Document control, in project management, is a function that involves the tracking of project documents to ensure confidence in their use.
Projects of all sizes use document control to track the important technical documents that the project depends on the accomplish its objectives.
Although we focus more on the project’s technical documents in this article, the project management function itself produces many documents (depending on the size of the project).
Document control encompasses the following functions:
- Document Creation
- Document Review
- Document Modification
- Document Certification
- Document Issuance
- Document Distribution
The document control process begins when a document is created. For example, a building design drawing is initiated by the draftsperson and given an identification number.
Requirements of the document are identified, such as:
- Goals (for example, to persuade the audience to recycle more)
- Review and approval requirements
- Timelines and milestones
- Specifications (for example, units of analysis)
- Minimum standards
- Dependent documents.
A good document control system will identify these requirements up front and place them within the document control system.
Usually there is a requirement for documents to be reviewed prior to being delivered outside of the project’s boundaries. This can be either:
- Technical review
The project management team must ensure that a technical review is sufficient for the project quality requirements.
- Project management review
The project management team is not familiar with (or not experts in) the technical knowledge of the document, but performs a review to ensure that sufficient technical knowledge has been applied.
Another common requirement is approval. Unlike a review, an approval is a hard requirement (yes/no) which must be present before the document can finalized. Approvals can take time, and the necessary resources with the right authority must be in place to perform the approval.
After the document passes through the review and approval phase, it often must go back to the modification stage. Usually this is a quick and relatively pain free process, but it can last for a long time and incur significant budget considerations.
Modifications to the document are performed by the project team until the document is acceptable for review and approval again. This process repeats until the approval is obtained.
Documents often need to be certified by a technical professional, such as an architect, engineer, or surveyor, prior to being finalized. These certifications must be verified and authenticated. If they must be passed to a different office or company, this step can take time.
In addition, the project management team often certifies a document as the authentic one. For example, the latest changes to the paving reports are certified as the authentic one.
Once all the approvals and certifications are obtained, the document is submitted to the project sponsor, customer, or client.
A project management system is used to provide document availability to the various parties that want to access it. Usually a project management software product or document management software is used to provide permanent access to the parties.
The document is place in its final home, either electronic folder or hard copy file, and any location or index information is updated.