Data Management

CAD Manager's Newsletter #110 (July 8, 2004)

7 Jul, 2004

If you've been reading this series of the CAD Manager's Newsletter (links below), you know that I advocate strong CAD file management supported with your upper management's blessing. In the last installment I even went so far as to recommend backing up network and personal drives while deleting junk files in an effort to make users conform to standards. My logic in making these recommendations is based on a few business justifications that I'll recap here:

* CAD files are company property and should thus be guarded and protected through vigorous backup and storage standards.

* Everyone in the organization benefits when files are maintained in standard, known locations. Efficiency is optimized as standards are followed.

* Employees are using company property when they use a computer at work and thus they should follow usage policies even if this means backing up files from their personal hard drives.

* Those who refuse to follow company policies on file management should be dealt with sternly.

I had planned on finishing discussion of CAD file management in this issue, but I got some solid reader feedback that compels me to continue the series for one more issue.

I knew that my business justifications for file management would be accepted by most, but I also knew that my recommendations for dealing with users and personal computers would ruffle some feathers. Turns out I received a number of great responses that I'd like to share with you and analyze:

BH from Utah wrote:

"Blanket (policy) statements to people who are a mix of people that are complying and not complying with company policy does two things. It irritates those people who are following policy, and those who are not usually don't see themselves as the ones the message is meant for. Blanket statements of policy are fine for everyone. However, any additional problems should be address to the offender specifically. I see far too often meetings with the entire group to complain about standards or policy not being followed. These meetings usually backfire because of the above reasons. It's far more effective to discuss the problems one-on-one with the individual(s) that are the offenders."

My response: BH makes a valid point here about dealing with an environment where some people comply and some don't. My recommendation that everyone be informed of policy assumes that you're trying to change or implement new policy where everyone has to be alerted as to what the policy is. In the case where certain people are not following already established policy,BH is exactly right about approaching the violator(s) individually.

I do feel compelled to mention that your company's human resources department will tell you that policy needs to be sent out officially and acknowledged before you can take action against a violator, even if it means sending notices to those who do comply.

CP from New York wrote:

"I'd like to thank you for your newsletters. I almost always find that you put into words the thoughts that had been vaguely forming in my own mind. In the rare case when you write a column with which I completely disagree, it reminds me of how valuable most of your newsletters are. That said, your most recent column is one of the exceptions: a column that makes me think, 'Is this guy nuts?'

The root of the problem is that you've written a column for smaller offices. You suggest backing up the active data set to CD before cleaning up, rather than trusting the IT department's backups. My active data set is, as of midnight last night, 366,624.3MB. To burn that all to CD would take at least 525 CDs. That's just not going to happen. Now, that was a total data set, for all file types. The DWG files are only 18.4% of that (67,615.3MB, 79,987 files). But, even so, we're talking over 100 CDs to burn it all. Still not going to happen."

My response: CP is representative of several responses I received from CAD managers at large companies who feel completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of data they manage. Please know that I understand the frustration of large-department management. I also know that if data disappears or a job is compromised because of bad data management, the CAD manager is going to get the blame no matter how big the department is.

To deal with the problem of file management in very large or wide area environments, you need to distribute the file management burden to team leaders, project managers, power users, or whoever works with the CAD data on a daily basis. Just because a department is big doesn't mean that it can't be managed. It just means it can't all be managed by you personally.

Another common theme I heard from readers was hesitancy to enforce file management rules and/or deal with those who violate policy. I feel your pain in this area as I've been subject to this problem more times than I can count during my 16 years of CAD management experience. Here's a couple of key points that will help you deal with violators:

* If you don't deal with those who play fast and loose with CAD files, data will ultimately get lost and you'll have to deal with it anyway. Why wait until it becomes an emergency?

* If you lack the managerial authority to impose discipline on violators, your management needs to know this. You've likely complained about not having the authority to intervene, but have you really made it clear to management how much money is at stake if a huge set of drawings gets lost or overwritten? Trust me on this: If you make management understand the financial liability the company can incur due to bad file management, it will take action.

* Those who violate policy, in my experience, cause a substantial amount of work for others. If a user causes others to lose time through his or her own lack of adherence to policy, it costs the company money. Tell your management this.

Now do any of these recommendations make it easier to confront someone who needs to be disciplined? I think the answer is yes. By making the enforcement issue one of efficiency and profitability for the company, you depoliticize the issue. Even if the policy violator is the nicest person in the world they don't have a right to lower productivity. Right?

I hope these reader comments and my analysis of them have reinforced the need to take control of your CAD filing environment. Though changing policies, enforcing new work practices and disciplining policy violators is never easy work, it's probably the best value CAD managers provide to their organizations. When you consider that the only alternative to managing your files is entropic disorganization, the choice becomes simple, doesn't it?

In the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, we really will finish our discussion by providing a list of things you can do to prepare for a more formal document management environment. Until then.