Document Control and management is very important to every Company. It provides the means to share the correct information at the right time. The challenges faced by businesses are continually changing with additional variables being introduced all the time (e.g., changes in staffing, customer requirements, management requirements, legislation, etc.). As a result the following are examples of things that can go wrong and waste valuable time.
- Inability to search and quickly find desired documents.
- Administering one “single source” where all the latest and greatest version of a document can be found.
- Managing to rigorous internal and external compliance requirements.
- Managing and tracking each change to documents.
- Using the wrong version of a document.
- Confusion due to the documents lack of consistency.
- Unauthorized changes made and used in day to day operations.
- Non-value added administration time in managing directories, files, and emails in order to coordinate the approval and distribution process.
- Revision control and archival of previous versions.
The document control process put in place should support the necessary requirements placed on a Company from legislation, standards, legal liabilities, fiscal requirements, etc. It should include procedures that define the development of documents. While these procedures should not be a burden, they should be detailed and precise enough to provide
clear direction as to how documents should be prepared, completed and filed.
The procedures should include;
- How to plan new documents (authorization, establishing needs).
- How to prepare new documents (who prepares them, how they are drafted,
how drafts are maintained).
- Standards for the format and content of documents (forms, diagrams).
- Document identification review.
- Version control review.
- Dating review (date of review, approval, issue and revision).
- Document review (procedures; who reviews and evidence of review).
- Document approval (who approves and clear evidence of approval).
- Publication (what exactly is meant by “publishing” a document).
- Printing (who prints a document and any restrictions to printing).
- Distribution (how is a document distributed, who does it and who reviews it).
- Use of documents (limitations, unauthorized copying, access to files and
marking of printed copies).
- Revisions (identifying a need; who makes revisions, review and approval
process, how are changes marked).
- Amending issued documents (who creates amendments, review and approval
process, identification of amendments).
- Storing documents (location, security, access and prevention of
unauthorized changes, indexing, retrieval, restrictions concerning
paper documents vs electronic document files, authorized and unauthorized
external distribution and republishing).
Document Control Process:
Prior to preparing a document control process, an organization should prepare a policy that explicitly explains how the system is to work. This document should describe with precision the rules for how documents are to be created, reviewed, published, stored, and used.
A simple way to implement document control is to use a master list as the control mechanism. The list contains the same document control elements as does each document. The master list, however, is the governing instrument for the process.
If the master list is changed, affected documents must be changed to correspond to the master list.
In such a system, the master list is a particularly sensitive document once document control information is recorded and must be protected accordingly. The document control policy may include instructions for how the master list is to be managed.