Document Version Control

Track document changes, capture key decisions and document the reviewing process

 

 

Document Version Control

Track document changes, capture key decisions and document the reviewing process

 

Document Version Control

Track document changes, capture key decisions and document the reviewing process

What is Document Version Control Software?

Version control is helpful in a digital collaborative environment, where a number of different contributors may be working on the development of a document and it is important to track changes, capture key decisions and document the reviewing process. Document version control software (a.k.a. revision control software) automatically recognizes new versions of a document as it’s entered into the system. The software assigns the next available version number, based on the organization’s versioning scheme, while automatically archiving the previous version. With document version control software there’s no need to rename files or append version designators. While other version control tools only use file names for versioning, our EDMS solution lets you define the parameters that make sense for creating a new major version of a file.

 

Why do you need Document Version Control?

Tracking all changes to a document or a drawing may be necessary for some files but may not be needed for others.  So how do you decide which files need to be controlled and which do not.  There isn’t an easy answer, but those files where there are substantive changes or changes that trigger an action, assignment, notification, or resource requirement should be version controlled. Maintaining older versions of documents for audit trails can be helpful for workflow analysis and during periods of contention, or even litigation.  In addition, many industries have regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA, that mandate if every change needs to be saved and for how long.

Since it’s often subjective as to what is “substantive,” it often becomes easier to just keep every change.  When existing backup requirements are considered, this can mean collecting and keeping a tremendous amount of data (especially if including emails), not to speak of the effort required to find the right version.  A rule of thumb is to not manually version control a file, or file type, if it will take you more than a minute to find a back rev or it is highly unlikely that anyone would ever need a previous version of the document or drawing.

9 Benefits of Implementing a Document Version Control Software
9 Benefits of Implementing Document Version Control Software

Types of Document Version Control

 

Local Document Version Control Software

Local document version control systems track changes to files locally, meaning the documents are stored on a user’s local device and are versioned either manually or automatically by the computer’s operating system. Local document version control is rudimentary in comparison to the functionality provided by document management version control software, as it leaves ample room for error when renaming or overwriting files or creating duplicate files.

 

Centralized Document Version Control Software

Centralized document version control systems utilize a single server and accommodates all the versioned files.  The centralized server enables users to view file versions across locations and update version numbers in a centralized location as a file or document is changed.  Using a centralized system ensures a single source of truth across teams, departments, locations, and organizations.

 

How Does Version Control Work?

Whether you have paper files in a folder, an email thread you keep responding to, or a Windows folder with various copies of a file, you are inherently accomplishing version control.  The problem with these forms of version control are it’s often difficult to find the back versions (hereafter referred to as back revisions or back revs) or ensure the applicable version is the most current version.  Many times, the additional work to identify the appropriate back revision is so daunting that individuals give up or don't even try. Think about trying to find the applicable email you sent over several months ago and what it takes to find it, especially if you don’t remember the exact date.

So, automating the execution and control of versioning of documents and drawings can save significant frustration, and often reduce the amount of rework performed to recreate a drawing, memo, specification etc. Fortunately, there are systems available with version control functionality or change tracking. Typically, any system other than a rudimentary document management system will provide some degree of version control and management capabilities.

Basic file version control allows users or system administrators to establish if they want an electronic file to be “versioned.”  Upon saving of the file, a copy is made and either given an updated name or is provided with an additional designation signifying the version number or level (often a parenthetical number).  Finding previous versions means either looking in the files, parent folder or using a search capability utilizing an internal index.

More sophisticated systems provide additional versioning features and functionality, including, but not limited to:

 

  • Major and minor reversioning schemas
  • Naming conventions based on formatting rules and version settings
  • Back revision management, access control, and retention
  • Markups and redlines and comments associated with each version
  • Different versioning protocols, by file type
  • Visualization of version changes.

Using Naming Conventions

Another obstacle in manual versioning of files is establishing a naming convention to be used by everyone that is well understood and easy to enforce.  Many organizations have relatively strict policies on when and how to name files upon being saved.  Even in these instances, there are those who won’t adequately follow policy, don’t fully understand the naming convention, get confused when multiple versions exist, or when back revs need to be updated while newer versions exist.

Even simple naming hierarchies such as adding a 1,2,3 can get confusing and become A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 (the addition of a space before the number), or.1,.2,.3, etc.  Systems that require the word FINAL or COMPLETE or CURRENT also fail due to human error.

Engineering document management software with advanced versioning capabilities tend to offer good solutions for naming of file and file versions, from automatically adding suffixes, only making the most current version visible, and/or creating file display names different from the actual native file name.  Use of major and minor suffixes such as A.1, or 2-a, that are automatically generated, provide clear distinguishing names as the file is modified over time.

