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I recently started work with a consulting company and was tasked with "optimizing" their on-premise SharePoint 2013.

The problem is that SharePoint was their replacement for a massive fileshare with non-uniform folder structures that sometimes go up to 10 levels deep and each contain different files with sometimes completely non-descript names.

Their current solution is to have a subsite for each project with multiple document libraries that contain nested folders to mirror the old fileshare structure.

Files that are placed in this structure have 6 managed metadata tags, 3 of which are mandatory, that have up to 50 options which are completely seperate from the folder structure and may repeat itself (same tags for different fields).

People access the libraries through the explorer like the original fileshare and sometimes refuse to use SharePoint for saving files because each time they have to assign multiple tags to the files but without the tags people would not even find what they are searching for (except when people assign random tags just because they have to)

I plan to upgrade to SharePoint 2019 sometime in the next 18 months.

How should I go about breaking up this abomination of a file structure while providing usability, manageability and a positive user experience?

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How should I go about breaking up this abomination of a file structure while providing usability, manageability and a positive user experience?

The best solution may just be a matter of training and motivation. If you can truly make the case that metadata is far better, then find a way to sell it to the users.

A few ideas:

  • Sell, sell, sell! Keep reminding everyone about the power of search, how much time can be saved, the value to the auditing and R&D processes, and something as simple as the column heading quick sort of the metadata columns.
  • Create a workflow or Flow that moves files on upload from the old folder structure to the correct locations and sets the metadata based on the upload folder's name/location. If more data is needed, then have the automation send a reminder email. Or, always send the email with something like: "We have moved your file to what we believe is the correct location. Your file will be easier for others to find if you add the following missing metadata: Category, Region and Part Number. Click here to update."
  • Configure their Word and Excel (or train them on how to display it themselves) to always show metadata (Document Information Panel) at the top of each document. (https://sharepointenterprisecontentmanagement.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/set-the-ms-office-document-information-panel-to-always-open/)
  • Create a weekly automation (PowerShell is one way) to generate praise emails: "97% of your files have metadata and can be easily found by your team mates!"
  • Or the other side: "The following 23 files have been moved to 'uncategorized' due to missing metadata. These files will be deleted in thirty days. Click the links to update the metadata". (I hope you don't have to do this, but sometimes it's needed.)
  • Get HR to consider "messy files" the same as "messy desks" and "organization inefficiencies" during employee reviews. (Again, a bit nasty, but how would people respond during the 'days of paper' with employees who just cram files in the the first available filing cabinet drawer?)

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