How to collaborate efficiently on complex documents
04. Jun 2020 |
5 min read
Collaborating on a large-scale, highly complex document with multiple contributors raises many challenges. Number one, you need to bring team members spread across the globe (in different time zones!) under the same umbrella. Secondly, they need to communicate with one another. And finally, you need to manage the assembly of the document and ensure a highly polished client-ready piece.
This process is fraught with complexities and possible roadblocks – the pain of version control, the frustrations of maintaining timelines and momentum, and the even bigger hassle of managing and agreeing on changes.
What’s more, multiple authors, contributors, and stakeholders often need different access and permission levels to different content at different times, all of which may be in a highly regulated and secure environment.
Collaborating with others on a document can bring new levels of energy, fresh ideas, fresh perspectives, and critical checks and balances, ultimately improving the output. However, only if you do it in a controlled way. This is why you need approaches and solutions that not only enable you to work together efficiently, but also allow you to build a robust process around it.
Collaboration is more than just writing the content
One example where an efficient and structured document collaboration process is critical, is in the oil and gas industry, where organizations compete for exploratory and drilling rights. Government approval is awarded to companies with the best technical application, which can take form in hundreds of pages of complex content that includes text, graphics, data, photographs, and other elements that come from a variety of systems and sources.
Using a document collaboration tool certainly helps: It gives you a place to write and store your content, and people can work together. But collaboration is more than just creating a document; it’s about establishing a collaborative process, in which transparency, balance, consensus, awareness and documentation are vital factors.
Having a solid collaboration process in place – that is, a framework for writing, submitting, editing, and organizing your content – will help prevent misunderstandings, errors, and leaks, and keep your document consistent with the organization’s overall vision. Writers will have more room to create content with confidence.
Such a framework is not possible without adopting a purpose-built solution for effective collaboration and co-authoring.
Using a cloud-based co-authoring and automation solution to bring together the authors, the document, the comments, reviews and timeline management into one place is an ideal way to bring the array of collaboration issues under control. By eliminating multiple versions attached to emails, giving every team member visibility of progress, and cutting out file-based solutions, your document creation process will be taken to a whole new level of smoothness.
So, let’s look at a few best practices for successful document collaboration.
Understand the current need for access
Document co-authoring is a collaborative process, but not every contributor needs to see every part of the document as it is being constructed. Establish the ability to restrict access dynamically, as needed, to the whole document or only parts and pieces. This allows the collaboration to continue with agility and efficiency without compromising security and privacy.
Develop a solution for managing versions
Consider a structured approach that leverages the advantages of an enterprise-wide content base. Tracking and audit features ensure tight governance and custodianship of critical intellectual property and data. At the same time, a ‘Lego block’ approach to document construction brings complete and updated content to authors’ and stakeholders' fingertips when they need it.
Examine solutions for co-authoring and how they differ from file sharing
Co-authoring is an essential character of collaboration. Many popular systems are very good at providing a platform for file sharing, but they are not well-suited for co-authoring.
It’s easy to confuse file sharing with co-authoring, but they are really quite different. File sharing is a check-in and check-out process where co-authors don’t really work on the same document in real time. Co-authoring employs a single source repository where enterprise content is managed. Concurrent co-authoring ensures that if one section or content is updated or changed, the revisions are included across all of the documents that are in production.
Choose a solution that gives you a competitive edge
If you’re an enterprise organization working with highly complex, high-value documents, consider adopting a more strategic approach to team collaboration.
An enterprise-grade team co-authoring and automation software solution gives you everything you need to collaborate on complex documents, and complete them within a short timeframe. Everyone works on the same document, in real time, whether in the office, at home, or on the other side of the world.
Collaborating seamlessly in one place will make your team more efficient, which gives them time to write better material. You will eliminate mistakes, which improves the perception of your document. And you can incorporate more ideas, which improves the quality of the document you submit.
Going forward, companies that actively work to leverage collaboration as an organizational skill will be the winners, while those that continue to use last-century approaches will be left behind. Look to providers and partners with the right mix of expertise, vision, and capability to leverage collaboration as a new competitive advantage.
Kris Sæther is Chief Commercial Officer of Xait. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Media Studies, and has worked in financial communication in London and Frankfurt prior to joining Xait. He has 20+ years experience from the information management industry. Kris is an avid runner and skier, and a passionate fan of the world’s coolest soccer team, Tottenham. If he is not working or running you will find him cheering for his two daughters on the handball court.
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