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How Important Is Document Control Management? Examples And Steps

June 1, 2022
Author
Inkit Team

Document control management is not something new. It has always been part of organizational practice, albeit not as a dedicated role or task. 

Organizations used to keep and manage records and documents manually. 

Today, businesses, ones that manage a high volume of data and records, carry out document control and management digitally

With the fast-paced way of doing business nowadays, it is easy for documents to get lost in the flurry of papers that change hands in an organization or office. 

Fortunately, there is a better way. With document automation and document control management, operational teams benefit greatly.

From version control to document distribution, document automation can be a blessing to operations teams, as we’re about to cover below.

Here’s what you’ll learn: 

  • What Is Document Control And How Does It Work?
  • How Does Document Management Work In Operations Teams?
  • Top 7 Benefits Of Document Management

What Is Document Control And How Does It Work?

Document control ensures the reliability and validity of documents used in business or operations teams.

Typically, this involves checking that they are updated and have undergone review and approval. It also means keeping verifiable records of activities surrounding their creation and modification.

Developing and enforcing standards in document creation, review, approval, distribution, revision, and accessibility are crucial parts of document control.

Depending on the size of the organization and the volume of data and documents involved, document control can be an additional task for existing staff or a dedicated and defined role for a group or groups of people.

Here’s why this matters.

Why is document control important?

First, it is important to avoid using outdated, incorrect, and inaccurate information and procedures that may affect the services an organization provides. 

Then, risk avoidance is also an essential part of document generation.

This can lead to internal or external costs in terms of material, workforce, and time that you may need to rectify errors resulting from incorrect information. In more critical operations, like engineering or construction industries, it can be a measure to ensure the safety of employees. 

Imagine buying materials based on an outdated list or manufacturing products from an old client's specifications because of confusion and delay in circulating the latest version of reference documents. You can avoid costly mistakes like these with an efficient and effective document control system.

Document control has also become necessary to ensure compliance with external quality certifications such as the ISO (International Organization for Standardization).

ISO 9001:2015 requires that organizations control the documents needed for the quality management system. Records are a special type of document and must be controlled as provided by clause 7.5.    

It says that organizations must establish a documented procedure to:

  • Approve documents for adequacy prior to issue.
  • Review, update as necessary, and re-approve documents.
  • Identify the changes and current document revision status.
  • Make relevant documents available at points of use.
  • Ensure that documents remain legible and readily identifiable.
  • Identify external documents and control their distribution.
  • Prevent obsolete documents from unintended use.
  • Apply suitable identification if obsolete documents are retained.

For a more detailed overview of ISO compliance, see the ISO 9001 document control requirements

Additionally, according to Finances Online, some of the biggest productivity losses due to manual document management include:

  • Professionals who risk losing files over email or miscommunication.
  • Employees who have to manually recreate missing documents from the company network.
  • Time lost in preparing documents manually.
  • Spending too much time on having a contract signed.
  • Productivity loss due to document issues or human negligence.
graphic that shows all the losses due to manual document management

What tasks does document control include?

Typically, in most organizations, document control tasks and procedures include:

  • Version control.
  • Document review.
  • Revision.
  • Approval.
  • Distribution.
  • Cancellation of replaced documents.

Now, let’s take a look at each document control step in detail. 

Version Control

Version Control is a system of managing the different versions of a document and using only the latest version across organizations or groups. It involves keeping records of why, how, and when the document was created and the revisions made through time. Each version must have a clear and unique identifying number and name. 

Relevant information on who made and approved the revisions and the validity date must be recorded.

History records must be readily available whenever needed, whether for review or audit.

Version control is crucial in project management involving a high volume of data and where many revisions are typically made during project implementation.

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Document review

Before a document is finalized, either at the creation or the revision stage, each must undergo review for quality, compliance with standards, and applicability in all relevant areas of application.

A standard review process will help avoid confusion and prevent delays. It is the task of document controllers to develop a review process suitable for their operation.

Revision

Revision is a mechanism on how a revision can be initiated and deemed completed must also be in place. It must undergo the same level of scrutiny as when the original document was created.

