What is document version control?

What you’ll learn:


Version control is a way of organising the folder system within your business, so documents are filed and recorded in an easy to trace order. It can be immensely useful for a range of different industries. 

What is document version control?

Version control allows you to monitor and track the different versions of a document over time.


It helps you to keep on top of how a document has changed and developed. Each time the document is modified, the version control number is updated, which lets you know that you’re looking at the latest version.


Version control is especially helpful when working in a digital industry, when lots of people may be working in a document at once. It allows each contributor to understand the reviewing process and retrospectively see how a document has evolved and who has made changes.


It can also be used in software creation for the same purpose.

Why is version control of documents important?

Version control of documents is important for businesses, as it allows multiple people to work on the same document at once. It also means you always know which copy is the most recent version and don’t waste time editing or looking at old information.


For a business, it’s important to be clear on which documents were created at a particular time. This is so you can check back to see what policy was in place. Version control makes this a quick and easy task, allowing you to track which changes were made, when, and by who.


What are the benefits of version control?

Having a solid version control system in place has multiple benefits for your business.


Tracking the latest version


Keeping up to date with a document is key. If not, you could be making changes to an out of date document and wasting time. It also helps to make sure you’re referring to the latest version, if you need to send a document to a supplier or customer.


Avoid duplication of work


Version control means you can check back to see which changes have already been made, which can save you time and prevent work being duplicated.


This tends to happen when more than one person is working on a document and confusion ensues over whose job it is to work on which section. With a clear version control system in place, you can prevent these misunderstandings from happening.


Reduced errors


There are lots of situations where sending the incorrect version of a document can be costly. A good example is sending an invoice with the wrong cost – which could result in your business getting paid the wrong amount. Version control reduces the number of errors and makes for a more efficient and productive workflow.


Clarity for multiple users


When a document has many different collaborators, it can be confusing to know which version of the document you should be working on. With version control, people will automatically know which document they should be working on. You, as a business owner, can then see when key decisions were made along the way.


Monitor changes from different team members


Version control allows you to check back and see who made changes to the document and when. This is helpful when you’re working out of office hours and saves you time trying to work out who has made which changes, without being able to speak to them.



Version control naming convention examples

There are several different naming conventions you can use when version controlling documents.


The right one for your business will depend on a few different factors, including how many employees you have and the number of documents you want to keep track of. Below are a few examples of version control naming conventions which may be suitable for your business.


File naming conventions


The simplest way to version control documents is with file naming conventions. For example:


  • Managementpolicy_v0
  • Managementpolicy_v2


This works well when you have a small amount of documents and there aren’t many people working on them (fewer than ten). It’s also vital you update the version number on the header and footers of the documents to prevent any confusion at a later stage.


Version numbers


For documents that need more attention, or lots of stages of development, version numbering can be extremely useful.


For this you would change the whole number to reflect major changes to the document and edit the decimal point to reflect minor amendments – such as spelling and grammatical amends.


For example these would look like:


  • Managementpolicy_v0.2
  • Managementpolicy_v2.4


Version control and document control tables


Creating a version control and document control table is a great idea, if you have a lot of documents or multiple people reviewing and amending them. Each reviewer should add the version number, author name, date and changes they made to the version control sheet.


Additionally, a document control sheet can be created to oversee the process. This tracks the status of each individual document, so you can instantly see where each document in a batch is in the review process. This sheet should include the following information:


  • Document Title
  • Version Number
  • Author(s) (name, job title and division)
  • Date Approved
  • Document Status
  • Effective Date
  • Approved By
  • Superseded Version
  • Date of Next Review

Why keep old versions of the same file?


It’s useful to have access to past versions of a document if there is ever a question about a change of policy that it covers.


Not only is it good to track changes to the information within a document, but it can also be handy to keep old versions to check who made which changes at a later date. Another way it can be beneficial, is if a situation changes and what was proposed at an earlier date is now relevant again.


How can you implement a version control strategy?

There are countless ways you can use version control when managing documents. We’ve outlined just some of the ways you can implement a successful version control strategy at your workplace.


Naming conventions


Having strict naming conventions is one of the top ways to ensure document control works. It must be consistent and clear to all employees who are accessing your files.


If you’re planning to use naming conventions as the main way to version your files, then you’ll need to make sure this is defined too, so employees follow the correct process each time. Using naming conventions tends to work best for smaller businesses who have fewer documents to keep track of.


Information architecture


Information architecture is the name used for the system of folders you use to store your documents in. Usually, the best way to manage this is using a shared file storage system, which allows approved people access to the folders.


Once you’ve assigned people who have permissions to access the folders, you’ll have to teach them the structure and rules of the folder system. This also allows you to ensure files aren’t altered without permission and that they are saved down securely.


Version control software


Version control software comes in many shapes and forms. Using a programme like Adobe Acrobat can help you stay on top of your documents with ease.


One of the best ways to do this is by switching to PDFs when documents are on a final version. This helps to maintain a latest version and signifies to the user this is the finished document they need to use.


Using PDFs can also be really handy for document sharing. This works by allowing you to send a final PDF, get comments on it from the reviewer, update the document and then change the file name. Discover the power of Acrobat today.

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