By definition, Document control is a vital practice within organizations to ensure that information is accurate, up-to-date, accessible, and aligned with the nature of the business.
In a world where information has become the lifeblood of organizations, it is critical to ensure the proper flow of information and transparency of business activities to help companies function efficiently.
In this post, we will learn what is document control. Why is it important? as well as the top eight steps to take for an optimal document control process
Document Control Definition
In its most specific sense, document control refers to a set of procedures intended to oversee the creation, review, approval, release, distribution, access, storage, security, correction, or disposal of documents.
It is the bedrock upon which compliance, accuracy, integrity, efficiency, accountability, and process excellence are built. With the assistance of a well-defined control policy and a robust document management system, the document controller’s function is to manage all this while still assisting users.
It is all about managing the flow of documents and delivering accurate information to the appropriate stakeholders in order to drive the organization’s quality mechanism.
It has been undervalued and has not received the attention it deserves over the years. However, things have lately begun to improve as a result of several new technology solutions that assist in information and document management.
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Why Document Control is Important?
Information is only valuable when it can help companies gain knowledge and effectively guide operations. You must ensure that only the required resources are handled and captured. This can only happen if you have a procedure control and controlled documents (controlled copy).
Organizations must control the documents required by the quality management system, according to ISO 9001:2015. Furthermore, it is essential to maintain and have control of records as proof of compliance with specifications and to show the effectiveness of the quality management system’s operation.
The document control process must ensure that document management policy is applied through all the document lifecycle.
Let’s have a look at how an efficient document control procedure can help:
The document control procedure should specify who can create documents and based on which criteria. This includes how the document is named and numbered, as well as applying metadata for easier search.
Review & Approval
The procedure, which revolves around document review and approval, determines the individual or entity in charge of document review, revisions, and approval. This policy is necessary because quality assurance standards demand that documents should be reviewed for accuracy.
Documents are exchanged on a regular basis with various parties and partners, whether internally or externally.
Transmittals and correspondence are sent between contractors, customers, and subcontractors in the construction industry, in particular. Part of document controller activities is to keep track of who sent the document/transmittal, to whom, when, and why.
Changes on a document are part of its lifecycle. The document control procedure needs to clearly define the document version control policy of a controlled copy.
Essentially, it must identify who has the authority to make changes to the document. It must adhere to the version control numbering best practices.
When changes are made, and for certain documents, an approval process is normally required. The approval hierarchy should have been established in the document control procedure based on document type.
Document revision control is considered very essential and document controllers need to keep a close eye on what is being changed and by whom.
Using a system, you will get a report on document changes, a comparison of what has changed in a matter of seconds, and facilitate version control in documents.
The procedure control policy should specify how and when the document is published, as well as who has access to it (document access control).
The policy should also identify external documents and control their distribution.
Controlled document retrieval must be fast and precise. It should be based on appropriate classifications and metadata.
Part of the document controller activities is to make sure that users can retrieve documents easily and fast as inefficient retrieval can waste time.
Document Control Log (Audit Log)
Part of the document controller function is to have the full details of a document from creation to approval and retirement. Doing this manually requires lots of attention, time, and it is somehow nearly impossible.
The document controller can keep track of each transaction that occurs on the document with the help of a system. All relevant information, such as who viewed the document, who downloaded it, the creation date, the revision date, which documents were part of transmittals, and so on, can be retrieved at any time.
Document Obsolete Or Destruction
When documents need to removed or made unavailable, they should be obsoleted or retired.
This is a critical step to prevent obsolete documents from unintended use. A record control procedure and a record retention policy should be used to identify this process.
Steps For Efficient & Quality Document Control
Below are some steps that will help you ace your control procedures that every document controller should follow:
Without a question, the most important term in information management is metadata. It represents a critical aspect of document control basic activities.
As a document controller, you must leverage the use of metadata to improve classification and retrieval.
Make sure to read my previous article covering the importance of metadata
Make Use Of Automated Workflows
Part of the document lifecycle is the approval and review process. As a document controller, you should identify the types of documents that should be approved or reviewed before being published. This process can be automated to help drive the business faster.
A good system would allow you to configure dedicated workflows for various document types and personalize the entire document cycle. Furthermore, it will aid in automating the approval process for various activities such as leave requests, purchase orders, and invoices.
Always remember a flexible workflow is a cornerstone of process efficiency.
Integration with MS Office And Office365
Email is still by far the most used medium to share files and communicate between team members. For that it is very important to have the ability to directly import data from Outlook, Word, Excel to the system.
Another significant benefit is the potential to preserve metadata, which would speed up the process of importing documents into the system.
Properly Manage Documents Access
As a document controller, you must guarantee that only the people who need to view the documents have access to them.
When identifying document types, it is important to determine who has access to the documents and what they can do with them.
You may define the access level in document management systems depending on user roles and the permissions they have over this content. Some individuals, for example, can view the document and others can edit it, make revisions, and so on.
Benefits Of Document Control
A document control system is based on best practices in document management to make the company perform smoother and smarter. Let’s have a look at some of the advantages it provides to businesses.
According to a recent survey, knowledge workers spend nearly half of their time looking for information. You should ensure that employees can find any document in seconds by carefully controlling the document lifecycle and using metadata.
Furthermore, a good document control procedure ensures that workers are still working on the most recent version of a document.
Version control is at the heart of all document management best practices. It is critical to manage access, track revisions, and control access by preventing documents from falling into the hands of the wrong people.
A document controller specialist must ensure that all personnel only see up-to-date information. This has always been really important to me in my experience. Consider what could happen in a construction project if an earlier version of a drawing is used for construction.
Keeping information any longer than is constitutionally required or deleting records that should be kept for a certain period of time would almost certainly subject the company to various forms of fines, sanctions, or other legal implications.
Feel free to learn more about records retention.
Remember that information is an organization’s most precious commodity. The highest priority should still be information security. To secure sensitive information from unauthorized access, the document controller should define security protocols.
In conclusion, document control is essential for every organization. Information deserves to be treated with care, confidentiality, and dignity.