Approval

The document must be properly approved by proper authorities or users in an organization or project. Otherwise, it will not be considered valid and thus, cannot be circulated.

This is also why user role setup and management is important. For added security, you can make it so that only specific people can view, open, or edit the document. Based on confidentiality, feature access, and more.

Distribution

The relevant parties must be promptly identified, notified, and given a copy of the new or newly revised version. Timeliness of distribution is just as important as the content of the document.

Cancellation of replaced documents

You may stamp old versions of the paper documents to avoid confusion and costly errors. 

In the case of digital documents, the document controller must ensure that only the current version is available for use. Old versions must, however, be stored for reference.

Now, to take a more practical approach to document control, let’s take a look at some real-life document examples of this.

Examples of documents that need control management

These are some of the documents that have to be controlled as they contain standards needed in various aspects and areas of business operation:

  1. Policies 
  2. Standard Operating Procedures
  3. Product specifications, design specifications, etc
  4. Regulatory Requirements
  5. Manual
  6. Client information and records
  7. Validation and qualification documents
  8. Contracts and other legal documents
  9. Forms and templates
  10. Documents that are often revised
  11. Other documents contain information critical to the operation. 

How Does Document Management Work In Operations Teams?

Having a strong document management process streamlined in your organization means your entire organization will know the status of any document, as needed.

They'll be able to check where exactly a document is stored, which stage it is in the review process, what needs to be added, and if there are any other actions needed.

For any kind of project management that relies on documentation, this is essential.

For example, for financial teams, this can include:

  • Invoices and bills.
  • Cash receipts.
  • Financial statements.
  • Tax documents.
  • And more.

With healthcare organizations, documentation often covers:

  • Medical test results and reports.
  • Patient information records.
  • Patient billing records.
  • Hospital discharge forms.
  • And more.

Another important aspect of document generation (and control) has to do with compliance.

Now, let’s cover some more benefits of document control management in detail.

Top 7 Benefits Of Document Management

Document management offers many advantages for the organization, such as the following:

1. Better access to information

With all information and documents in the system, remote access can save your day if you are not physically present in the workplace or your inputs or approval are required on a document.

2. Easier tracking and locating of documents 

With indexing, filters, and search features, it is much easier to track and locate documents when you need them. Rummaging through stacks of paper and folders for a missing file can be time and labor-consuming. 

Document management can make it available at the flick of your fingers. Additionally, you can use document tagging and proper naming structures to easily look up and manage documents as needed.

3. Improved productivity

With all information readily available, the operation can go faster and data analysis can be made easier. 

It minimizes snags in the workflow such as missing data or documents, or the physical absence of personnel required for an action in the flow.

4. Reduced operational cost

You can save on equipment and supplies (copier machine, paper, ink, and filing materials), storage space, and personnel time to print, copy and locate paper files.

5. Harmonized pacing with the rest of the industry

When the market demands it now, it doesn’t work to wait. 

When everything accelerates, you have no choice but to pick up speed to stay in the game. If competition is grabbing what technology offers and maximizing it, you better level up if you want to meet them head-on.

Not only has the market accelerated it has also expanded such that many have gone global.

6. Improved customer response time

The speed by which you can address concerns is crucial in customer service.

7. Good for the environment

Obviously, paper comes from trees. 

Less paper means fewer trees to be cut down.

For even more benefits, see our reasons to go paperless guide.

Conclusion

Business operations have accelerated fast with dramatic advancements in digital technology. 

With industry leaders getting ahead and taking advantage of what technology offers, it is just a matter of time before everybody else gets on with it.

With increased business activities, the volume of data and documents naturally follows. That’s where document control and management can become an asset to any organization, regardless of the industry.

Document control makes sure that you will not have to worry about the integrity and validity of the documents, no matter how fast-paced things get. 

Document management, on the other hand, ensures better data storage and security and makes information available to authorized people in your organization anytime, anywhere. 

Finally, if you’re looking for more information on document management and automation, be sure to also read:

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