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8 Tips for Improving the Document Review Process

Tips for improving the document review

How is the quality of your document review process affecting the speed and efficiency of the way you do business? According to one study by Basex, nearly three-quarters of all document review events in the workplace still take place via email, which remains one of the most unreliable methods of digital information sharing.

What is document review?

Document review is the process of checking and verifying documents for content or accuracy. Organisations need to review documents for various reasons, for example, to check the quality of work, verify the progress of a project or comply with regulations.

Why is a formal review process so important?

Without formal digital tools and review workflows in place companies risk losing track of comments or suggested changes to business critical documents. This can lead to uncorrected mistakes, delays in decision-making, and costly compliance failures.

Is that final? 5 reasons to use document version control software

What’s the impact on business?

Huge amounts of digital documentation are produced each year, much of it crucial to operational and compliance success. But a lack of formal document management systems (DMS) is proving a huge drag on efficiency for many companies. The Basex report, ‘The Document Jungle’ shows just how random and uncoordinated the review process can be in the knowledge economy. The researchers found:

  • 60% of review documents are currently sent by email
  • 25% of workers say they leave colleagues off review lists to avoid delays
  • 40% of workers say they miss edits and comments when they are shared
  • 46% have to compare edits and comments manually once they are returned

So, what can you do to improve the speed and effectiveness of your review process? Here are 8 tips to help you get started

8 tips for improving document reviews in your company:

1. Use an eDMS

Get an electronic Document Management System (eDMS) instead of using e-mail attachments. It’s too easy to omit files from email chains and mistype email addresses. You need to be sure the right document will reach the right recipients to avoid delays and mistakes.

2. Think before you add people

Before adding a person to your list, think if you really want them to comment, or if you’re just notifying them that the document is available. You should be able to separate reviewers from ‘people to be notified’ in your system to ensure you’re not wasting valuable time and resource.

3. Add comments

A good eDMS will have a comments field in which you can direct your reviewers to certain actions. Are you more concerned about technical accuracy in this issue than you are about editorial style? Reviewers need to know that. It may make sense to assign sections to individual reviewers - if so, make that explicit.

4. Set meaningful deadlines

If you really need the draft press release reviewed by the end of one working day, say so.

5. Notify reviewers

Your eDMS should send real-time email notifications that documents are ready for review. Include URL links that enable reviewers to quickly and easily navigate to the document review pages in your DMS. It may help to encourage timely reviews if people can see that other reviewers are making progress on their review tasks. Your DMS should also send automated 'nagging' mails when deadlines are missed.

6. Agree a set of internal rules

Agree a set of rules applicable to your workgroup, department or (ideally) your company. If I reject your draft document and request changes, is that the same as if I accept your draft but leave a set of comments that I expect you to consider and include?

7. Ensure visibility of reviews

It's easier to read review history comments when displayed "in-line" by version and contributor threads. A good eDMS allows users to select a document version and read the threads of comments made on each.

8. Build accountability

Build accountability into the document review process. Make document readiness an explicit part of any new Product Gate Process or QA strategy. Remember, poorly edited documents end up costing extra time and money. Worse, your customers may end up reading them.

Ready to take control? Download our guide to digital document control for  medical device developers

Why you need dedicated document review software

Document review is a critical part of ensuring documents are accurate and fit for purpose.

But If you’re living in a world of manual review, collating feedback on shared documentation can be a very inconsistent process. Comments come back and have to be collated by the editor from different sources; there is a high percentage of error as edits get missed, comments are overlooked or not returned on time.

The Basex report shows individuals struggling with manual systems often try to circumvent their internal processes because they take so long and are so hard to get right. Getting wrapped up in red tape, they lose sight of why they wanted to get the document reviewed in the first place. In the end, the review request ends up being rushed and badly thought through.

Believe it or not, "Speak now or forever hold your peace" isn't a very good review strategy!

Choose your eDMS wisely

Developing a document review process that is robust enough to make a difference to the quality of your output but flexible enough to support the way you want to work, isn’t easy.

Too much process and the business can get dragged into a lot of unnecessary red tape. Too little process and you’re back at square one with a chaotic and arbitrary approach to document management.

But if you choose your eDMS wisely, you’ll have granular control over documentation that will improve the speed and quality of your review function, while generating the data that will help you optimise your process in the future.

Document Control for medical devices

Last updated on 03/01/2022

Tags: Document management and control

Paul Walsh

Written by Paul Walsh

Paul Walsh was one of the founders of Cognidox. After a period as an academic working in user experience (UX) research, Paul started a 25-year career in software development. He's worked for multinational telecom companies (Nortel), two $1B Cambridge companies (Ionica, Virata), and co-founded a couple of startup companies. His experience includes network management software, embedded software on silicon, enterprise software, and cloud computing.

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