The clean-sheet approach to data management and file storage

May 04, 2009

My desk is in such disarray these days that my former co-workers at ZweigWhite would surely think I’d lost my mind if they saw it. I have always been an “everything in its place” kind of fellow— particularly as it relates to my business. I’m going to have to get myself organized once again with an all-new system! I will take out a clean sheet of paper and reorganize the entire organizational scheme for my growing redevelopment business. My current desk mess notwithstanding, I have learned some things over the years about data management and file storage, such as: If you can get it in the computer you probably won’t lose it. That means do everything electronically that is possible. Scan and store. Paper is more easily lost than an electronic file that is frequently backed up. Get out a clean sheet of paper and figure out how you can store everything on the computer. Something is wrong when there’s too much office real estate devoted to file cabinets and drawing storage. Clean up and clear out. Instead of taking the empty file cabinets to your warehouse, get rid of ‘em. Take the clean-sheet approach to your office space layout. Having a wide area network means one office shouldn’t do it one way and everyone else another. There’s no reason for different project file organizations or marketing database arrangements because everyone can see the same thing in every place and you want to be efficient. Take out a clean sheet of paper and come up with a scheme everyone can get behind. People who violate standards for maintenance of standard details or project close-out files, or who refuse to populate strategic difference-making databases have to be dealt with. It is a condition of employment in the company to do certain things for the greater good. One can maintain their individuality but at the same time comply with these kinds of standards. Some people may simply be too dysfunctional to work in a large, complex organization. You may need a clean sheet to consider their replacements. Don’t wait to do anything about your data management problem until your system is perfected. It probably never will be perfected. The environment and business climate is rapidly changing. Your data management/file storage system will be ever-evolving (or at least it should be). Take out a clean sheet of paper at least once a year so you can rethink your entire system. Learn from your competitors but think twice before you copy them directly. It drives me crazy, for example, when I see a 50-person MEP (mechanical-electrical-plumbing) firm that works mainly for architects on private sector projects trying to set up their file and data management systems like a 3,500-person civil/infrastructure firm because someone who used to work there has all their standard methodologies memorized. They are completely different companies with totally different markets and project types— and have different needs for their data management and filing systems. Take out a clean sheet of paper instead of copying the other guy. You can do it! Originally published 5/4/2009

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.