Preventing Version-Control Problems: Rule #1

Everyone who works on proposals has a version control story.  Well, everyone has a version problem story.

In these days of online document repositories and shared network drives,  version control of RFP response documents has gotten trickier, because everyone can usually access everything all the time.  But there are simple rules for maintaining version control.

Version control:  The file-naming and handling conventions intended to prevent earlier versions of documents from being used in place of the current version, and to prevent two people from working on a document in parallel, creating two versions that must then be reconciled at great waste of time and loss of sense of humour.

Rule #1 for preventing version control problems is this:

Have clear, simple rules for identifying versions.

 Why is this the first rule?  Because you can’t control versions unless you can tell them apart. Here’s how to make it easy to do that, no matter what your work situation is.

On a shared document site that records upload data (date, time, person, comments) and (maybe) archives old versions automatically, do nothing more with file names. Train people to get in the habit of checking that information, and keep your file names as clean as possible.  If you have a “checked out” file status available, use it.  It won’t completely stop people from downloading a file that someone else is working on, but it will slow the traffic considerably.

On a shared drive or on separate drives connected only by email, do three things:

  • Have one person name all the files using the same protocol (down to the spacing) so they’ll sort in a human-readable order (that’s where “Section 20” follows “Section 19” in the list, not “Section 2”).  Again, anything that helps people find a file (or, perhaps more to the point, not overlook it) supports version control.
  • Use a single, simple identifier of the version (like a “v” appended to the file name), with a running count.
  • Add the initials of the last person to work on a file after the version identifier.  But isn’t that redundant?  Even messy?  Yup.  But someone, somewhere, somewhen, will not remember to increment the version number, but will remember to add their initials.  The certainty of which version you’re looking at is worth that slight inelegance and redundancy.

 

 

 

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