classification is then visible within SharePoint, and can be changed within SharePoint without having to open the document. When documents are later exported or edited, that classification metadata remains within the document.
Enterprise Flow of Classification Metadata Creates More Secure and Efficient Workflows
Clearly, when document classification metadata is handled consistently by all applications across the enterprise, not only is security strengthened, but users spend less time having to re-classify information. The metadata should flow seamlessly from documents to repositories to email messages, without interrupting the user’s workflow.
To view a video demonstration of how TITUS products enable the flow of metadata between applications across the enterprise click HERE
Is your organization making maximum use of its document classification metadata?
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