Like a Version

Last time on Colludo, I discussed keeping a document in one place. But who cares where the document resides if you have a kickass search solution, right? Never mind that. This time I want to explore some ideas around determining which version of a working document is the current version.

“George, please send me the Donor Acknowledgement policy document.”

George locates the document after some drilling through the network file system or rifling through his email or (heaven forbid) crawling on his hands and knees among piles of paper file folders. There it is. Sent.

“That’s not the latest copy, George. Send me the new one!”

Sound familiar?

With reams of documents “crossing our desk”, as it were, how do we keep versions of those documents straight? It’s hard enough just keeping the distinct documents themselves straight, right?

Well, some knowledge workers use complex systems to keep their document versions in order. For example, some people label documents version 1,2,3 or V1,V2,V3 etc. A system like that can work, but it takes effort to maintain and it’s open to human error. Also, a system of manually labeling versions is reliant on the versioner and in this example, that’s a person. What if George is on holidays for the entire month of July? Who will take care of the versioning? And, if we need something, how will we decode George’s versioning system in order to find relevant documents.

The answer is automation. If you save your document in one place and turn on version control, then your documents can be saved one on top of the other. SharePoint handles this quite nicely. Each version of a document can be treated like a separate document, but the most recent (or the most current – there can be a difference) document is always surfaced first to the end users. No more confusion about which document is the correct document.

Need to compare two versions to view the difference. Office 2010/2013 can do a comparison for you.

Perhaps you require a working version and a published version. This is quite easily accomplished too. That way, you can wordsmith your policy document while employees continue to see the most recently published version.

I’m not saying that an automated versioning system is fool-proof. In fact, proper use of version control takes some training and experience. While the concepts are relatively simple, offices are not. When many workers get together to collaborate on documents even the most elegant automated versioning system is prone to occasional breakdown.

My suggestion is that you have a system with rules and experienced people to ensure that versioning is controlled. The alternative is wasted time just trying to determine the correct version of your documents.