Making a Better Document Control System
The launch of the Document Controller project and the improvements it promises.
Document control system has always been important to any company and organisation to ensure the existence of controlled process and practices for the creation, review, modification, issuance, distribution, and accessibility of documents. Unfortunately, as someone who is tasked to take on this role, I have noticed that the document control system in my company has been inefficient and ineffective:
- Hard-copy form is used to record all requests made to revise documents. Data entry to the document control master list in spreadsheet is needed. These forms need to be filed in file folders for record keeping.
- All of the document revisions are recorded in a master list which is actually actually an Excel spreadsheet table, making only the latest revision is shown. It is inevitable since each row in this table represents a document, when a new revision needs to be recorded in the row, the older one has to be removed.
- The new revised document has to be placed in various location in the company shared network drive, including the public folders and private back-up folders, manually.
- The revision has to be announced to all relevant staff by emails or meetings.
Do the above traits sound familiar to you? I believe this traditional way of controlling documents (or any other administrative processes) is being practiced by many companies. I see a huge room for massive improvement. I have always believed that all manual administrative work has to be cut down to make way for automation, and this is the birth of the project — Document Controller.
This project aims to build a software application that deals with the four aforementioned major issues of a traditional document control system by:
- making use of soft-copy digital form which is able to capture digital signatures and allow the fields to be read by the application;
- replacing the Excel spreadsheet with a relational database to offer one-to-many relationship between documents and document versions;
- automatically updating document files in various locations; and
- informing relevant staff of the revision automatically.
With these objectives and some restrictions in company operation in mind, the application must at least work in Microsoft Windows environment, have easy to use graphical user interface, and have a Microsoft Access database (since most companies have Microsoft 365 suite license and a Microsoft Access database is the easiest database that can be set up and run quickly).
The git repository of the project is hosted on Azure DevOps. This service includes a bunch of features, one of which allows me to make use of a full-featured Kanban board to manage my tasks. Hierarchical features and user stories are used to ensure the development goes as smooth as possible and delivery can be on time.
The development has been started to see if I can deliver the first minimal viable product (Version 1) which has at least the core functions.