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Best Practices for Document Control Procedures

written by: Sidharth Thakur • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 12/29/2010

Clear cut document control procedures ensure a better flow of information, which in turn ensures smoother operations and timely work. If you wish to learn about how to setup the best document control policies and procedures for your project – here’s an article to assist you.

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    Document control procedures are an integral part of project management. In the absence of clearly established policies and procedures for document control, several problems can arise ranging from mere confusion to grave financial losses. In the following section we will provide you with some tips on how to institute the best document control procedures for a project that do not hamper the flow of information and yet ensure that the flow of documents are well regulated. Before moving any further, it’s important to emphasize that these procedures should not be complex, since complexity will cause people to avoid using documents.

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    Establishing the Best Document Control Procedures for a Project

    Document Control Identify Information Clusters

    Appoint a team, with members from different functional areas, to identify clusters in the team that require similar types of information. For instance the inventory control and purchase teams may have common information requirements. When identifying information clusters, the focus should be on the type of data or information they require. Identifying the data sources is also a part of this basic activity.

    Tracking Information Flow

    With the information clusters identified, the next main task is to understand how information flows within the clusters and across different clusters. The best way to track information flow is to map it out, considering both digital as well as printed information. This will make it easier to identify any redundant information processes.

    Optimizing Information Flow

    Once the document flow has been mapped, optimizing it is the next important step toward establishing the best document control procedures. In some cases it may be possible to cut down on the number of documents without compromising the availability of information at the right place and at the right time. Also, it may help increase the efficiency of the team by cutting short the document flow. Reworking on the information flow may spell out the need for additional documents or multiple copies of documents too. The idea is to ensure that the right piece of information is available to the right person and at the right time. This analysis is best conducted by members from different information clusters.

    Designing Functional Document Formats

    Designing the document formats is of immense importance, as documents are the carriers of information. Irrespective of whether the documents are digital or physical, there should be a set format for each. These formats must be designed with utmost care to ensure that they are functional, easy to use and they carry the right information. The format should also consider the end users of the document.

    Creating a Document Procedure Control Manual

    Having a detailed manual which details out the document control policies and procedures is helpful in ensuring better compliance and in avoiding ambiguity. The manual must include:

    • Which documents are to be used when, how and by whom
    • How documents are to be updated or approved
    • How does the document version control work
    • How the document flows within teams and across teams
    • How will information in the documents be verified
    • The basic format for all documents to be used in the project
    • How and where documents will be archived

    Reviewing Document Formats and Flow Periodically

    The information and the documentation needs will keep changing every now and then. Accordingly, the document formats and document flow should be appraised regularly to ensure they still suit the purpose. Some document formats may become obsolete with the changing scenario, thus when replacing them with the latest formats it must be ensured that no copies of the obsolete documents are still in use.

    Image Credit (MorgueFile)

Managing Project Documents

This article series will assist you in developing and executing document control policies and procedures for various documents used in project management.
  1. Tips for Managing Document Version Control
  2. Best Practices for Document Control Procedures