Think of the last proposal or report your company submitted. Did one single person create it? Of course not. It probably involved multiple contributors, from different departments within the organization and perhaps across regions and even time zones.
You were co-authoring the document, i.e. author X wrote jointly with author Y and Z, and so on. It might have been a bumpy ride towards the deadline, depending on what document management tool your team is using, but you collaborated on it.
Was this teamwork really co-authoring, though? I mean, was it true collaboration, or was it merely... collaboration? In the business document production game, the difference between the two can mean winning or losing a multi-million contract.
Four steps to getting coauthoring right
When you have 20 people working on a 500-page high-stakes, highly complex document, you need a process and a solution that truly supports your desired outcome. Surprisingly many companies do not have these two crucial factors in place, and they end up bleeding revenue over it.
Is your current document creation process forcing your team members to polish off gallons of coffee to stay awake the night before the deadline hits? Then you need to get co-authoring right.
Let’s look at four best practices for efficient co-authoring in 2020.
1. Examine software solutions for co-authoring
This is a biggie. Too many companies are still creating their business-critical documents using standard document management and desktop publishing tools. Consequently, they end up with a serial process that undermines their ultimate goal with the document.
Why? Because file-based solutions are not built for co-authoring. The workarounds lack the document control tools necessary to manage content effectively through each step in the co-authoring process.
With a software solution that enables co-authoring, the whole team works on the same document in real time – regardless of where they are based. This means that the content review and approval process can start in parallel with the content creation.
File sharing, on the other hand, is a check-in and check-out process where you need to break down your document into multiple files, and co-authors don’t really work on the same document at the same time. This can cause confusion and difficulties battling version control, and hassling with formatting layers and numbering.
It all adds up to unnecessarily wasted time and undue risk.
2. Move to a database-driven co-authoring solution
True co-authoring solutions are built on databases. With database-driven document collaboration software, your content is stored in an enterprise-wide database. In this way, your team utilizes centralized content that is reflected over the entire organization. The same section can be used in multiple documents, and when updated, those changes are reflected across the full spectrum of enterprise content. Once updated, those changes go ‘live.’
A true database approach to content creation and management will provide your team with content that is open and transparent, allowing contributors to easily get access to the content they need. If someone is away sick or busy with other tasks, the co-writer can easily continue writing and complete the document.
When something needs to be communicated, you simply add a comment in the document and explain what changes need to be done. The writer will then be notified, so he or she can make the change.
Moreover, databases eliminate version control issues, making file-management problems and their respective costs a thing of the past. The best co-authoring solutions even eliminate the dreaded time vacuum of manually editing, formatting, and numbering.
This is how you can collaborate seamlessly across departments and create large and complex documents faster, with higher quality.
Co-authoring is a collaborative process, but not every contributor needs to see every part of the document as it is being constructed. It is important to allow collaboration to continue with agility and efficiency without compromising data security and privacy.
Establish the ability to restrict access dynamically, as needed, to the whole document or only parts and pieces. A high-quality co-authoring solution allows you to implement security measures to ensure only the right team members have access to certain content.
4. Break down silos
Collaboration in many organizations is hindered by the fact that information is not reflected consistently across the enterprise. The ability to collaborate seamlessly on the same document with external data sources integrated into the document can give massive efficiency gains while increasing quality.
Look to break down the silos between departments and information while keeping control of the process and access.
The benefits of adopting a more strategic approach to co-authoring are compelling, especially if you’re an enterprise organization regularly working with highly complex, high-value documents.
Look for providers and partners with the right mix of expertise, capabilities, and vision that will allow you to make the most of co-authoring and take your document creation process to the next level.
Silje is Marketing Manager of Xait. She holds a Bachelor in Marketing Communication and an Executive Master in Business Administration. She is an analytical, efficient and results-focused marketing and communications professional and her career spans over 15 years within real estate, oil & gas and IT. When Silje is not busy growing the Xait brand, you can find her at her family cabin in picturesque Sirdal, Norway, hiking, trekking and cross-country skiing.
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