Why you need to implement document version control

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Whether you work in the marketing team or look after your company’s finances, sharing documents within and across teams is key to ensuring collaboration and accuracy. When different team members co-edit files, however, versions can multiply like bunnies. 

Just think about it. 

You created a document on Friday, “Business Project Req.” By Monday morning, you see three more versions with slightly different names: “Business Project Req 1,” “Business Project Req Copy,” and “Business Project Req Edits.” How do you figure out which one is the latest version and which one is outdated? 

Multiple document version copies

IDC research found that difficulty finding required data or documents is one of the key barriers to employee productivity.

By introducing document version control, your team waves goodbye to this productivity issue — and all the wasted time that comes with it.

What is document version control?

Document version control is a specific aspect of data lifecycle management that focuses on managing different versions of documents or files. 

In any organization, documents undergo revisions, updates, and modifications over time. File version control involves tracking these changes systematically to ensure users have access to the most current and accurate draft of a document while preserving the history of changes. It keeps a record of who made changes to the file, how and when, and whether anyone approved these edits. 

With document version tracking, you systematically organize and record changes made to a document while maintaining a historical record of each version. 

Here are the key features of version control for document management:

  • A chronological record of changes made to a file, including details such as modification date, user, and comments
  • The ability for users to selectively revert to a desired point in the document’s history
  • Granular access permissions, controlling who can view, edit, and share files, ensuring data security
  • Quick preview of older versions without the need to download them, streamlining the review process and saving time
  • Support for user comments associated with specific changes, providing context and explanations for modifications
  • Regular automated backup services to help recover documents in case of accidental data loss or corruption

Why is version control important?

Document version control is an essential part of digital file management. A staggering 88% of employees feel demoralized when they can’t find the information they need for their work. Using a document version control system helps you counter this problem as well as saves you time, headaches, and potential errors. 

Let’s look at the benefits of file versioning.

  1. Easy access to the latest draft

With file version control, your team members always work on the most recent version of a file. By knowing which draft is the most current, you reduce the risk of mistakenly working on an outdated version and make sure all stakeholders have access to the latest changes.

Here’s an example. For a marketing team working on a campaign proposal for a product launch, document versioning ensures everyone is on the same page. If the marketing manager makes edits to the product description, the copywriter and designer will automatically have the latest version to make subsequent changes.

  1. Detailed activity tracking

Tracking and recording all changes, edits, and interactions in a document creates a clear trail of who made what changes, and helps managers identify responsible parties in case of errors to promote a culture of accountability within the team. 

You can also use the tracking features in project planning to understand the pace of document development. This knowledge helps you allocate resources effectively, set realistic timelines, and identify potential bottlenecks in the collaboration process.

  1. Automated audit trail

Document versioning maintains an audit trail by recording and preserving a chronological history of changes. For industries with regulatory requirements, the audit trail serves as evidence of compliance. In financial services, for example, an audit trail of finance statements and reporting documents demonstrates compliance with accounting standards.

Complying with regulations helps organizations avoid fines and penalties, thus saving money. Underscoring this importance of compliance, a study from Ponemon revealed the average cost of non-compliance is nearly three times the cost of staying compliant. 

Costs of compliance and non-compliance
  1. Improved communication and collaboration

According to IDC research, 38% of respondents have difficulty communicating, and collaborating is a major hindrance to employee productivity. With document version control software, multiple people can add comments, annotations, or feedback directly within the file to improve communication among team members and real-time collaboration. 

Discover how to build collaborative teams

  1. Removal of siloes

When you’re working with hybrid or remote teams operating in different locations, alignment is essential. If your data isn’t centralized and accessible, it doesn’t take long for silos to form and teams to get out of sync. These silos have a negative effect on the ability to leverage data for business insights.

Document versioning helps you centralize your content by keeping a single copy of the document with incremental edits for everyone to refer to. This feature saves you from the effort of constantly sending out new, updated documents. 

Discover top ways to boost collaboration and eliminate organizational silos

  1. Seamless document recovery

In case of accidental deletion or modification, you can easily retrieve previous versions with document version tracking. This ability to revert to earlier versions acts as a safety net. If errors occur, you easily roll back to a known and error-free state, preventing the mistakes from trickling down the document’s lifecycle.

Benefits of document version management

Best practices for document version control software

Traditionally, document version control involves manually creating, saving, and managing different versions of the same file as it’s modified over time. While you could save every draft as a separate file, it would be both time-consuming and mistake-prone. Using a cloud-based document management software automates your version control to save time.

Follow these three best practices when using document version control software.

1. Limit editing access

According to a Proofpoint report, 70% of organizations experienced a third-party data breach from giving excess access to an external vendor. To avoid unauthorized document changes that lead to data inconsistency, compliance breaches, or even information loss, limit file access to necessary users.

Set granular permissions to specify who can view, who can comment, and who can edit a document. For example, in a project plan document, you may allow project managers and team leads to edit while other team members have read-only access.

2. Train team members to increase user adoption

Without proper training, your team may not understand the features and nuances of document version control. This lack of understanding often leads to accidental errors, such as overwriting important versions or unintentionally creating multiple documents. 

Here’s how to counter these errors and inefficiencies.

  • Offer hands-on training sessions on your file version control software
  • Tailor training sessions based on users’ roles and responsibilities within the document
  • Create a resource hub to include user guides, tutorials, guidelines, and FAQs
  • Provide periodic refreshers to update everyone about new version control features

3. Deploy a version control software

A cloud-based and automated version control software system automatically updates the version of a file each time someone overwrites or modifies, providing a chronological history of document edits. 

The software acts as a central repository to store all versions of the project files and documents, for you to use as an authoritative source for versioned content.

Explore the top reasons why your enterprise needs cloud document storage.

Automate document versioning with Box

As a centralized platform to create, store, co-edit, and share your files, Box automates your document workflows, boosts collaboration, and ensures precision via robust file versioning features. 

With The Content Cloud, you get robust file versioning and enterprise-grade security and compliance so you can:

  • Preview older versions without downloading them, saving time and enabling efficient document navigation 
  • Reference or revert to prior versions, editing mistakes without hassle
  • Get customizable version update notifications, keeping aware of changes
  • Collaborate without version mismatches, ensuring you’re working with the latest draft
  • Implement access controls to manage permissions, enhance document security, and prevent unauthorized modifications
  • Leverage audit trails for compliance and accountability, tracking version history and user actions

Let’s connect and discuss how to implement document version control with Box.

Call to action to contact Box for automated document versioning

While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blog post is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.

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