Check In/Check Out as a Part of Digital Content Management

Posted on October 12, 2009 under Uncategorized by

A much-overlooked capability prevents overwritten changes

In the standard, off-the-shelf Windows network environment, people can share files freely — in many cases, too freely.  For instance two employees can open a file on a server on two different workstations.  One person will save her changes and close her work.  The second employee then saves his document, thereby overwriting the first employee’s updates.

This collaborative document could be an Excel worksheet where incoming costs or data are recorded, or an engineering CAD file, where different parts of the drawing are checked and corrected by various team members.  Typically this overwriting might require a repetition of a day’s worth of editing, but worse still, this kind of error can go forward unnoticed.  Calculations down the line are based on incorrect data.  Written materials are sent to clients loaded with mistakes.

In file management, a check-in/check-out capability is a very simple preventative cure, but one that is conspicuously lacking in most organizations that produce documents collaboratively.  Check-in/check-out only allows one person at a time to modify a file.  When one person has a document checked out, other employees can open the previously saved version with read-only permission.   The electronic document management system will not allow changes until the file is checked in again.

Employees in offices that do not have a check-in/check-out capability for their digital assets often dance around the problem by temporarily saving their version as a new file name, “file.doc” becomes “file1.doc,” for example.  Not only does this practice defeat the purpose of a collaborative master document, it can lead to confusing version control mix-ups.  A search for a master document through a department server can then turn up several files with similar names with meaningless endings, leading one to wonder which is the most accurate, fully updated revision.

In this month’s case study of the engineering firm Booth & Associates, we see a firm very much reliant on parallel work on the same set of CAD drawings and other documentation.  Read more about how Booth & Associates structured their new document management solution, which included check-in/check-out capabilities for master files.

While you’re at it, check out how content control from M-Files gives you check-in/check-out integrated right inside Windows’ Open and Save dialog boxes.

If one or more of your employees make changes on a document in the same period of time, then it’s a good idea to consider implementing a file management system that provides check-in/check-out.

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