The document control process is the workflow of your documents as defined by your company's policies.
But what is a process? The process is “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.”
A document control process ensures there is only ever one master version of each document present within a system, and that each document has a full version history associated with it.
The document control process involves:
- The types of documents involved
- Document identification
- Document version control
- Document authoring
- Controlled and uncontrolled document copies
- Reviewing documents
- Approval routing, storing and retrieving
- Access control
- Retention and disposal
- Change control
- Maintaining document security
- Developing and supporting an approval process
- Regulating document submission
Steps for Starting a Document Control System
These are the fundamental steps in developing a document control system for your company:
1. Identify Documents
Identify all the documents that the document control system will handle. Control is essential for documents containing sensitive or private information and those with legal importance or requiring rigorous version control. Controlled document by document controller must be found in document storage.
2. Establish Quality Standards
Establish the document's standard operating procedure and the requirements to be satisfied. Determine who is in charge of each document's approval and monitoring.
3. Name Your Documents
Give your documents distinct yet straightforward identification. You should categorize documents in document storage based on their intended use or department. In the case of an audit, this will be useful for accessing documents utilizing search features.
4. Create Revisions Procedures
Establishing a system for frequent modifications of your documents is part of document control, including who has the authority to make changes. Maintain a spreadsheet with the document title, responsible staff members, review dates, and descriptions of the modifications.
5. Manage access
Security is a vital aspect of document control, especially when dealing with sensitive or personal information. Access control should be included in your document control system so that only authorized individuals have access to the material. There should also be a backup system.
6. Establish Archiving Procedures
You must preserve obsolete files or, in certain situations, delete them to guarantee proper version control. Create methods to accomplish this. As part of your naming convention, you should be able to mark documents as old or outdated.
Document Control Process
You should perform the following steps in your control process:
1. Document Creation
The process of making a new document is very crucial. Include who is in charge of creating each document. You should also include naming conventions which can consist of information about how the document is structured, titled, and other technical aspects.
The first stage in a product's life-cycle is creating a document that specifies or designs some essential part of the product. However, developing such documents (with drafts shared across many platforms) is frequently prone to errors and omissions, which may influence product quality or success in the future. In addition, with numerous individuals commenting on and adding to a document, it's possible to overlook vital input, overwrite critical information, and become lost in multiple revisions as it's shared and updated in real-time.
Email is renowned for this type of breakdown, and Google Docs makes it too simple to generate new versions of documents without others seeing them. Documents must be able to be the following to be adequately regulated when they are created:
- Located in a secure yet easily accessible central digital repository
- Unauthorized editing is prohibited.
- Only persons who have been nominated may examine and comment on the document.
- Owned by a single person who has the authority to approve or refuse modifications as needed.
2. Document Review and Approval
These processes should specify which documents need to be reviewed and by whom. Include information on how reviews are documented and signed off on. You must examine documents for correctness by quality assurance guidelines.
Document control system must include the following features to be effective in controlling documents by document controller:
- Mechanisms for approving a complete organization or individuals nominated by the organization
- Workflows have been developed for consistent approval processes.
- Reminders and notices through email to keep documents moving through the system
- Capability for 'collective publishing' of documents subject to individual file approval
3. Document Revision
Following the initial review and approval processes, procedures for changes should include who is accountable for them and how they are carried out and recorded. Older versions of the document become obsolete/archived after modification.
Documents that have been finalized and accepted frequently require modifications in the future. The document control processes will determine the process for document modifications. The processes specify who can begin or request adjustments and who can carry them out. Document revision levels, publish date, document owner, and following review date are all maintained during the document's lifespan. After modifications are drafted, they go through an approval process comparable to or identical to the initial document review and approval process. The document control technique also specifies how a document is recognized based on its revision.
When a document must be updated or renewed, you may require replacement. Specify who is in charge of updating and replacing the external documents and disposal processes for the previous version by using effective document management.
5. Document Publishing
Once a document is finalized and accepted, the document control procedures specify how and where it will be released and who will have access to it. For example, publishing requirements may determine if a document is published internally or externally, where a document is made available, what security limitations apply to a document, and so on.
6. Integration of an External Document
External documents introduced into the document control system will require their integration procedures, covering how they are recognized, labeled, evaluated, and amended and who has access to them.
7. Document Obsoleting
Another critical process detailed in the document control system is obverting documents or removal from availability. Obsolete documents (or the content they reference) can be identified by date or become obsolete when they are replaced.
Some documents, especially in the regulated business, must be retained in perpetuity to record the history of your product development for corporate knowledge exchange and auditing reasons. On the other hand, other documents might not need to be kept for as long and may even have a legislative restriction on how long they can be saved.
Once you've established that your policy fulfills the basic regulatory standards, your system should assist you in determining suitable retention durations for various types of documents using a risk-based approach.
Obsolete documents can clog your systems, making searches more difficult and negatively harming performance needlessly. Furthermore, additional storage expenses are associated with maintaining other documents, which you can avoid with proactive management.
- Control the efficiency of your Document Management System (effective document control)
- Avoid unneeded document sprawl and storage expenditures.
The Benefits of an Efficient Control Process
Implementing a document control system has many benefits for businesses:
- More convenient access to documents
- Fewer mistakes
- Lower operational expenses
- More efficient operations
- Fewer hours wasted
- Enhanced data security
- Improved compliance
- Improved quality control
- Increased client satisfaction
A fundamental advantage of document control methods is ensuring that the proper, up-to-date, and approved document is used. Out-of-date or false documents can be a big worry and result in some of compliance programs' most common audit results. Unfortunately, these are just a few avoidable audit results that might emerge without document control measures in document management.
Who Is in Charge of the Control Process?
Document control processes are often assigned to an individual or group of employees. This involves being in charge of the Document Control Procedures Manual.
Solutions Using Control Process
Document control methods are supported by numerous components of a document management system. Some of the most frequent ones in document control are:
- Revision control is keeping a record of every change and modification that occurs.
- Audit logging is documenting every operation that occurs on a file.
- Security is deciding who has access to a file and what actions they may take.
- Workflow entails electronically routing files for examination and digital approval.
What Exactly Is Document Control Software?
Document control software enables the digital management of a document control system. It aids in the streamlining and automation of procedures, as well as the maintenance of central control and record-keeping.
A document control system should ideally be administered by centralized, cloud-based software. This can help to avoid misunderstanding, unauthorized access, data breaches, and version problems.
It also assures that the system is available at all times and from any location.
In this article, we covered what is document control, document control processes, document control system, document control procedure and effective document control systems. We also explained systems' and process' efficiency and features.
If you are new to document management and are looking to learn more, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of managing technical documentation.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He had his first job in technical writing for a video editing software company in 2014. Since then, he has written several books on software documentation, personal branding, and computer hacking. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.