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Jennifer Mason > Posts > SharePoint 2010 Managed Metadata: Understanding the tradeoffs - knowing when to use and when to pass.
March 23
SharePoint 2010 Managed Metadata: Understanding the tradeoffs - knowing when to use and when to pass.

I have been working with a managed metadata solution over the past couple of months and I wanted to share some of my experiences. I think highly of managed metadata and feel that it is a good product, when used within its boundaries. I hope that with future releases, that those boundaries however are removed J Just like most things in SharePoint, using managed metadata will give you some functionality, and then remove some other functionality. It is good to be aware of what the cost / benefits are so that you can choose the solution that best fits your needs.


I really believe that many business scenarios are unique, so each one should be evaluated and the best solution should be used for the problem at hand. In our case, at the end of the day using managed metadata won. The bottom line really comes down to you just knowing and understanding all the options and tradeoffs before jumping into any solution. Listed below are my ideas on when you should use managed metadata and then some of the functionality tradeoffs that you will need to be aware of.

You should use it:

When you have many terms to manage & sort

When you need multiple language support

When you need to have synonyms

When you need type ahead suggestions


What it doesn't work with:

Edit in Datasheet

Customization in InfoPath

Custom forms in SPD

Filtered Views

  • Some of the view conditions, such as "begins with" and "contains" cannot be used with filtered columns and managed metadata columns are filtered columns

Workflows in SPD

  • It will let you build a workflow, but the workflow will fail because it is expecting a different format for the value.
  • You cannot compare against the fields or set the fields using an out of the box SPD workflow.

Custom Code against Managed Metadata requires some additional considerations



As I continue to learn more about the managed metadata features and limitations, I will add to this blog post. I am curious to hear your comments as well, so please post your experiences as comments!


SPD Workflows

When you are creating site collection managed metadata you can easily open the list and get the correct values.  However, when you are working with Global managed metadata getting those values isn't possible (or easily possible from my testing).

I think your approach is good and I like that you mention it could only be used in some cases.  I will update my post to say that it is not easy, as opposed to not possible.

Thanks for posting your feedback.
Jennifer MasonNo presence information on 4/25/2011 1:24 AM

SPD Workflows

I tested these fields a bit in a SPD workflow, and it doesn't seem entirely accurate that they fail.  When comparing fields, you need to compare the value with the format:


Setting the values is slightly more flexible.  You can use the GUID format if you have that:


Or, if you have the simpler ID value (it shows up in datasheet view), you can use that instead:


It's not very easy to work with, and may not be practical in a lot of cases, but I can imagine some simple instances where this might work for someone.
Jennifer MasonNo presence information on 4/25/2011 1:24 AM

Thank you!


Thank you, thank you... this is the best simplified breakdown I've read.  I appreciate it!

Jennifer MasonNo presence information on 4/25/2011 1:24 AM

don't forget..

Jennifer, I'd add one item to your list of when to use MMS - when you have a governance plan in place. So many of the issues that arise later stem from technical solutions without adequate process in place. Utilizing managed metadata requires ongoing effort, not just the initial setup, to ensure that the search experience is continually optimized and end users can find their content as needed.
Jennifer MasonNo presence information on 4/25/2011 1:24 AM

Max tag limit for managed metadata in a list column

Jennifer -- ran into an issue with a client in the last few weeks where we "discovered" the upper limit to how many tags can be entered.  I blogged about it here: 

Turns out, you can't enter more than 250 tags (or so) per item per column.  Like you pointed out in your post, this is a specific scenario, but just one thing to keep in mind.
 on 6/6/2011 11:25 AM

More considerations

 on 6/6/2011 11:43 PM

Update managed metadata in SPD workflow -> doesn't work if default value is specified

Hi, I tried to update a managed metadata field in a SPD workflow using the recommended syntax of "xx#TestValue". Although the workflow completed without error, the value had not been set.

After spending some time on testing, I found out that the value is not set if I specify a "default value" for the managed metadata column. I a default value is specified, the field always still has the default value, regardless of what has been set in the workflow.

Removing the default value solved my problem without redeployment of the workflow.
 on 7/19/2011 3:51 PM

Another reason "when to use"

Hi Jennifer, this is a great article!  I'd add to your list of "when to use" - When the requirement is that the users must be able to add items to the list of values.  Your standard SP column gives you the "other" option but anything entered there doesn't write back to the list.  With MM you can set it so that users can add terms to the list so that they will appear for the next user.  I also am a fan of the notification feature.  But that said, MM has been beating me up all month because of some of the "what it doesn't work with" items!  Very major tradeoffs to consider here.
 on 7/26/2011 12:48 PM

MMD list columns

if you add a content type which includes a MMDS column which defaults to a particular value to a library then other content types that don't contain that column automatically seem to pick up the column by virtue of it now being a list column.

Have also noticed that items which include MMD column values can't be edited inline when check-out is enforced.
 on 7/27/2011 10:48 AM

Excellent Point!

The idea of needing to dynamically add items to the choices is an excellent reason to use Managed Metadata!  Thanks for commenting.
Jennifer MasonNo presence information on 8/2/2011 8:27 AM
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