Lay Down the Law on CAD Standards, Part 2

9 Jun, 2009 By: Robert Green

A thorough file cleanup will show users you mean business and set the tone for standard practices.

In the last installment of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I started a discussion about getting people to work using standard practices. What I refer to as laying down the law usually is an exercise in drawing attention to CAD standards so that everyone understands their importance and understands that you're serious about their enforcement.

Laying down the law can rub some users the wrong way, but if you don't get serious about standards, who will? In this installment, I'll give you some good first-strike ideas for getting started. Here goes.

Formulating Your Plan
You can lay down the law only when you're organized and have a logical plan of attack. The key steps I outlined in Part 1 of this article were:

  • Make sure applicable standards are current
  • Get management's blessing and support
  • Communicate what you'll be doing
  • Decide what will be your first-strike action items
  • Develop a training plan
  • Deputize power users to help you

Be sure to complete these action items before you proceed with your first-strike attack.

First-Strike Items
The most pivotal step in your plan might be how you select the first items you'll attack when you being your offensive. I like to call the start of the process the first-strike period, because it is the first time your users see the effects of standards being enforced in their daily routines. I'm going to outline my methodology and reasoning when moving an office toward standardization.

Clean house. A great way to get started establishing standards is to perform a digital cleanup of office workstations, servers, archives, and standards. The most common problems I encounter in CAD office environments, along with the effect that each problem actually has on the organization (in parentheses), are:

  • Files in the wrong directories (causing needless searches)
  • Redundant files copied to multiple locations (causing parallel revisioning and more needless searches for the right version)
  • All sorts of Zip and temporary files in any number of nonstandard directories (causing needless labor to examine the files)
  • Key files located on users' C drives (putting them as a risk of data loss because C drives aren't backed up)
  • Use of nonstandard configurations or installations of CAD tools (requiring CAD management labor to resolve problems)

How many of these problems exist in your office? I'd bet at least a couple, right? It seems that no matter how you've set up your standards, these rogue behaviors continue, so why not attack them first?

Step 1: Backup, delete, and react. I like to call the initial phase of CAD housekeeping the Delete the Junk and See Who Yells about It phase because that's how it tends to work. To make the process work, follow this procedure:

  • Sweep through network directories and target what you think is junk (make a special effort to find MP3/WMA audio files and iTunes libraries for a specific reason that I'll note below)
  • Copy the junk files to a portable hard drive or a DVD so that you'll have ready access to the files later -- do not rely on backup tapes run by the IT department because it will take longer to recover deleted files from multiple backup tapes
  • Verify your backup copies
  • Delete the junk files from the network
  • Keep your backups handy and wait for the inevitable complaint from some user who is missing data

If nobody yells at you, then you know that stuff you deleted actually was junk or that the offender who put nonstandard files on the network is going to remain quiet. Either way, you get a cleaner network and make it clear that you expect people to follow file standards.

Note. I delete all MP3 and WMA files to set the tone for compliance early. Nobody is going to miss a work deadline because his or her song file collection, which was eating up valuable network space, has vanished so there's no downside to deleting these files. More powerfully, by deleting what obviously aren't work-related files from your network, you drive home the point that you are watching and that you won't tolerate nonstandard practices.

Step 2: Send violation reports. When you cleaned up the CAD environment, you noticed the types of violations you encountered. The key to future success is to communicate to everyone the results of your CAD housekeeping and make note of the problems you found. By doing so, you show users that you know where the problems are and by copying management on this communication, you also let them know that a problem exists.

I recommend writing a short report or e-mail with the statistics of what you found, the corrective actions taken, and which file standards were violated. The goal is not to lay blame but simply to illustrate the problems and document them for all to see. Don't back down from issuing this report because everyone needs to see the problems that are caused by lack of compliance with standards.

After you've issued your report, it will become obvious who created the messes and those users' managers may be a little perturbed that standard practices weren't followed. In this scenario, you are not the bad guy; you're simply the person who fixed things. Relax and let the violators who created the messes suffer the consequences of their actions.

Step 3: Clean up libraries and details. Just as you banished rogue files from your servers, you also should go through your block and detail libraries with that same backup, delete, and react methodology. The goal is to retain only the official details and blocks and eliminate any nonstandard directories full of derivative versions that can cause confusion in project work.

Step 4: Clean up archives. It's always a good idea to archive your projects for fast retrieval (rather than relying on IT to get data from backup tapes). By cleaning your project archives, you're sending the message that protecting information is important and that everyone is responsible for maintaining an accurate archive of his or her projects at all times.

Use these steps as a reference for controlling your archives:

  • Publish a list of the jobs you'll archive and an approximate schedule for distribution to all project personnel
  • Send a refresher memo about proper file standards so everyone knows exactly how to prepare his or her files for archiving
  • After verifying the proper recording of your archives, delete any garbage from the network and practice the Delete the Junk and See Who Yells about It approach to flush out offenders
  • Log your archives and cleanup operations, including the job names/numbers and descriptions of the data being backed up, and keep these logs in an electronic format because it will facilitate electronic searching for key files

With these practices in place, you've got a periodically scheduled excuse to keep things clean and a notification/logging methodology to track violators. It won't take long for repeat offenders to get the message.

Summing Up
It's never easy to enforce standards or to change how users work. I hope that you'll find this process easier by using my plan of attack and by choosing the right first-strike tasks to get started.

In the next installment of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll give you some ideas for using training and standards modification to finish laying down the law over the long haul. Until next time.

Click here to read "Lay Down the Law on CAD Standards, Part 3."