A project of any size will have a number of documents that need sharing and collaboration. The easy thing to do is to save a copy to your local workspace, make the necessary edits and then email it off to the distribution group. The problem with this approach is that it takes your one document and then multiplies it by the number of recipients you’ve just sent it to, who now can all make independent changes to the document that will then be your job to collate and ensure that everything in the document takes into account everyone’s changes. Multiply this scenario by the number of documents you need to share and collaborate on and you have yourself a nightmare scenario.
The first thing I do when starting up a project is determine with my stakeholders where our document repository is going to be. Clients may prefer to have all project documentation stored on their site or they may prefer to be granted access to yours. Wherever it’s determined, it should be clearly communicated that you are setting up a document repository and that unless there is a compelling reason not to do so, that all project documentation will live in this repository.
Selecting a Tool
SharePoint is a great tool for collaboration and makes document storage a snap. It’s a very widely adopted platform and has a large user base as well as strong community support. While there are other tools out there that will perform the same functions, SharePoint should be strongly considered when selecting tools to manage your document libraries for your projects.
Setting Processes and Protocol
A tool is only as good as its effective usage. It’s important to establish your processes (ideally prior to your project starting) and then communicating those processes to your stakeholders. Will you allow concurrent editing of documents? Do you enforce check-outs? What is the penalty for leaving a document checked out when someone else needs it? Who will administer the repository? These are all items that need to be clearly communicated to your stakeholders who will use your repository.
Your job as the project manager is to be the custodian of your document repository. You need to ensure that the processes are being followed and that the tool is being used to its full effectiveness. Constant education of users is key to a successful adoption of a tool and using a document repository is no different.
Having an incorrect version of a document can be incredibly frustrating, not only for the project manager but also for your sponsors who pay your bills. By employing a simple document repository for your project you’re taking that first step to ensuring that the documentation work of your project remains a value-add for both you and your customer.
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