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Nathan Eisner
Nathan Eisner, COO

You’ve probably experienced the frustration of making edits to a document and submitting it to someone, only for them to say, “Oh, wait. Edit this one instead. Jim added his edits to the older version.” “What?” you scream. That means you need to go back to the older version, incorporate Jim’s changes, and then reincorporate your changes. What a waste of time!

Modern document management systems include versioning—a method of keeping track of various versions of documents as edits are made along the way. Versioning provides a host of benefits that get rid of a lot of document editing headaches. Since versioning is one of the key features of a document management system, we’re listing a few of the biggest benefits in this article.

  1. Locking documents when people edit them. One of the biggest problems with document editing is non-sequential, overlapping edits by people. It’s the situation described in the introduction of this post where Jim edits a previous version of a document while you were supposed to be editing it. With document versioning, when you are editing the document, Jim cannot edit it. Not only that, but he’ll know that someone is currently editing and making changes to the document, and he’ll have to wait until those changes are made before he can look at the document again.
  2. Returning to previous versions of the document. It’s human for someone to edit a document and make such major, unwanted changes that you want to return to a previous version. Instead of scrambling to find it in your email inbox or personal file folders, your document management system can store all previous versions. With this feature, you can check what was edited, who edited it, and restore a previous version if needed. Versioning not only works as a form of backup, but it also adds a measure of document security and quality assurance to your content creation process.
  3. Archiving all previous versions for reference. Not only do previous versions help when you need to backtrack during your editing process, but they are also there for reference when people need to look at the history of a document’s edits. If a document is challenged or called into question, archived versions show the edits, the rationale behind the edits, and who edited the document. This is also a better option than storing a chaotic mess of previous versions of documents manually labeled (e.g. file-v1, file-v2, file-v1_jim_edits, file-revised-updated, etc.).
  4. Pointing to the most recent version of a document. If everyone knows that there is one, and only one, most up-to-date version of the document, then you will eliminate the problem of people editing different versions. Also, you’ll no longer have duplicate documents flying around people’s email inboxes and which create long-term problems for document management. Without document versioning, different people with different documents upload slightly different versions of the same document, leading to confusion about what’s the most current version.
  5. Collaborating without interfering or competing. Without document versioning and clear document management processes, you might find yourself in a document editing “war” that is supposedly collaboration. When collaboration is really just fighting to edit a document first or uploading your document with separate edits, then you’re not collaborating. Document versioning allows you to make edits clearly seen by all, and you can either edit at the same time with each person’s changes clearly seen or just edit separately and pass along to the next person when it’s time.

Once cities get the hang of document versioning, it becomes an essential feature of document management that helps out the workflow process when editing. Nightmares go away. No more wondering who has the most recent document, or if you should be editing it or not. Plus, it’s nice to know where to find the most recent version, stored in a convenient, centralized location where everyone has access to it.

If you’d like to talk more about document versioning, please contact us.

Original Date: 3/25/2014