Document Management

The Why

As individuals, we modify and store documents with a clear understanding of our final vision for the document and the ability to pick up where we left off without concerns about it changing while we were away from it. But when a team is sharing editing responsibilities, it's important to prevent loses that can result when two or more people save the document to the same location (same folder, using the same name).

Consider this scenario:

Karen chooses to edit the same document that Susan is editing. She copies the file from the library, makes her changes, then copies the new version to the library. In the meantime, Susan has been making changes, and finally copies her version to the library.

What happened to Karen's changes? They're lost. Overwritten.

To avoid this kind of loss, we 'check out' files to take temporary ownership, which precludes others from being able to make simultaneous changes.

Simultaneous Editing

Some web providers like Google have created the ability to simultaneously edit the same document, but there are pitfalls to this approach. One issue is the ability for two or more editors to use the have the same general idea, but implement it in different places or in different ways in the document, not recognizing the other is developing the same idea. Checking out the document allows the temporary owner full control to complete their changes without interference.

Regulatory Mandates

There are several reasons to consider carefully managing corporate documentation, including common sense means to save time and dollars, safety concerns, and legal/regulatory issues. Control of financially pertinent documentation is governed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), and regulations governing healthcare-related industries such as HIPAA and a series of mandates collectively referred to as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) indicate the necessity to avoid careless document management when it comes to development of healthcare products and services.

Our Solution

Our website incorporates a simple document management system that enables check-outs. It also provides the means to indicate development states (see 'Document States' below). These states make it clear to those referring to the documents whether the information is fully developed and officially sanctioned or not.

All official documents should use these states as they're developed, and we can anticipate that documents may go through these states, be finalized, and then updated again later. During these later updates, the organization should be careful to only refer to the final version which had previously been approved while the new revisions are being made to avoid confusion. Document states can be used to indicate approved versions.

Here's how to use the document management system.

Modify an Existing Document

Once logged into the website, the user will see a dashboard with options for actions to be taken, where the documents repository resides:

To work on a document already in the repository, take these steps (click on the diagram below to see it full-size, then use the browser back button to return):

Add a Document

Develop Your Document

Develop your document. You can check it in while it's in progress if you want others to see it, but remember to keep it checked out as long as you're not finished drafting. Remember, too, that there's a timeout on the website login, so if you work on the document for several days, you're likely to get logged out, and while the last version of your document will still be stored on the site, it will no longer be checked out to you.

Check In Your Document

Having navigated to the Documents page, click the 'Add Document' button next to the page title. This will open a page where fields for the document title and description should be entered (and kept short, but descriptive), along with choosing the Current State of the document (see 'Document States,' below).

Document States & Transitions

Here are the states in which a controlled document can reside.

  • In Progress: document is being drafted.
  • Under Review: final draft document is being reviewed for approval and is not being changed.
  • Approved: document has been approved by all reviewers. This is the 'Final' state in which it is officially published.
  • Superseded: document version has been replaced by a new Approved version. The document owner must manually change the state from Approved to Superseded when the newly Approved version is in play. (If the user finds two Approved versions in the repository, use the latest one.)
  • Abrogated: document is obsolete and will not be replaced.

Mark the Document

The footer of the document should show version and state of the document, or if a footer isn't possible these data should be shown elsewhere. This can be accomplished with a date/timestamp and the state term itself, such as '03/14/2024 03:04 p.m. -- In Progress.' Note the timestamp should be manually added, rather than using an automatically updated field or macro, such as date() or 'date printed,' since this date will reflect the time viewed or printed rather than when the document was last modified.

While changing the footer technically qualifies as modifications to the document, it isn't a change requiring reviewer approval, and can be achieved after a document is approved (i.e., when an Under Review document becomes Approved).

Don't Delete a Document

In this document repository, a document should never be deleted. Keeping all versions of a document prevents inadvertent loss and allows for historical reviews. While the option to delete can be seen to be present in the system, it should not be used. When a document is no longer useful and won't be replaced with a new version, the state is changed to Abrogated.

Controlled vs. Non-controlled

The above procedures are used for documents which are maintained by the organization primarily as procedural references, or which control how the organization is managed. These include policies, processes, and procedures, grant proposals, and the like which are often owned by one role but require team approvals.

Other types of documentation will be kept which do not require the same level of control, such as logs or databases which will constantly change and are never considered final. Such documents or files aren't kept in the document repository.


updated: 2024-03-23 4:14 p.m. -- In Progress