Leadership optimize

Protect the integrity of your document repository

Large projects generate lots of document. Set rules for what to keep and how to manage them.

Large projects can generate a lot of documents. I have been on a couple of projects that generated hundreds of documents over a two-year period. In each case, I needed to share much of this documentation with many other stakeholders in the organization. For these kinds of projects, you need to create a document repository. This repository can be managed with software tools, or you can have a simple folder/file structure on a shared directory.

If you're going to create a repository, you need to establish some rules and processes to protect the integrity of the stored documents. For example, all of your team members usually need full access to any of the documents that they create. However, you need to decide whether any team member can update documents created by other team members. In some projects this would be perfectly acceptable, while on other projects this would be considered a security breach.

You also should decide whether anyone on the team can add documents into your repository, or whether the update process will be handled by a person filling the role of a Librarian. Your first thought might be that having a central Librarian role to control updates to the document repository is an exercise in bureaucracy and overhead. However, the role might make sense.

In the large projects I mentioned earlier, it was important that the documents added to the repository reflected a consistent and high quality. We felt there would be a tendency for the overall quality of the repository to degrade if everyone had the ability to add, delete, and modify documents anywhere. Instead, a Librarian was established to control the process of adding documents. We used the following simple process.

  1. Team members submitted documents to the Librarian at the end of every phase and the end of each individual project. (Remember that we had a large program made up of many individual projects.) The team member completed a form that described the deliverable, the keywords, approval date, recommended storage location, etc.
  2. The Librarian ensured that the document was appropriate for the repository and that the document followed project standards. If the document was not appropriate, the librarian could decline to add the document to the repository.
  3. If the document was relevant and followed document standards, the Librarian placed it into the proper folder of the repository and updated any other required keyword information.

The Librarian was also responsible for the purging process. Purging old documents ensures that the information in the repository is relevant. For instance, weekly individual Status Reports may not be needed after three months. On the other hand, the Project Charter document is needed for the life of the project, even if it's 12 months old. During the project, the Librarian can periodically archive documents that are no longer relevant and purge the documents from the repository.

Don't be afraid to designate a Document Librarian for large projects. It's doesn't have to be a full-time position. It could be a role that only requires 10% of one person’s time. However, if your project generates a lot of documents you certainly need some type of role and processes to ensure that the integrity of your documentation is protected. 

6 comments
salvadoresteban
salvadoresteban

Congratulations for your article! I'm very interested in create the rol of "Librarian" the team I manage in my company. Wich tool do you recommend me for manage documents? I'm interested in good tools with low price or open source solutions.

Sheeva
Sheeva

Because our projects do tend to have so many different "roles" being played it's not good to allow general access to code repositories such as Visual SourceSafe - documentation not withstanding. I have set up the "librarian" protocol for our organization a number of years ago using Lotus Domino TeamRooms. A project team room becomes the central repository for all documentation that all stakeholders at appropriate levels of security can access at any time. The project manager either is the librarian or appoints an appropriate team member to the role. No documents are ever deleted - - they go through a predetermined archive process. Because emails have become so central to many projects as well as IM/WebConferencing (we use Lotus NOTES and Sametime) these too are automatically sent to the team room. We also have web access to these tools. For code repositories, we use IBM ClearCase. It takes a bit of work to implement but once you have it where you need it, ClearCase is a phenomenal tool to our developer community. We've provided automatic links to the project team rooms and those with appropriate access can link back and forth. This process allows for granular control of access to the appropriate material at the appropriate time by the necessary development teams and various sub-teams such as the project steering committee or functional team leaders, etc. All this without the fear of any documentation change/loss or code corruption. Our project team rooms have proven on countless occasions their value, especially in this era of compliance and governance. I cannot stress how much the value has been to the organization as a whole but also to myself as a development manager and project manager. Our tools, Lotus Domino TeamRooms, NOTES, Sametime and IBM ClearCase have allowed us to provide a complete organizational project management environment with both current and historical values. I would be hard pressed to find comparators that could offer such a complete circle of confidence in security and repository integrity.

micajah_anderson
micajah_anderson

...are available with both commercial and open-source licensing options. Two good open-source options are: 1. KnowledgeTree (http://www.knowledgetree.com) 2. OWL (http://owl.sourceforge.net) I've also have really good success with a few commercial items such as: 1. ClearCase (not cheap or easy to use though) 2. Visual SourceSafe 3. Broadvision (again, not cheap/easy). There's a new document management system out there as well... Alfresco (http://alfresco.com). It's made by the guys who originally created Documentuum. It works really well also. FWIW, I'd go with Knowledgetree. Strong controls on access, easy to setup and administer, and fairly intuitive for users to learn. On top of all that, it can be treated like a shared network drive so your users can map to it and treat it like a normal Windows directory (assuming you're using Windows). These were the tools we used because we had auditing needs, version control requirements, and a need for "rollback" capabilities should something go wrong.

maria.monteverde
maria.monteverde

Microsoft also uses the Team Site concept for document mangement, you can use calendar funcitons, List functions for issues or open activities, it also has discussion section and survey section. It is actually a development platform for any application, but the previous stated functions come out of the box

larry.leeth
larry.leeth

I'm interested in a differet kind of document management capability. Particularly, a set of solutions oriented to the requirements of a library containing electronic documents (books, journal articles, conference proceedings, etc). I'm sure something could be 'built' using Alfresco or other open-source products. A market has developed for such solutions based on SharePoint. Has such a Sharepoint 'customization' been developed to serve a customer set such as 'research libraries'? Any suggestions on where to look?

chrisjb
chrisjb

Alfresco offers access via shared network drives and a CIFS server, and has recently added some very interesting capabilities for Web Content and Records management. I also found it easier to implement than Knowledgetree, although I cannot say I have explored anywhere near the full potential of either system yet.