Organizing and managing personal electronic files: A mechanical engineer's perspective

Ben Hicks, A Dong, R Palmer, Hamish C Mcalpine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (SciVal)


This article deals with the organization and management of the computer files handled by mechanical engineers on their personal computers. In engineering organizations, a wide variety of electronic files (documents) are necessary to support both business processes and the activities of design and manufacture. Whilst a large number of files and hence information is formally archived, a significant amount of additional information and knowledge resides in electronic files on personal computers. The widespread use of these personal information stores means that all information is retained. However, its reuse is problematic for all but the individual as a result of the naming and organization of the files. To begin to address this issue, a study of the use and current practices for managing personal electronic files is described. The study considers the fundamental classes of files handled by engineers and analyses the organization of these files across the personal computers of 40 participants. The study involves a questionnaire and an electronic audit. The results of these qualitative and quantitative elements are used to elicit an understanding of the practices and requirements of engineers for managing personal electronic files. A potential scheme for naming and organizing personal electronic files is discussed as one possible way to satisfy these requirements. The aim of the scheme is to balance the personal nature of data storage with the need for personal records to be shared with others to support knowledge reuse in engineering organizations. Although this article is concerned with mechanical engineers, the issues dealt with are relevant to knowledge-based industries and, in particular, teams of knowledge workers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Number of pages40
JournalACM Transactions on Information Systems
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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