Mastering Document Control: A Definitive Guide for Efficient Information Management

Mastering Document Control: A Definitive Guide for Efficient Information ManagementEvery organization needs to maintain the integrity of its documents for better data security, governance, identification, and validation. Yet, up to 46% of employees say finding the documents they need for work is challenging and time-consuming.

It’s such cases that necessitate the need for proper document control, which is basically a set of practices for ensuring seamless document creation, review, distribution, and disposal. This way, organizations can ensure the traceability and accessibility of vital data.

Document management has come a long way, from file cabinets, electronic document management (EDM), PC to cloud solutions and smart devices. This has been imperative to build agile and future-proof processes, but businesses can do more with document control.

Fundamentals of Document Control

Organizations create documents daily to define specifications, provide directions, give instructions, share new ideas, and other purposes. In most cases, they generate these documents in ad-hoc environments with no clear guidelines on their use, access and storage.

This casual, undisciplined approach overlooks the importance of the long-term value of business documents. While documents may seem irrelevant individually, they form a significant part of business intelligence when carefully stored, curated, and organized over time.

Consequently, organizations should implement the principles of document control, while taking into account its key components, including creation, collaboration, access control, compliance, recovery, and transparency. This is vital to protect a company’s ideas, assets, goals, etc.

The implementation becomes effortless with a document control policy. The policy determines the type of documents to be created, when to generate them, what data to include, how to review and approve them, and how to handle disposal. As a result, this enables a streamlined flow and hierarchy for seamless document management.

Document Control Process

Every organization must have a defined process for creating, approving, updating, amending, publishing, sharing, and deleting documents. Here is what the process entails:

  1. Creation and Generation of Documents: You must define who creates and how to generate documents. It’s also vital to give guidelines on when to create them, formatting, and the naming conventions to use.
  2. Review and Approval of Documents: This provides document approval guidelines, who approves them, and how to record approvals. More importantly, this step highlights the criteria for document approval.
  3. Distribution and Access Control: After approval, there must be procedures on how and where to publish documents and who can access it. Each document is unique, so it can be available internally or externally, have security limitations, etc.
  4. Monitoring and Reporting: Once a document is approved and distributed or published, it’s vital to have a system in place for monitoring access, edits, use, updates, etc. Periodical reports should also help to give better insights into the use of the document.
  5. Document Retrieval and Archiving: This step is vital to determine when and how to archive published documents. In the event they’re needed, there should be procedures for retrieving them, too.
  6. Document Revision and Obsolete Management: Document revision and obsoleting are determined by different factors, such as date/duration, change or end of a process, etc. Regardless, your policy must spell out when to revise or obsolete documents.

With such a process in place, an organization can derive value from each document it creates, while ensuring data security, compliance, and governance. It helps to ensure employees use the right document and data for a particular task or project at any given time.

Challenges and Solutions in Document Control

Recognizing and acknowledging challenges in document control is key to seamless document management. More importantly, it’s a crucial step toward finding effective and long-term solutions to ensure business efficiency, continuity, and productivity.

Common Challenges in Document Control

Here are the typical challenges that most organizations experience:

Document Duplication and Version Confusion

Most organizations lack streamlined naming conventions and central database systems. This increases the risk of document duplication, resulting in different versions. Also, failing to determine who, when, and why to create documents results in such challenges, too.

Lack of Document Visibility and Control

The typical culprit for this is the lack of an electronic document management system (EDMS). This results in disconnected and disparate processes, with documents scattered in emails, hard drives, computers, hard copies, etc., denying companies better visibility and control.

Inefficient Document Retrieval and Archiving

This is the result of different factors, including a poor naming system, failure to use EDMS, and lack of document control procedures. This complicates document tracking for efficient archival or retrieval.

Difficulty in Ensuring Compliance and Auditability

Compliance audits require significant company and process documentation. Unfortunately, manual processes, poor version control, and lack of access controls complicate compliance and auditability. This increases the risk of fines and penalties.

Solutions for Effective Document Control

Regardless of your document control challenges, there are solutions that streamline your process, deliver visibility, and give you control of every aspect of your document management.

Automation of Document Control Processes

One such solution is document automation, which allows you to bring order to chaos, connect disparate systems, eliminate manual repetitive tasks, and provide secure access. Implementing this solution demands investing in the right automation system.

The ideal system should allow you to create, approve, edit, review, and distribute documents. It should support automated workflows, compliance management, collaboration, data security, reporting, and user accessibility. More importantly, it must be easy to implement and must adapt to your workflows.

Integration of Document Control Tools

The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all automation solution. If you want such a solution, you’ll need to build one from scratch, which can be costly to develop and manage. Plus, it will make it difficult to work with clients and partners that use other solutions.

Instead, it’s advisable to pick a platform-agnostic and scalable solution that supports a host of integrations and web services, such as CRM, CMS, ERP, etc. Integrations allow you to avoid paying for costly features or investing in expensive modifications.

Ensure Effective Document Control

Document control is vital, especially for industries where accuracy and precision are necessary, such as engineering, construction, architecture, and manufacturing. It’s also a standard of quality management under International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001.

As such, if your processes rely heavily on documentation, it’s vital to implement a solution that automates your processes. The right system should allow for seamless creation, review, approval, archival, retrieval, and disposal.

At Docmo, we offer a non-code, AI-enable solution for optimal document control, allowing for efficient creation, formatting, governance, reporting, review, and approval. Our software is platform-agnostic, making it easy to use integrations to support your workflows.

Contact us today to learn how our solution can streamline document control processes.