Mit Linien verbundenen Ordner- und Text-Icons auf blauem Untergrund in 3D-OptikA 3d image of a network of files and folders.

9 September 2022

Document versioning: What you need to know

The versioning of documents is one of the key functions of document management (German language only]. This will ensure a seamless lifecycle of the document, any tiny change will be registered instantly. What does versioning mean in general? Why, in case of doubt, can this even save a company from greater damage? And how can document versioning be integrated into a normal work process?

Why document versioning is important

Within the lifecycle, a business document systematically passes through several stations in the company or authority. After an initial draft is completed, several people, departments and review authorities make corrections, additions, deletions or comments. Employees often save the customized versions of those digital documents locally on their computers and forward them to the next office under a new name – either digitally or in print. The problem: If several versions are stored in different locations, it is no longer possible to identify which changes were made by which person and when. Especially in the case of draft contracts, which are usually subjected to a commercial, legal and technical review, this can lead to momentous irritations: Which passages were newly drafted, which only expanded or remained unchanged? Has anyone possibly made any changes after finalization by all parties involved?

In addition, the previous processing statuses of documents can play an important role in legal issues. In the case of incomplete documentation, a breach of the compliance guidelines can quickly be identified – under circumstances, the company could incur high losses as a result. In addition, the rules of the GoBD (German language only) are applied, which specify the storage of documents in accordance with defined regulations.

A flowchart showing the process of creating a new version of a website.

How does document versioning work?

For this reason, document versioning is a central key function of document management systems. It ensures that every change in the document becomes a transparent component of the editing history of a document – so that everyone can see it directly.

Whenever someone edits the document content, a new version (or variant) of the document is created manually on the basis of the version control. This version is assigned with a version number in the folder and is clearly assigned to the source document. The document history includes all editing steps. This helps to clearly determine which person opened the document, edited it, or saved it as a new version at which time. To make sure that an open document is not edited parallel by another person, the ECM offers a corresponding access restriction: As soon as a document is opened, it is blocked for other users (check-out), a corresponding icon provides information about the current status. After completion, the editor releases the document as a new version (check-in). This gives another editor unrestricted access to the document. All stored versions or variants can be called up and compared with each other through the context menu of the version management.

Versioning of documents as part of workflows

As part of a workflow management (German language only], document versioning is also helpful for the ECM’s own authorization system. If, for example, only specific document versions are to be viewed, the administrator assigns the corresponding user rights for this purpose – also for a specific period of time, based on requirements. In addition, it is possible to specify that version documents are intended for review or approval by certain persons. Optionally, users can also label documents as “revision-proof archived”  – these documents are then permanently unchangeable.

Individual documents, but also parent registers and folders may be subscribed to: As soon as someone adds, deletes or edits documents in that location, the subscriber will be notified about it immediately. This also applies when someone adds a new document version.

In short: Document versioning enables the comprehensive structuring of documents. Local multiple storage, different processing states and media discontinuities are a thing of the past. Automatic versioning and detailed document histories provide a clear view of the current state of a document, supported by access restrictions and fine-grained rights management. The wild chaos of data will be stopped in this way – and no laboriously prepared draft contract will be untraceable any more.

Do you have any further questions?