Document version control is the procedure employed in companies to manage the tracking, incrementing, and updates to documents that occur across the document life cycle. Employees will always be working with the most up-to-date versions of their files if the right mechanism is established.
Without adequate version control, your employees and decision-makers may be forced to deal with content that is out-of-date, incomplete, or missing across individuals and departments, offering major cost and efficiency issues.
Document version control clearly defines the evolution of a document while developing a new policy, new processes, or a new publication or updating an old one.
We all work with a large number of documents during the day, whether alone or in collaboration with others. This necessitates the ability to determine which document version is the most recent or to have a history of modifications at any given time.
How many times have you found yourself altering an older version of a document? or reverting to previous adjustments made by colleagues? How many times have we added the term FINAL to the document name, followed by FINAL V2? If your team is wasting time looking for new files and keeping track of changes, it’s time to use a version control system.
If there is no document version control guidelines to be applied, individuals will typically have their own different and unique ad-hoc methods of monitoring versions. It’s easy to see how this may swiftly lead to chaos and confusion.
In this post, we’ll define document version control, show you how to handle manual version control and systematically, and explain why it’s necessary.
What is Version Control?
Version control is a mechanism for incrementing, tracking, and documenting changes in documents or files that occur over the period of their lifecycle. It allows us to control modifications, review/approvals, and rollback as needed. The idea is to understand what each version of the document is and where it is right now.
When we generate a document, we normally alter it and send it out for review as many times as we need to in order to have the final official document ready. To reduce the possibility of employees working on the erroneous version number, losing a document, or replacing other colleagues’ work, this procedure must be managed with care.
A version control method clearly defines the guidelines that must be followed by all employees in an company from the initial modifications of a document to the final official draft.
This process may be done manually, which requires employees to manually define the version number depending on the procedure (if one exists), or it can be totally automated by utilizing a document management system or an enterprise content management system.
Check below links for more information about DMS or ECM system
Using a system to verify that the document version control guidelines is correctly performed would, of course, reduce the risk of mistakes and ensure that we are working on the most recent version of the document.
Small businesses can still use spreadsheets to handle this process, but the most essential thing is that all organizations recognize the need of a document management method.
How To Manage Document Version Control
Version control may be approached in a variety of ways, depending on the demands of your team and the size of your business.
As previously said, if firms do not embrace a clear and well-defined technique, knowledge workers will develop their own mechanism, which will rapidly become complex, especially when numerous partnerships throughout the company would be beneficial.
There must be a document version control policy that describe the following. Keep in mind that this is only required for manual version control. It becomes much easier and more appropriate once systems are in place.
1- Naming Conventions
At the most basic level, you may utilize file naming standards to indicate the version of a document. Along with the subject, use the document’s file name to establish the version and status, for example:
- Records Retention Policy_v0.1
- Records Retention Policy_v2.1
For history management, the version number, updater name, and date should all be placed on the first page of the document.
2- Version Numbers
We will go through this area in greater detail in the following section, but as a general rule, a document must exist to manage the document version number reflecting both minor and substantial modifications.
If your company works with other companies, you should coordinate with them to use the same version numbering to make the process easier and less complicated.
3- Version and Document Control Tables
At the beginning of each generated document, there must be a table displaying the main information referring to the history of version numbering and authors. Document version control examples:
|0.1||Haissam Abdul Malak||14-Nov-2021||John Doe|
|0.2||Haissam Abdul Malak||16-Nov-2021||John Doe|
|1||Haissam Abdul Malak||20-Nov-2021||John Doe|
Document Version Control Numbering Best Practices
Version numbering aids in differentiating one version of a document from another. For certain documents, a basic numbering system consisting of consecutive whole numbers may enough to keep track of which version you are working on.
Some documents will simply require the most basic procedures, such as naming conventions, but more complicated and formal publications will require a version control table.
However, for documents that go through various phases of production before reaching a final version, and for those that are generated with input from multiple persons, you may choose to use version numbers to keep track of both small and important changes to that document.
There are two types of version numbers: major and minor (some will call them Version and Revision).
Minor Version Number: Minor changes made to a document, such as grammatical or spelling errors. Increase the decimal number to signify minor modifications to a document. (0.1, 0.2, and so on)
Major Version number: Major modifications are alterations to a document that necessitate its re-approval. Major changes are expressed by increasing the full number by one.
When we begin modifying documents, we must append a version number to the end of the file title in order to better identify which version we are working on.
When a subsequent draft of a document is completed and available for review, the minor version number should be incremented, for example, from 0 to 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, until a finished version is ready, at which point the major version number is incremented to 1, and so on.
That is why document version control best practices is essential. Without it, you risk team members utilizing the incorrect version and wasting time re-reviewing and re-editing the proper version.
How Can a DMS or ECM Assist?
A document management system contains all of the capabilities required to assist you in managing document version control guidelines automatically.
Most systems will automatically display the most recent version of the document, assign a version number based on your preferences when a modification is made, lock the document as it is being changed, and, most significantly, offer a full history of all activities on the document.
Locking While Modification
When a document has to be updated, it must first be locked from the system.
When you check out, the solution will automatically lock the document to prevent it from being modified by another colleague. It also displays a label indicating who is checking out the paper. If the document has been checked out for a lengthy period, you might ask the employee for further details.
Auto-Version Number Increment
When the document is modified in the system, the version number is automatically updated based on specified preferences. The user must decide whether the modification is major or minor.
Some of the systems on the market may provide a comparison of different versions based on metadata. This is critical for future audits and follow-up.
I strongly recommend reading this post for a comprehensive approach to document metadata.
An audit trail is a detailed record of all modifications and activities performed on a file. This information is far more extensive than simple document versioning. When a file was successfully and unsuccessfully accessed, workflow history, and a record of modifications all contribute to a more complete picture of a file’s history.
Rolling Back To previous Versions
Certain roles in the system have the potential to roll back to prior versions. That is, if you want to go back to version 2 and make it the active version, you can do it in a few clicks and it will be available to everyone.
For a complete document control guide, check below link