Re: Document Management?

Subject: Re: Document Management?
From: John Locke <mail -at- freelock -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2002 16:21:38 -0700

Elizabeth Smith wrote:
> My boss wants me to lead a document management process for our
> department of 40 people. He explained in detail the theory of document
> management using amdocs,pcdocs, etc. and repositories. This is what they
> did at his previous position. I looked up such a tool on our corporate
> intranet, but the only tool that is a corporate standard is Panagon.
> This was decided against since it was too costly, but he would still
> like some kind of checking in and out process for documents.

> This task has been in my workplan for a long time, and I should probably
> get started with it soon. I do not agree with so many versions of
> documents since our shared drive space is small and we are always
> running out of room. I broached my boss's proposal with the requirements
> team, and they do not like it at all. They expressed to me that they
> have set ways and that I am their peer and should not be put in a
> position of organizing their documentation. Not sure what to do.

Search the archives... there's been a lot of discussion on this in the past.

I'd suggest checking out either Microsoft Visual Source Safe (VSS) or Revision Control System (RCS). Both provide similar functionality--a repository of documents that keeps track of all versions, and provides locking functionality.

You will need a server to install the software on, with plenty of disk space. If Linux is an option, you can run RCS for free--there's an open source version. I forget the name of the company, but there is a commercial version you can buy that provides a nice Windows GUI for accessing a remote RCS repository, and even adds menu items to Word for checking documents out, comparing versions, etc.

If you have a software development group, your company may already own a site license for VSS... you may be able to use an existing server, and just create your own branch.

Why do this? Because it makes life so much easier. Take one of my clients, for example. They have no documentation management system. I've been writing marketing white papers and product descriptions for them. Where's the latest version of Product X description? Probably in the COO's email inbox. But the product manager made some changes to the version in the marketing folder on the file server. And a client manager took the document, cut & pasted it into yet another version, made some changes, and sent it to one of their customers.

Guess what? We now have 4 different versions of the same document, all updated by different people at different stages. And that's in just a single group! So what do they do? They pay me big bucks to go through and integrate the changes... I tell you, lack of a good documentation management system is great for my business!

Now, if they would spend $500 or so for licensed software, and maybe another $1200 for a new server with lots of disk space, they could have a central document repository. This repository only allows one person to change any given document at a time. You check it out when you want to work on it, nobody else can touch it. You make your changes. You check it back in.

Your IT staff does regular backups of the repository.

Whoops! You deleted a section of the document two weeks ago, because it was a feature that was supposed to be dropped from the product--but now the company directors have changed their mind, and we need it back. No problem--scan the notes associated with each check-in to find out where you deleted it, get a copy of the previous version, cut & paste it back in. Done.

Oh, hey look! Cool beans. The corporate intranet already has the latest approved version of your document! It was mirrored automatically by the repository software. You've checked in 3 subsequent versions but they're working versions, not fit for external consumption yet. So you "pinned" the last good draft in the repository, and that draft is loaded the next time you go to that URL. No figuring out which version to put there!

And no more documents with dates/version numbers in the filename! Just go get the document with the name you're looking for, and know definitively you have the latest version!

Do it. Your colleagues will love it, once they start using it.

John Locke
Owner, Freelock, LLC

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Document Management?: From: Elizabeth Smith

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