Metadata best practice for new department names
November 24, 2008 9:33 AM   Subscribe

metadata metafilter ! How to correctly keep updated metadata in our documents at work after departments change their names?

At my workplace we have an unfortunate habit of re-naming departments (i'm not enough of a higher-up to stop this from happening). So "Department A" is now called "Department B", but hasn't changed its function. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to see what the best "department name" metadata strategy could be for our Word/pdf documents. How do I keep both a correct history (so I don't have to go back an change every single document to reflect the latest department name), AND, at the same time, keep everything searchable (so that, for example, a new employee who only knows "Department B" by that name, when searching for information can also find documents from when they were called "Department A". What's best practice, or any sort of sane solution ?

Dreading the day it changes to "Department C".....

Any metadata experts ? Please Help !!
posted by alchemist to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How do I keep both a correct history

Could you expand on the problems you see with just writing it down somewhere?

keep everything searchable

Synonyms. With luck, your search engine can be taught that "Department A" and "Department B" are synonyms.

Dreading the day it changes to "Department C"

Actually, the day you should be dreading is that day that some other department changes its name to "Department A"...
posted by rjt at 9:53 AM on November 24, 2008

This might be a ton of work, but could you create some kind of internal name authority?

This would be a document of some kind (or a bunch of them) with complete histories of the name changes of various departments, PLUS authoritative, consistent naming conventions for all of them. So your record would be like:

Department C WAS Department B WAS Department A and is always referred to as "Department C." All internal queries for "Department B" and "Department A" turn up a little note that says "See: 'Department C'"

And then the last step would be to convince your company to adopt more record-keeping friendly departmental naming practices, I guess. Seems like it would be in everybody's best interest.
posted by AAAA at 12:00 PM on November 24, 2008

Oh, and all the old documents that you can't change... maybe you could flag them somehow with a "See Also: 'Department C'"?
posted by AAAA at 12:05 PM on November 24, 2008

Downunder we have a thing called a "functional classification" for records which is designed for this exact problem. The idea is to identify the functions of your organisation, break those down into smaller groups of activities and then look at the records associated with each activity. It's a lot of work to set up but if your functions don't change that much it might be more suitable for you. The down side is it's a little harder for staff to get their heads around, people tend to think in terms of "my stuff" and "my department" and this is a little more abstract. If you're the only one doing the filing though, not a problem.

Include any commonly used acronyms as well as those get lost in the mists of time.

The other option is to note the previous name of the department and the date range of the departmental name in a separate field. Eg

- Knowlegde Management Team (KMT) 2003 - 2007
- Information Services (IS) 1999 - 2003
- Library and Records Team (LRT) 1993 -1999
- Library 1976 - 1993

If there is any way to keep old org charts and attached them these are also incredibly handy. It can show how teams merged etc.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 6:54 AM on December 11, 2008

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