Even once declared as a record it is still inevitable that updates will need to be made over time. As we have seen in the previous section, thanks to the need to preserve the virtues of fixity and authenticity, changes should not be made to the content of the original record once it has been declared. Any further amendments, alterations or even corrections should be made and saved as a new version of the record – keeping the original as it was at the time of declaration.
In this scenario it is now essential that we retain control over new versions of the record and are able to distinguish when subsequent drafts do themselves become newly declared records.
Why is this important?
The same requirement to be able to distinguish between draft documents and final records applies with regards to subsequent versions as discussed in the previous section with reference to their original creation and declaration.
When a record is updated it is likely that the changes will be made over several sessions, perhaps involving multiple members of staff. Without clear co-ordination of this process and management of the various versions created chaos will soon reign with no clear picture of which is the most current version, and which should be declared as the next version of the record. This risks decisions being made according to out of date information which is believed to be current.
It can also lead to potential embarrassment with content which was removed from a previous draft being mistakenly included within the final declared record.
Finally of course it leads to wasted time and considerable frustration both on the part of the author who spends time needlessly working on an old version and the reader who has read an obsolete document.
How to maintain version control
- Agree and abide by a file naming and numbering schema which clearly separates and denotes both draft and final versions
- Ensure only one definitive copy of each record exists to prevent multiple, ‘parallel’ versions being created
- Include version information as part of standard document design
- Provide reference links to records stored in central shared locations, rather than attaching copies as email attachments
- Consider whether or not to retain drafts once a new version of a record has been created.
Further details of all of the above are available from our guide 'managing information to make life easier'