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Document Control: The Complete Guide

Document Control: The Complete Guide

Document control can be a tricky topic to wrap your head around. But with our simple guide, you’ll learn just what document control is, why it’s important and how to maintain effective documentation control in your business.


What is document control?

Document control is the process of implementing standards that govern document management within a business, ensuring that documentation is handled in line with information security procedures and ISO regulations.

The aim is to establish an audit trail for all internal and external documents, with clear procedures in place indicating how these should be managed from the point of creation up to disposal. All documentation should be covered, including critical documents and even the most basic of records.

What is a document control procedure?

A document control procedure regulates the methods by which documentation is created, stored, approved, updated, published, archived and disposed of. It highlights how these processes should be carried out with externally shared documents, as well as internal documentation.

What is a document control system?

A document control system, also known as a document control management system (DCMS), is the process that keeps your files organised, maintained and up to standard. Document management software performs a similar role, but for paperless document control procedures. Digital software solutions are often seen as more efficient and reliable than physical systems.

Why is document control important?

With any business, compliance is a priority. If you want to be, or continue to be, ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 compliant, your document control needs to be up to scratch. ISO 9001 states that records need to be legible, readily identifiable and retrievable. ISO 27001, on the other hand, establishes that organisations must handle information securely, complying with any legal and ethical obligations, as well as showing evidence of constant information security improvement.

These standards are in place so that your products and services can meet regulations for customer satisfaction, and so that your information is secure. Ultimately, they ensure that your business will be more efficient, and that customers and partners will have greater confidence in you.

Document control procedures give your organisation, and regulating bodies, confidence that your data is up-to-date and compliant. Having poor document control could also lead to a data breach, damage to your brand and potentially a GDPR violation (which could result in penalties and/or fines). A document control system or software will give authorised people the right access to mitigate these risks.

Aside from the threat of data breaches and non-compliance, document control helps your business stay productive and organised. Your documents will be of better quality, and easier to access, therefore streamlining how employees and clients access your information.

What’re the benefits of effective document control procedures?

Document control plays a crucial role in the identity of your business. With highly effective systems and procedures in place, you’ll see benefits that impact the overall productivity of your business:

  • Transparent information: Easy to access documentation and records for authorised staff.
  • Better quality assurance: Quality-driven companies will see improvements in the way they handle quality assurance processes.
  • Compliance: You’ll be confident that you’re complying with GDPR and ISO requirements.
  • Increased productivity and better processes: Smoother document control means less time spent searching or reading, in turn increasing productivity.
  • Risk mitigation: You’ll prevent data breaches and control further damages of this.
  • Easy documentation collaboration: Sharing documents and collaborating on their improvement will be much easier.

How to maintain document control

Understanding document control and its benefits is one thing, but actually putting it into practice in your business is another. Here are a few easy steps you can take to get your document control procedures in place.

1. Establish document control procedures and workflows

Be prepared for every situation by putting seamless processes in place. Your company should know just how a document moves through its departments, as well as through all the document versions.

You’ll need to understand who has document authority, how document versions are controlled and updated and where these documents are stored through their versions. It’s best practice to have all of this clearly defined in writing so you can train new employees and have procedures there for reference.

2. Automate processes where appropriate

Removing elements of human error in document management keeps your procedures clean and efficient, and automation is a great way to do this. You can start by analysing internal areas for improvement, which could include anything from automating authorisation to searching processes. We always recommend thorough testing as well as delivering training on these automations with your company first to avoid risk.

3. Focus on people: pick the right authorisers and hire a document controller

Those who authorise and look after sensitive documents should be trustworthy and educated on your document management systems. Ensuring you have the right managers in the right levels of authorisation is key to securely updating your documents and records.

Similarly, if your business works with a lot of sensitive documents and records, it might be time to invest in an inhouse document controller. Their job is to ensure that:

  • All documents are organised and processed in line with procedures
  • Your business is staying compliant with all relevant regulations
  • Your document control management system or software is running optimally.

4. Implement a document control management software

If you haven’t already, implementing a document control management software or system will keep your document control completely watertight. Our SDS Document Management Software is reliable, cost-effective and comes with all the necessary documentation control procedures. We’re proud to meet the highest standards of compliance, and will be happy to help guide your business in becoming document control experts.

Next steps

This guide has explained the fundamentals of document control procedures and systems. It has also outlined the benefits of effective document control for your business, and provided practical tips on how you can achieve it.

Shredall SDS Group offers a range of services that can support the management of documents in your business, including:

Get in touch today to find out how we can help.

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