27 May, 2021

How to Maintain Document Version Control on Your Project | Video

On a project, we can end up in all sorts of trouble if we have multiple versions of the same document… And then make a mistake about which is current. If we act on out-of-date information, we can easily make a big mistake. So, we need document version control.

But, what is document version control?

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Definition of Version Control

Version control is how we manage multiple variations of the same document.

This lets us keep a clear record of how the document was created, developed, and changed over time. It provides a clear audit trail of:

  • what changes we made
  • who made them
  • and who approved them

There are many software solutions that simplify and assure the process. These include:

  • Dedicated document management systems
  • General Project Management Information Systems

The Principles of Document Version Control

But I want to stick to the basic principles. Good software will implement these principles and add additional valuable functionality.

Version Control Principle 1

Every new version or variation of a document has a new version number and a new name. It should incorporate reference to the version and a date.

My preference is that file names contain:

  • Title
  • Status (draft or final, or revised)
  • Version number
  • Date

Version Control Principle 2

We keep track of the changes made to each version, the dates, and the status:

  • approved or not
  • draft
  • final
  • or revised.

My preference is for a Change Control or Tracking table within each document. That table would include:

  • Version number
  • Date
  • Author/s
  • Principal changes – reasons for update

Version Control Principle 3

File storage makes it as easy as possible to find the most recent version and as hard as possible to accidentally mistake a previous version for the current one.

My preference is to implement a suitable software process to support the team and make errors harder to make.

Version Control Principle 4

Create a clear version numbering system. My preference is for a three-part system. For example, version 2.03.02.

  1. The first part indicated the status:
    1. 0 for draft
    2. 1, 2, 3 for successive approved versions
  2. The second part is for major changes to a version. These would be authorized by the Project Manager.
  3. The third part is for minor changes. These would be operationally approved by team leads.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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