Some instructional material decribes metadata by comparing it to the information on a tin of beans. But there is more to it than just a pile of beans...
Everyone is used to describing information - to creating metadata - usually without much conscious thought. For example, we do this when we type an address for another e-mail message, when we enter the date on an electronic form, when we type the title for a document or message. Most people are not particularly thoughtful or accurate when they do this; yet generally we get away with it. Metadata can work - even when it is imprecise and incomplete - in a small setting.
But everything changes when the collection of information grows, when the number of users grows, when the retention periods increase, and when the information has regulatory or legal importance. That is when an altogether more careful, more complete, and more precise becomes essential.
Our metadata and taxonomies practice can advise on how to develop a practical metadata model, one that is founded on appropriate standards (several of which our consultants helped to write), and on the development of taxonomies. If you wish, we can also provide the service to flesh these out, up to the level of usable, documented tools, complete with maintenance procedures. This is the sort of thing we have already done successfully for clients in many industries.