 

Managing Back Versions

Establishing back revs of documents and drawings is only helpful if the individual searching for a particular version can easily find it.  All too often, even when appropriate back revs have been kept, individuals give up trying to find the right copy and either redo changes based on memory or reach out to others who may have a copy (such as through saved emails).

And simply finding the right back rev may not be enough as questions of what was changed, who made the changes, and when the changes were made come to the forefront.  A good engineering document management system will track and be able to report on all these various elements of back revs.

In addition, it’s critically important that when back revs are found and either displayed or printed that the visual image clearly indicated the document or drawing is a back rev with appropriate disclaimers.  Worse than not having access to back revs is having copies not sufficiently marked as an old revision which can cause substantial confusion and errors.

 

Handling Markups/Redlines

Documents and drawings may get handwritten or system annotations during their lifecycle.  It’s very valuable to be able to retrieve these markups and redlines (i.e., annotations) and associate them to the applicable version of a document or drawing.  Most word processing and publishing systems provide a means to insert annotations to a file, but don’t carry the changes forward, or if they do, can’t turn them on and off which can create havoc when actually viewing the document or drawing.

Being able to view and print theses annotations is a useful feature (for some organizations it is even critical).  But making sure the applicable annotations get associated to the right version is mandatory.  Think of the potential confusion caused by a “Remove This” entry linked to an incorrect version.

 

Version Control vs. Document Management. Why you need both?

Document version control, is the administration and management of documents (both digital and paper), including security, version control, approval, and storage. Document management, on the other hand, is the process of storing, managing, and distributing documents.  It simply includes all of the ways that teams collaborate with their files. To maintain a competitive edge in today’s market, organizations need a robust engineering document management solution with both features.

Version control can be highly configurable, as versioning schemes can be changed depending on an organization’s preferred system. Version schemes can be numerical, alphabetical, or alphanumerical, and remain consistent throughout the system, or can vary by project. Versions can also be established on more than just a common file name or number to establish both major and minor versions of documents.

While document version control was initially used in software development, it can now be seen in engineering, construction, and new product development. Today, any engineering-based organization can benefit from using a version control system, as it allows them to stay organized and in-control of their essential workflows while ensuring correct versions of files are being used.  Engineering workflow and document management systems incorporate document version control as a way to help organizations manage every aspect of their company workflows from conceptual design to production.

Information workers and IT professionals spend an average of 4.5 hours a week searching for documents.

Source: IDC Information Worker Survey

Document Version Control for Engineering

As engineering projects are becoming more complex, the need for Version Control grows. ImageSite and Engine-Box allow engineers, technicians, administrative staff, and developers to use the check-out and check-in functionality to work on projects with assurance that existing versions cannot be edited concurrently with their changes, though users can view and download files being revised by others, if authorized to do so.

Additionally, document version control improves collaboration by permitting users to share and edit versions from any location, on any desktop or mobile device, making it simple for engineers to communicate between design and development centers.

 

CAD File Version Control

In conjunction with document version control, ImageSite and Engine-Box include a check-out/check-in feature that locks the file in the system to ensure a single source of truth across the organization. Checking out documents prevents accidental overwrites, eliminating duplicated efforts and rework.

Organizations can use the systems’ CAD Connectors to open and edit a CAD file within its native application while maintaining document version integrity.  When a file is checked-in, and if a new revision is created, the system ensures all file reference relationships are maintained, eliminating the need for users to manually re-establish these relationships.

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Document Version Control for SMBs

Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may not always see the value in using a document version control system, however, these systems provide a number of benefits for growing organizations. Growth-oriented businesses profit from implementing a version control system early, as expansion inevitably leads to an increase in complexity, and erroneous actions, making it difficult to locate back revisions or historical files when needed. Fortunately, organizations can mitigate many of these challenges using a solution like a robust document version control system.

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Document Version Control for Business Enterprises

A business enterprise can immediately benefit from a document version control system, as it enables their remote workforce to collaborate over drawings and documents across multiple locations knowing they are using the most current and approved documents.  Since a document version control system automatically associate version numbers to each document as changes are made, organizations can effortlessly control new document versions throughout the company and visit back revisions when needed.

Ensuring Accuracy and Eliminating Errors

An EDMS with version control capabilities ensures accuracy, eliminating errors from using wrong drawing versions, and making it easier to manage file versions as changes are made to a document, increasing efficiency and productivity and reducing rework.  All back revisions can be stored and retrieved at any time, if the user has permission, eliminating the risk of losing valuable information that may be needed in older document versions.

Meeting Security Standards

Document version control software is also a must for system security compliance, helping to secure ISO 9001 and NIST and ITAR compliances, and by establishing audit trails of document actions made over time.

eQuorum®

We specialize in engineering workflow and document management. Our comprehensive, yet easy-to-use software provides the solution to manage data from design to manufacturing and production, to sales, support and administration.

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