CAD Manager's Newsletter #79 (Feb. 5, 2003)

4 Feb, 2003 By: Robert Green

I received some spirited reader feedback to the last issue of The CAD Manager's Newsletter, in which I recommended some techniques for beginning CAD housecleaning. Some of the responses are worth sharing.

Trend 1: Reader responses indicate a 100 percent agreement that housecleaning in the CAD department is a necessary yet frustrating task for CAD managers. I also received a few responses that cited communication with staff members as a means to mitigate the problems associated with digital clutter. The vast majority of responses were from CAD managers at their wits' end.

Trend 2: Many CAD managers cited their lack of authority to discipline those who contribute to the digital mess. Many wrote, "I know what the problem is, but I can't fire the person responsible." Many of us suffer from this is the age old CAD management problem of having "all the responsibility but none of the authority."

Trend 3: Closely related to Trend 2 was the attitude that there is no point in cleaning the CAD house if the authority to really enforce new organizational procedures isn't there. It seems as though some managers loath to even try to clean the CAD house!

Your Management Needs to Buy In

It is important that CAD managers have some ammunition to help enforce cleaning procedures, so I'd like to provide some strategies to help you.

You must impress your management that the mess you're trying to clean up is costing the company money. Quantify how many hours a week you spend keeping things organized. List other costs such as retrieving backups, reworking lost changes, and so on. Try to tally up the hours associated with fixing these organizational problems and multiply the hours by the labor rate (yours and that of the others who help you) to gain a monthly estimate of the cost. This will at least get the focus on cost (money), which usually makes management listen.

You must make your management understand that the cost of being disorganized is perpetuated by people lapsing into the same bad habits time after time--it is a symptom of a greater organizational problem.

Should your management question why you have such a mess on your hand (implying that YOU are disorganized), you can reply that the cause is your lack of authority to discipline those who create the mess. You should be ready to cite specific instances where users create problems by not following organizational procedures they were asked to abide by. The important thing is to be apolitical; focus on improving things rather than venting personal frustrations.

If these approaches don't work, then there is most likely a culture of disorganization that emanates from upper management. I have yet to meet a senior manager who doesn't want to reduce costs! If you can focus on costs and savings, you'll be able to get the authority you need.

Let the Cleanup Begin

In the last issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter I advocated the Problem-Cause-Solution (PCS) method. I bet many of you listed at least one of the following organizational problems.

  • Files are not in the correct directories.
  • Duplicated files are located all over the network environment.
  • People are revising files simultaneously (this is related to the duplicated files).
  • Key files are located on users' C-drives.
  • There is a lack of adherence to filing practices.

Assuming you have filing/organizational standards in place (rather than complete anarchy), the problems above can only exist if your filing standards aren't followed, right? Therefore, your initial cleanup step is to send the message that non-compliance won't be tolerated.

Note: I assume you either have your management's blessing to start the cleanup effort or are actively building management support as outlined above. I do not advocate starting a major cleanup until you've at least informed your management of what you're doing and received positive feedback to proceed!

Phase 1--Backup and Delete

First, delete the junk and see who screams. By ruthlessly targeting junk files on networks, unclaimed directories, temporary ZIP files, and anything else that isn't properly filed, you'll be able to at least begin the effort.

Before you delete anything, make sure you have access to a CD writable drive on your own machine. Then follow these steps.

  • Target junk files on your network.
  • Copy them to your own C drive.
  • Back up the files to CDs and verify the backup's integrity.
  • Log the files you've backed up and label the CDs clearly.
  • Delete the junk files.
  • Sit back and wait for someone to scream.

If nobody even notices that the junk files are gone, you can be reasonably sure they weren't critical and your CAD world is a little bit cleaner as a result. In this case retain your backup CDs (just in case) and move on to other junk files.

On the other hand, if somebody comes screaming to you about missing files, then you have found the guilty party! In cases where junk files on the network turned out to be valuable information, you can challenge the person who misfiled the information for violating filing standards. You can tactfully tell the person that they simply can't have design information floating around the network, improperly filed. Impress upon them that they should be filing things correctly from now on!

The challenge now is to delete junk as you find it, hopefully modifying the bad filing habits of the guilty parties as you go along. I can report from personal experience that this methodology works! I'd also like to point out that the "delete the junk and see who yells" approach doesn't bother those people who've correctly filed their information yet punishes those who didn't.

Summing Up

You should now be on your way to devising a clean-up strategy--involving cleaning as well as implementing organizational changes to prevent future messes.

In the next issue, I'll pass along some ideas for keeping your own archive and reducing your reliance on general computer backups for retrieval. As always, please email me any good tips or problems you're having at