CAD Manager's Newsletter #108 (June 10, 2004)

9 Jun, 2004 By: Robert Green

In the last issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I raised the issue of file management as a key liability that your management should be aware of. As design applications grow more complex, produce more files, and become an ever more critical component of doing business, I find it fascinating that most companies simply hope their files are properly managed. It seems that the less management understands the software, the less likely it is to worry about it.

I hope that you were able to use some of my suggestions from the last newsletter to make your management team aware of how critical file management is. If important files get lost, somebody will take the blame, so it behooves you to bring up the issue as often as necessary to get management's attention.

In this newsletter I'll outline some concrete actions you can take to start gaining control of your filing environment. I'll also pass along hints for getting users and management to help you. Here goes.

Before you undertake any sort of file management overhaul, you must have disaster insurance. I'm sure that either you or your IT department has some sort of tape backup system that runs periodically, but CAD managers should have their own backup systems as well. A CAD manager's workstation should have, at minimum, a high-speed writeable CD drive and a very large additional hard drive. For a few dollars more I'd recommend an internal writeable DVD drive, if at all possible.

With 120GB hard drives costing $120 and DVD writeable drives at about the same price, there's no reason that you shouldn't have the ability to store, manipulate, and archive data at your own desktop. You'll be able to keep backed up data at your fingertips without having to wait for your IT department to restore from slow central tape backups. The ability to restore data quickly and to back up data in the way you want to organize it will be indispensable in your efforts to control CAD filing procedures.

Now that your backup plan is in place, you can start the process of cleaning up your file management environment and setting the tone for future organization:

Step 1: Inventory and organize any hardcopy files you need to control. This can include old prints, as-built drawing, hand-written calculations, reports, and so forth.

Justification: By undertaking this task first, you take action that people can actually see. Nobody in management is ever going to see you working hard to clean up a hard drive. By diving in and tackling any disorganization that is visibly evident, you send a strong signal that you're getting organized.

Bonus points: Actually clean common storage areas as you tidy them up. Get a bottle of surface cleaner and some dust rags and really shape up the place. When you're done, things will actually look clean and organized and people will notice the difference. Don't laugh at this idea because I've seen it work more times than I can count.

Step 2: Send out word to all staff members that you will be cleaning up all network drive volumes to remove needless or misfiled CAD files. Set a reasonable deadline, say one week, and make it clear that all files on network drives that don't conform to standard filing practice will be deleted. Be sure to clear this action with and copy all correspondence to your management.

Justification: There's no point in having filing standards if people don't have to follow them. By setting a solid date, you'll prompt action. If anyone complains, you'll be able to bring the issue to a head quickly with management's support.

Bonus points: Have your manager send the notification for the cleanup date with instructions to check with you in case of any questions. This way management support is clear and compelling from the word go.

Step 3: Make it clear that your cleanup initiative will focus on personal hard drives as well. To do this you'll need a policy statement from your management that the most current version of all project files must be located on a network drive volume where system backups can capture them each night.

Justification: CAD files are the byproduct of paid employee labor and thus are company property. Having thousands of dollars worth of files on a local hard drive that could fail or be deleted by accident is not in the company's best interest. There's simply no excuse for not backing up key company data.

Bonus points: Have your manager produce a policy statement regarding proper backup of company data. Have the policy state that any loss of data on an employee's personal hard drive is the responsibility of the user with any violations resulting in disciplinary action.

Some users may not like your hard line on filing of computer data, so you should be prepared to deal with the issue. I've found that strong management support insulates the CAD manager from most problems because users can't go behind the CAD manager's back to complain. This is the reason I strongly recommend getting management on board in the first place.

In the case where management may be somewhat reluctant to fully endorse filing control practices, you should be prepared to persuade them with business logic. Remember that your management doesn't like people complaining any more than you do. Their natural tendency will be to flinch if users complain about new policies. Only by making the case that computer files are company property that must be insured against loss can you make management stand its ground.

Finally, if you do have users who refuse to follow procedure, you absolutely must be willing to deal with the problem head on and report it to your management if needed. My experience is that if you stand your ground early, you'll gain control. When you do stand up to those who violate company policy, you're not only protecting the company, you're also sending a signal to everyone who does follow policy that you're a strong CAD manager.

In the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter I'll continue our discussion by outlining how to actually clean off network and personal hard drives with zero risk. I'll also take some time to address common problems I've seen when undertaking cleanup operations in complex CAD environments. Until then.