What is Document Control?
Document Control is a system for knowing which documents there in an an organisation and which is the most up to date. According to Wikipedia:
The following are important aspects of document control:
- reviewing and approving documents prior to release
- reviews and approvals
- changes and revisions are clearly identified
- relevant versions of applicable documents are available at their “points of use”
- documents remain legible and identifiable
- ensuring that external documents (such as customer-supplied documents or supplier manuals) are identified and controlled
- preventing “unintended” use of obsolete documents
Choosing a version name convention
There are no rules here except consistency. A common solution is to use simple numbering. Version 1, 1.1, 1.2 for small changes and Version 2 when there are major updates. Another simple method is to use the dates. 220303 would be March 3, 2022. This is easy to work out when a file is the latest because the numbering shows that.
Depending on the legal requirements for your documents, you might need to also have an individual number for your document itself. Perhaps this is an obvious title for the document, or a numbering system. Below is an example of using the document name as part of version control and a separate form name system.
Including the number on the document for document control
The number doesn’t have to be very big but it should be on the document somewhere. For example: putting the document control number in the bottom left hand on the cover page. It is easy to check it against the document control register to see if this is the latest version.
It is also incredibly useful to have the document control version number on your documents so you can determine versions on printed materials. And if you ever need to make changes to a document, it is easy to find the original document since it contains a document number. Otherwise, if you send out very similar (but updated) files regularly, you might not know which document you are interacting with when printed. By having that number on the document, you can find that document again.
Document Control table inside of document
Below is an example table you might want to include inside your document.
In this table, it is very clear what each version number is, the date of each version, who is the author and room for a comment. It is clear when you look up this table what each of the versions where. The bonus of having this within the document itself is it makes it easy to know for sure what version number this document is because it must be included in this table.
An archive folder
If you remember the last dot point from the start of this article: document control helps prevent “unintended” use of obsolete documents. To this end, another simple tip I can share is having an archive folder. This is where you put any superseded, or obsolete versions of files so that you never get confused as to which file is the latest. When you look at your file system, it can be clean with each document clearly named in your folder, with all old versions “hidden” inside the archive folder. The issue of accidentally using the wrong file is eliminated if all the wrong files are “hidden”. By having an archive folder (as opposed to deletion) is that you continue to have access to the old files. You might need to revert or look up something from an old version number at some stage.