Tech Manager—Project Housekeeping

Picture yourself on holiday or vacation. You are having a great time, away from the cares of the workday. You spend time with loved ones or friends, relaxing or hiking, or doing whatever you please. You are relaxed, unstressed, enjoying life, maybe at a distant tropical resort or mountain lodge… Then you get a knock on your hotel door. Someone on the other side says, “Housekeeping!” You think for a minute… Did I need more toilet paper, the room freshened up, the trash dumped, or the minibar restocked? Is this someone coming to tidy up or is it something unexpected, dark, and disruptive?

That was a nice lead into my topic. Sounded like the plot of some cheap thriller. But how often do we think about housekeeping? In the tech world, probably not as much as we should. How much dust has collected on your data? What mold is growing on your installs? What grime has settled into your systems?

Back in August of 2021, I wrote about retiring old technology that was no longer used. I wrote about how we hang on to old tools that no longer meet our needs. I spoke of getting others to get rid of old tech. Now I am going to talk about housekeeping. Project archiving is critical, and it gets forgotten all the time. The things that are easily forgotten because they are low priority and you have moved on to other things. But when you forget to clean up, the clutter starts to build up. I am not telling you something you don’t already know, just reminding you so you can make it happen. Time for some housekeeping on our project files and servers.

Back Up

First, I back all the files up. Not much to say on this. You know you back things up, but I am talking about a specific archive of all files related to a project, not the general recovery backup that happens all the time. A specific total backup of all the project files, even the junk, can ensure that nothing gets lost. Back it up as soon as the files and output go out the door.

Spruce Up

If you look up the entomology of the term “spruce up” you find that the word “spruce” was used in the 1500’s for the area known as Prussia. In that region they created finely crafted goods that were embraced by the rich. The term Spruce was soon expanded to mean anything that was fashionable or neat in appearance. So, sprucing up the project means making it neat in appearance. I do that by creating a good snapshot of the docs.

When the backup is done, I make a final submittal folder and copy all of the final deliverable documents in there and only the final documents. I COPY them (do not move the originals). This is a snapshot in time of the design docs as they were provided to the client. It is clean and contains nothing but the files needed to produce the final output. It might be PDF copies of hardcopy deliverables, and/or copies of the design files, but it is exactly what was given to the client as the design deliverable. If the client does not get the digital files, I still make this copy for in-house use.

Clean Up

Now on to the rest of the project files. Sometimes things just need to be cleaned up a little. In the heat of a project, things can get chaotic and cluttered. I have used a process of project closeout that goes back through the files and data and gets rid of the things that are not germane to the final design. I straighten up the AutoCAD design files by running Purge, Audit, OverKill and the like. For Revit it might include Audit/Detach, Purge unused, Resolve Warnings, and more. You get the idea. Just sweep away the clutter in the files.

Remove any files that have words like “copy” in them. And those that are “temp” or maybe have a personal name and number after them (“Hank- save-234”), like the ones created in the heat of battle to try things out or save some unused design concept.

Straighten Up

Now for the project folders. I go back into the original folders and straighten things up. I look for design iterations that did not come to pass. Design options that did not make the final cut. I don’t just delete them unless the PM says that I can. If they are total junk that is never needed again, just delete them (you have the backup from the beginning of this process – right?). Then remove them from the final project folders.

You should also make sure that the folder names indicate what is contained in them. This may sound obvious, but along the project road there are detours that end up in randomly named folders like “Option 2”. Then Option 2 becomes the main project folder and is never renamed. It is time to fix all of that. Go through every folder to make sure it reflects the content and that the content is still part of the main project. If it is not, move it to an archive folder.

This leaves a clean project structure ready for future change orders, additional design work or whatever. You know you will come back again to change orders and such. Straighten it up before that starts happening.

Cheer Up

Your project housekeeping is done. Now the project is looking cleaner. You can move on to the next big thing. The project is ready if needed later. If the client wants additional work, your team is ready to hit the ground running. Now, go relax.

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