The Clever Way of Managing Project Documents

Working with documents in organizations and projects can be complicated. Various document formats, e.g. Word files, PDFs, pictures and e-mails need to be managed. Depending on the scope of the project and the number of its contributors the number of documents will grow quickly, as will the degree of complexity. To boot, full traceability is standard in most projects, making matters even worse.

The Keys to Success are Document Names, So They Say

A lot of advice is available when it comes to document management. A sample: A uniform naming convention safes time and effort, and improves efficiency. No need to go on quests for needed documents!

What follows is an example of how such a naming convention might look like in real life:

Document names

What do you think: Is this a viable name for a document?

In the beginning there was a project name, followed by a project phase and a sub-project. Followed by a work package, the creation date, versioning and state. The result:

P-Introducing-XY2_Roll-Out_PM-Office_servertest_20141028_V1.2_final2.doc

What we seem to be confronted with here is a roll-out document for the introduction of new software called XY2, sub-project PM-Office. The document, which was created on October 28, 2014 probably contains information on server tests. And it is probably the final document, easily identifyable through the addendum final2. Well.

My Name is servertest

Let’s take a second to recover from this advice.

I would now like to make a counter proposal for a document name:

servertest.doc

All relevant information on project origin, state, version, creation date, editor and more is still included in this name, as long as you are using the right tool for document management. And since you open the document from a specific project setting it is clear at any time what kind of roll-out document it is. Naturally, the document is versioned, fully and securely, which means that old versions of the document can be restored at any time. It also means that it is always clear who added what changes, and when. It doesn’t get any simpler.

The Space-Time-Continuum of Document Management

Not only naming conventions are the subject of valuable advice. A lot is to learn about storage locations and time. Initiate buzzword-dropping: daily, project drive, project manual, storage dates, phase-oriented, archive. These words not only do not sound nice, they aren’t. Let us nevertheless find out what they mean.

Documents are to be stored on the project drive on a daily basis. This way, in case a project contributor falls ill his or her work can be continued. The project manual contains fixed storage dates which guarantee that documents are available in time, e.g. for fixed company internal dates like reports or meetings.

Brief question: How can you be sure that the editor of the document does not have a locally stored copy on his or her hard drive? Another question: How do you make sure that data is available in time, e.g. for fixed dates or to enable the compilation of complete reports?

Many of you know and can confirm that the universe of document management is subject to its own laws, with teleportation of documents to drives far, far away and time travels to long forgotten document versions being common phenomena.

The Clever Way

You don’t need to design endless document names or constantly carry a whip with you in order to implement a uniform approach regarding storage and allocation of project documents in your organization. Just use the right tool, a tool that lets you create and manage all types of documents organization-wide and cross-project. Securely and fully traceable.

With document templates you establish standards and provide consistent documentation. You avoid misunderstandings, adhere to your process model and make sure that all project contributors are up-to-the-same-date.

 

Stefan Feist used to work as technical writer at microTOOL and also supported the company's marketing team. Does not compute? Yes, it does. He studied in Bremen and Glasgow and has worked as a technical communicator, copywriter and translator since then.

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