Document Control – Manual to Fully Automated Process

Document Control issues have plagued companies since paper was invented during early Egyptian civilization. Well, we don’t really have any concrete proof for that, but we are convinced this is so – what with any paper-based document’s tendency to get lost at the exact moment when it is needed the most! Below are other key limitations of a paper based document control system:


  • High time and cost: Studies have shown that a typical organization spends $20 in labor to file a document, $120 to find a misfiled document and $220 to reproduce a lost document.
  • Prone to physical damage: Fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, mites, humidity and even repeated handling can damage paper; and once the paper has been damaged, the information is lost for good.
  • Poor access to information: Paper-based documents can make it difficult to ensure security of the file and to prevent unauthorized access to the information.
  • Getting the right version: If a document is reviewed and edited by multiple users, paper based documents will make it extremely difficult to maintain the version and to ensure that everyone works on the latest version.
  • Lack of mobility: Often, sensitive documents need to be protected. Only way to ensure that with the paper based documents is to ensure that they do not leave the premises, or indeed the room, where they are kept.
  • Lost opportunities: Inability to find right information at the right time will result in poor decision making, causing dissatisfaction among customers and vendors, which in turn could damage your reputation in the market.

Perhaps, this is why automated Document Control features are amongst the topmost priorities for most organizations in regulated industries. An ideal automated Document Control system will not only automate your entire document management workflow, including creation to review to approval to distribution, it will also ensure that your documents are up-to-date at all times, and can be integrated with other quality processes. Below are the impacts of automation on various stages of document control:

  • Document Creation: Automation in Document Creation stage is typically targeted towards assigning appropriate workflow. Your system needs to be capable of differentiating between, say, a design document and a policy document, and then assign them their own routing vis-à-vis approval and baselining.
  • Document Routing, Review and Approval: Apart from just assigning a workflow, an automated Document Control system will automate aspects such as routing, review and approval to ensure that the document is signed-off by the right set of people; if a key authority is not available, the system will delegate the task to the person designated as the back-up.
  • Integration with Training: An automated Document Control system will also integrate into the organization’s training system, resulting in a smooth transition from approval to training on new document. It will also have tests built directly into the Document Control, ensuring full training on new processes for all employees.
  • Change Requests: An automated document control will also include a change request process to ensure that all changes follow the process defined by your company. It should ensure that changes to related documents can be requested in a single workflow, and automatically archive older document revisions.
  • Revision control: This tends to be one of the most time-consuming tasks, and users can greatly benefit by automation of this bit. Automation here will ensure control over rogue documents, automatic replacement of documents, real-time and repeatable e-mail notification and automatic distribution upon approval.
  • Compliance Management: An automated Document Control system will help ensure compliance to information security and regulatory guidelines such as multi-password access and signature, forced expiration of passwords, account and intruder lockout, and Audit trail history/record archiving.

But the biggest benefit of them all is the ability of an automated document control system to provide in-depth reporting. Any organization that generates a lot of documents needs the ability to derive meaningful insights from the data that goes into the system. Automation in document control can greatly facilitate integration with Quality Management system, which in turn integrates with reporting system to allow quick and effective visualization of data on an aggregate level, and the running of various Ad-Hoc and scheduled reports.

Implementation of a document management system may be a little complicated in the beginning and will need change management to enforce a new culture at organizational level but the single source of truth that automated document control provides will help in effective decision making in the organization. In due course, it will significantly reduce the wastage of time and money, helping your business outperform the competition by freeing up key resources to spend time where it matters most – on your business!