Sunday, May 22, 2016

ECM Naming Convention Checklist


In general, the naming convention should entail enough descriptive qualities to make it obvious to which group the content belongs. Being able to quickly identify content context is important. The basic building blocks should follow how the organization’s security model is structured. For example, if the company uses Active Directory and assuming it is representative of the security structure, the names usually follow a convention:
(Area)(Department)(Category/Function)((Sub Function))
Not all of the above keys have to have a value. This is a guideline which helps focus the naming of the objects and structures that follow. Keep in mind that exceptions are always part of a naming convention.


Naming conventions give content a location and relevance tag. It tells the User what it is and where it belongs. By consistently following a convention, the system will be able to scale and still be coherent.


Each department has its quirks as to how they work. It is important to hone in on how they describe their content with the enterprise in mind. Try not to spend an inordinate amount of time splitting hairs over details. For multipurpose departments, move the structure out to a general level which encompasses all of their responsibilities, then work on describing each path, but keep it simple. Think about how the names will understood by Users who are not privy to your knowledge abbreviations.


Every organization uses common and idiosyncratic abbreviations depending on its industry. The challenge is to be concise, yet clear. Some abbreviations can be too short and cause confusion. For all naming conventions it is critical to be as concise as possible.


Focus on the core convention and structure and note the exceptions. The exceptions should be handled by metadata or other means.


The main assumption is that the naming convention will be followed and enforced. Each department should be given some control over how they want to describe their content, however, there will be some common structures that will be imposed.

Common Structures

Before creating your own convention, check with other sources of content to make sure there is no convention in place. If there is, compare yours with theirs to see if adopting theirs makes sense. Maybe the first two levels should be incorporated, with the third being what you focus on. The values should be abbreviations if possible and obvious in meaning.


(Area)-(Department)-(Control Number)-(Doc Type Identifier)


This can be thought of as a way to get to your content. It could be a folder structure, or a cascading categories. Be careful to not go too deep; at some point metadata will take over in describing the nuances of content.


                (Specific Level 1)/(Special Level 2)…/
                                (Doc type)
A “Specific Level” could be a functional or category/doc type pair.


Document Types

The naming of doc types should be clear and concise. It should be obvious what department and function they belong to.


(Department)-(Functional/Category Name)-(Doc type name)

File Names

File names become important during normal file exporting and migrations. When content is used outside of the system there should be identifiers that help place the content in context. There could also be a reference back to the system’s numbering system.


(Department)-(Doc type name)-(Content Relevant Identifier (for example Title or Patient MRN))(System Number).(Format)

Title and Headings within Document

The title should be concise, especially if it will be in the filename. It should also reflect any metadata values associated with the document.

Document Information Block within Document

A block of information as a header or footer to a document is a feature of paper-based control documents. In the block you’d have the Title, Doc Number, Doc Date, Doc Affective Date, and so on. This is metadata for the printed page. If there is the need to print a footer with this information still makes sense, but the content within the document should not have this, it should be implemented only during printing or saving to a file outside of the system. The properties of the exported files could also be used to metadata population.



System metadata already follow a naming convention and usually are proceeded with “SYS” to denote them. The corresponding database tables follow functional naming conventions which are sometime cryptic, but logical.

Dublin Core

The Dublin Core is a common set of metadata of all ECM systems. These include author, doc date, description, name, etc. Don’t duplicate these unless there are naming rules that are different.

Department specific

Keeping track of which metadata is used for which purpose or application can be challenging as the system grows. Naming metadata specific to its purpose and project is advised.


(department)(project name)(metadata name)

References or Relations

If a cross reference is needed, make sure the object naming is consistent with the purpose of the link.


Business processes or workflows naming need to follow the same naming conventions as all the other preceding objects. It should incorporate the common elements as well as the specific ones.


When the ultimate goal of the ECM workflow is to publish to a portal, the naming conventions should follow the same conventions as the portal. Having to map or lookup values may not scale when added to a portal’s level of use.


As mentioned above, the security hierarchy and its naming convention are a first indication of how well organized the company’s structure is. The naming of the groups should be considered when thinking about the naming of projects, folders, and doc types.


Many systems have to comply with regulations like 21CFR part 11. This type of scrutiny applies to the information architecture and system’s content.


Outside regulation bodies could impose certain naming conventions which need to be followed.


Auditors need to be able to ask for information in general with an understanding that you will know what they need. It’s vital to only search for what they focusing on, and this requires a good naming convention and robust metadata.


Introducing a foreign language to the system multiplies the complexity of the solution. Not only are the metadata values multiplied, the naming conventions are multiplied as well. Most ECM systems can accommodate this, however, folder names and metadata might have to the duplicated with the foreign values.


Search is only as good as the metadata value quality and full text indexing comprehensiveness.

Change Management

As organizations change, areas and departments get moved around and new names are designated.

Regression Mapping

Keeping track of structural changes can be challenging. Depending on the scale of the change, creating a map to previous taxonomies or department names can be helpful.

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