12 Document Control Best Practices You Need to Know

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Written By Haissam Abdul Malak

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Document control is a major pain, and poor document control can cause significant losses for businesses. The document control best practices described in this article will help you avoid costly mistakes and better manage your document control policies.

Some of the greatest document control best practices are to standardize document management, develop a document control policy, implement a document access policy, create multiple degrees of control for different sorts of documents, and provide a way for tracking document versions.

Do you know what’s hindering your business’s performance? Are you able to track expenses, see trends or know where your employees are spending their time? Do you have any idea how much money your company has lost because of poor document control?

The 12 Document Control Best Practices You Need to Know will help you improve your company’s efficiency, keep your organization on the right track, and reduce the risk of poor document control. Perfect for office managers, finance managers, project managers, auditors, and anyone who works with documents,

Apply these tips to decrease the risk of poor document control today!

The Benefits of Document Control for a Healthy Organization

Document control is the process of controlling the documents that are created and used by your organization. It helps to keep your organization healthy by preventing unnecessary data loss and providing a central point of reference for all document-related activities.

A healthy organization is one that can get things done quickly, efficiently, and with minimal stress or disruption. It is one way to ensure these benefits while also preserving the integrity of your documents and keeping them from being lost or altered without authorization.

Whether your needs are related to your organization’s business, a litigation hold, or just something you want to insure against theft, document control can support the goals of any business.

I strongly recommend reading the below article for an in-depth discussion about why do you really need it

Why You Really Need DOCUMENT CONTROL – Document Management (theecmconsultant.com)

Document Control Best Practices

Document control best practices help companies to manage their documents more efficiently and effectively.

Document control best practices and tips can be divided into two categories:

The first category includes the policies related to how a company manages its documents. For instance, it can be about how many copies of a document should be kept, what should happen when a document has been lost or damaged, etc.

The second category includes the tools and software used for managing documents in an organization. These are usually software-based solutions that help companies manage their documents in bulk.

The 12 document control best practices are:

1- Standardize Document Management

There are many ways to standardize document management. Standardization helps reduce risk of poor document control as well as improve performance, efficiency, and continuity in an organization. For example, a standard document format could be established for expense reports so that they never get lost. This would allow the expense report to be found and scanned when needed.

Another example would be the standardization of document identification numbers. A document identification number is a unique number that can be assigned to a specific document.

2- Define a document control policy

When discussing document control best practices, we surely need to mention the need for defining a DC policy to be implemented within organizations.

A document control policy is a process by which a company, organization, or person determines what it will allow its users to do with its electronic documents. This policy is different from a general information management policy, which focuses on how the organization manages and maintains the information.

3- Put a document access policy in place

As a business owner, you need to know who can access which documents and when. Employee handbooks, company secrets, and sensitive client information are all at stake in this case. It is important that you have a document access policy in place to make sure all employees are aware of the restrictions they must follow when using certain documents.

The document controller is responsible for explicitly setting a document access policy to aid in document security and reducing documents getting into the wrong hands, putting sensitive information at risk.

4- Create a central storage site for documents

If there are documents that are so important they need to be kept in a central location, create a plan for their storage and retrieval. The storage location should be secure and there should be accessibility to the storage location. If a key is used to gain access, make sure that the key is stored at a separate location away from the storage.

5- Create levels of control for different types of documents

One of the most important document control best practices is to create levels of control for different types of documents in a document management system (DMS). This creates an organizational structure that allows users to have the freedom to work on what they are good at. The sub-organization could be called primary, secondary, and commentary.

Primary documents are the original documents that were created, including existing content and metadata like titles, dates, authors, and subject matter.

Secondary documents include information about the primary document like references or details that were added by someone else when they made a comment on the primary document.

The commentary is where someone would make an annotation (comment).

6- Provide a mechanism to track document versions

In today’s fast-paced world, the ability to track changes and revisions in a document is invaluable. Almost all document management systems available in the market today allow members of an organization to easily track who changed what and then make revisions as needed.

It is critical for companies to understand the changes made to a document throughout its lifecycle, including who made the changes, when they were made, and so on.

7- Use a consistent naming convention for documents

A consistent naming convention can be a powerful tool for saving time and energy. You can have a naming convention that is unique, descriptive, and easy to remember.

This should be clearly defined in a document control numbering procedure.

8- Make sure all stakeholders understand the document control policy and its scope

Every business has a DC policy in place for the purposes of standardizing various documents and ensuring that they are kept up to date. Understanding what is included in the policy and what is excluded will help to ensure that your company can meet its objectives.

The following are the main documents that should be controlled and managed through an effective document control policy:

Business contracts: These include lease agreements, shareholder agreements, and purchase orders. They can take on many different forms but they all have to be recorded in order to ensure that a business is protected against any disputes with its client or supplier.

Risks: these are documents that identify what could happen if an event occurs.

Strategies: these are documents that provide guidance on how risk should be handled.

Procedure: these are documents that describe how a process is to be done.

Reports: these are documents that detail the outcomes of specific events or activities.

9- Provide a way for retrieving and archiving documents

One of the most important document control best practices is to allow quick document retrieval and archiving.

The benefits of providing a way for retrieving and archiving documents are numerous. It helps manage the physical storage of documents on behalf of a business by providing efficiency and cost-saving measures. Moreover, it also provides control over the document which can potentially lower litigation risk.

This process allows the business to maintain a consistent, standard way of documenting their documents. The benefits of providing such a system are that it makes it easier for the business to comply with regulatory compliance standards and assists with compliance audits.

10- Train your staff

Training is an important aspect of effective document control. This is especially true for personnel who are tasked with managing documents, such as the company’s key customer service representatives or customer service representatives handling customer complaints.

When your staff members are trained, they will know how to properly handle the information contained in a document and understand the process for handling documents effectively. In addition, they will feel confident in their ability to keep documents

11- Create document retention policies

It is the process of making sure that all documents are stored in a safe and secure location until the proper time comes to dispose of them. However, this is only part of the equation. Document retention policies are necessary in order to ensure that these documents are not kept indefinitely and will not be needed later on.

12- Implement a document control system

The purpose of a document control system is to ensure that all documents and other records are properly identified, stored, and made available for retrieval and use. Effective document control systems can help with several important business or organizational tasks such as tracking who has access to what information, managing documents with changes, and detecting flaws.

What are the Principles of Document Control?

Good document control has three main principles:

1- Ensuring that procedures are clearly defined

2- Ensuring that content flows in a logical manner throughout the enterprise

3- Integrating content management with other business applications

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