Data Management

CAD Manager's Newsletter #109 (June 24, 2004)

23 Jun, 2004

The last two issues of the CAD Manager's Newsletter (part 1, part 2) began our discussion of how to control your CAD files by preparing you for general cleanup operations. I hope you've had a chance to read the previous issues and get your management on board with your plans.

In this issue I'll pass along my recommendations for actually completing cleanup operations. I've found that simply by setting a tone of organization and structure, you'll be able to enforce existing standards more easily and transition your way into a more efficient and cost-effective CAD operation. And isn't that what CAD management should be about?

As you may recall, I recommended that you have a fast writeable CD drive or DVD burner at your personal disposal. This will allow you to make complete backups of your network drives before conducting any housecleaning.

You should back up all files on network drives the evening before you undertake any major CAD file cleanup or reorganization. I realize this means some overtime, but it's the only way to be sure you capture everything without anyone manipulating files during the backup. If you'd prefer to undertake your backup activities on the weekend, that works as well.

My main point is that you should create your own backups and verify them before proceeding. Don't assume that general network backup routines are valid or that they even ran. Before you clean up your CAD files, be sure your backups are solid.

So now we arrive at the point where your users have been told to organize their own files and you've created solid backups. The time for the actual cleanup operation has arrived, and everyone knows it. Do you now give your users more time to clean up their files? Do you send out a reminder e-mail hoping that everyone who hasn't complied will? Do you back off and let the situation fester?

The answers to these questions are: No, No, and No.

Your job now is to delete junk, put files where they belong, archive old file sets, and take any questionable files offline. In short, you told people that you'd clean things up, and now you are making good on your word. Your management now sees that you're a man/woman of action and that you're doing exactly what you said you'd do.

Shortly after you undertake your actual cleanup, you'll no doubt be met with objections like, "Where did my files go?" or "Why don't any of my xrefs resolve?" or even "Where did the Project XYZ files that used to be in the X:\BOZO directory go?" How should you handle these sorts of complaints?

If you've followed my suggestions in the last two issues, which explained how to lay the groundwork for cleanup and standard file management, you'll find your response is easy. Allow me to illustrate how to deal with objections via some sample dialog:

Objection: Where did my files go?

Your answer: They were deleted/moved in accordance with our standard filing procedures. You were notified of this two weeks ago and told to correct any misfiling of project data. If you can tell me what files you're talking about and where they used to exist, I'll be happy to tell you how they are stored now.

Objection: Why don't any of my xrefs resolve?

Your answer: Chances are they were stored in a nonstandard directory structure from the get-go and now we're finding that out. We can repath the xrefs simply enough using some utility tools. I'm glad we found this now before we got even further into the job when deadlines may have been compromised."

Objection: Where did the Project XYZ files that used to be in the X:\BOZO directory go?

You're answer: This is precisely the sort of nonstandard filing practice that costs us money. I can restore these files, but I have to ask why you had them stored in this manner when our filing standards clearly dictate otherwise?

Note that in each objection scenario a few things happened that allowed you to reply politely, but firmly, to people who either violated standards or simply didn't clean up after themselves. In all cases, the following occurred:

* A user had to come to the CAD manager and admit guilt.

* The user had to make some sort of excuse about why he or she wasn't following procedures.

* You were able to counter all objections by emphasizing management support for a standard filing system that the user violated.

* You were able to demonstrate to those people who do follow the standards that you will deal with violators in a firm and noncompromising manner, thus building morale.

* Thanks to your high-quality backups, nothing was ever lost but the point was made!

You may still have some people who don't want to adhere to standards, but you've made a clear statement that you take standards seriously and won't put up with people operating outside the system. Finally, make sure management knows the results of your cleanup operations and who the violators are.

If users are squirreling away files on their personal hard drives, thus not backing them up and making them vulnerable to data loss, you may have to take drastic steps to make them comply. The best action plan I've found is as follows:

* Inform all users that your IT department has an administrative share that allows it to scan their computers for files. This is almost always true anyway. If it isn't true at your company, you can easily make it so. Users should understand that their computers are fully exposed to the network.

* Inform all users that a periodic routine will be run that scans for DWG, IDW, SLD, or whatever file formats you care about. Tell the users that any such files located on their machines will be moved to a holding directory on the network where they can be backed up.

Though these steps may seem Draconian, they're the only way that you can make users aware that you do know what they're doing and that you will take corrective action if need be. I've found that once users understand that they're being monitored, they comply, even if grudgingly.

I'm sure that I'll receive some irate responses for my hard line on personal hard drive use, but before you slam me, please consider the following:

* The computers that users work on are company property, not personal property. Users shouldn't assume that their computer is sacrosanct. In fact, most companies monitor e-mail, Internet usage, and a host of other parameters to some extent.

* CAD files are company property, and company property must be protected. Allowing users to store complex CAD files that are worth thousands of dollars on a non-backed up hard drive is no different than leaving the doors unlocked at night.

* When employees accept a job, they agree to follow company policy. Why should filing of expensive files be any different?

Trust me when I say that if you ever lose a bunch of CAD files because somebody deleted them from a personal hard drive, you'll wish you'd taken my advice.

I hope these recommendations get you well on your way to cleaning up your file management mess and establishing yourself as a leader in enforcing standards and protecting company assets. If you tackle these tasks head on and continue to receive management support, you'll be surprised at how quickly you can turn a disorganized department into one that actually wants to follow standards.

In the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll finish our discussion by outlining how to prepare for file management software packages. I'll also take some time to address how to approach the transition from cleanup to active file management to capitalize on the momentum of your cleanup phase. Until then.