Running an online business is incredibly complex.
The technology required to create a website where people can virtually browse, shop, reserve, order, download, or purchase items is overwhelming. If anything, we should be amazed when it works properly rather than annoyed when it doesn’t. The fact that it is so commonplace and reliable is a testament to the tenacity and creativity of the developers who made it possible.
Even the presumably easiest tasks are fraught with difficulty and challenges. For instance, in order to maintain some semblance of order, one of the first things an online business must do is assign users to predefined groups or roles that determine what resources they can see or access. On the surface, this seems to be a fairly simple and straightforward process.
Many systems, however—such as on-premises Windows environments—require that these assignments be done manually. For a relatively small company with dozens or maybe even hundreds of users, while this may be an inconvenience, it is still manageable. But for a typical e-commerce system, which typically supports thousands of users, the prospect of having to individually assign each and every user to their assigned group—an unimaginably time-consuming and labor-intensive process—is unthinkable.
There is a better solution to this problem. OnFulfillment, for example, imports a user’s metadata (when it’s available) and uses this information to dynamically categorize and then assign users to specific groups and/or market segments. When combined with a Role Based Access Control (RBAC) system, this allows OnFulfillment to customize your business’ catalog and streamline your users’ online experience.
What is Metadata?
“Metadata” is a massive collection of facts, figures and statistics that, together, provide information about other data—in other words, it's data about data.
Among other things, metadata describes and provides important context about the content, structure, and attributes of various types of gathered information, making it a lot easier to organize, discover, manage and recall. As one would assume, metadata plays a crucial role in various fields—everything from computer science and information management to digital content and e-commerce.
By providing important context and structure, metadata dramatically enhances the usability and accessibility of all types of information, making it easier to search, sort, filter and retrieve data efficiently. It’s also worth noting that, if not handled with considerable care, metadata can also present certain privacy and security risks, especially if sensitive personal or financial information is inadvertently included or exposed.
How OnFulfillment Uses Metadata
When it comes to organizing and assigning people to unique groups, the value of metadata is incalculable. It contains a wide variety of detailed information that is useful for profiling purposes—for instance, is the user a member of a specific department? Does that department have a budget? Is that department the beneficiary of any special pricing or discounts? Is the department assigned a quarterly maximum spend amount? Has the user or their department been granted the right to pull reports or access other protected or confidential information? Do department members residing in different geographical locations need to be directed to different catalogs for their regions? The number of data points is truly staggering, and the complexity of sorting out and categorizing this information can easily get out of hand.
To reduce this complexity, OnFulfillment uses rules to establish attribute- or policy-based access control. Metadata is then used to create more expressive rules to define groups and sub-groups.
Here’s an example of how that approach works. If “Department” is equal to “IT,” then a rule is created that includes “free shipping” with the “IT team” category. If, on the other hand, “Department” is equal to "Marketing Admin," then a rule is created that allows members of that group to browse all catalogs and manage all products within the system.
Using this method, it is possible to collectively assign certain attributes or rights to all members of large groups by simply creating a rule. But what if those rules are too generic? What if sub-groups within those larger departments deserve greater levels of access, or have higher spending authorizations? Or what if you want multiple groups to share common attributes?
In those cases—which are the rule rather than the exception—metadata allows us to get even more granular. For instance, if say you'd like to give all internal employees access to all product categories and specific pricing rules. In that case, we can simply write rules like "if e-mail ends with @yourdomain.com" to create global employee groups that include members of all internal departments. External partners or customers who are not affiliated with your organization but would still like to purchase merchandise and pay list price can be assigned to a separate group defined by the rule "if e-mail does not end with @yourdomain.com."
With metadata, the number of potential rules you can create to maintain organization and control is virtually endless. The key is knowing how to employ the available metadata to your advantage and parse the information in a way that allows you to explicitly define unique groups and assign characteristics to those groups using declarative rules.
Let OnFulfillment Explain
As a predominantly online business, OnFulfillment has been using metadata for years to provide the necessary context for their rules-based environment. We’d be happy to share our expertise with you.
If you’d like to learn more about how OnFulfillment can help your business learn how to use metadata to improve performance and drive revenue, please contact us to schedule a meeting with one of our onboarding representatives. After more than 20 years in this space, we've been presented with a number of very difficult and complex challenges—unique requests that have resulted in some very innovative and robust solutions that have solved our customers’ needs. We haven’t been stumped yet, and we’re confident we can solve your most complicated problems as well.
And rest assured: OnFulfillment will never sell your data. We have all the proper controls in place to securely store and transmit your metadata. After all, we don’t own your data. You do.