Agilewords Blog

5 pitfalls of collaborative document review to avoid

5_pitfalls_colaborative_document_reviewThere’s a lot of buzz surrounding collaborative document editing, whose benefits are overrated. On the other hand, collaborative document review receives less coverage but is equally important for businesses who engagein external collaboration, something we also refer to as client collaboration.

We talk to business owners on a weekly basis. While most of them understand the benefits of collaborative document review, they usually have a hard time evaluating and comparing the benefits of software applications.

Here’s a list of five pitfalls to avoid when selecting an online document collaboration solution:

 

#1. I don’t know who started reviewing my document

It’s crucial to track access to the document and to know if collaborators you invited actually joined the document. Without that basic capability, you end up wondering if the person received your email invitation – maybe it went to his spam box, and you lose precious time in the review process. Don’t take access audit for granted – many web-based applications still do a poor job at tracking collaborators’ access.

OUR ADVICE: MAKE SURE YOUR SOLUTION HAS DOCUMENT-LEVEL AUDIT ACCESS BUILT-IN

 

#2. My reviewers worked on different versions

This one is a killer because as a document owner you’ll have to mergefeedback between or among versions unless your reviewer is kind enough to start over again – and usually he won’t.If your document review involves multiple revisions, make sure that everyone accesses the latest version at all times. Online document sharing usually solves that issue, IF, the web application becomes the only place where one can view the file. Sharing documents on a server and letting users download it is not going to help you since each collaborator gets alocal copy. How do you know if they are working on the latest version?

OUR ADVICE: EVERYONE SHOULD ACCESS AND WORK ON THE LATEST VERSION ONLINE

 

#3. I can’t see other collaborators' feedback

Collaborators involved in a group review should be able to see others’ comments at all times. Failing to do so means that the document owner may end up in situations where he receives conflicting or duplicate feedback. Duplicate feedback adds to feedback noise and takes extratime to read; conflicting feedback is even worse. Usually, the document owner has to follow up with reviewers for clarificationand to reach an agreement. At the end, it’s just time lost and energy spent on issues that should not have been there in the first place.

OUR ADVICE: COLLABORATORS SEE ALL FEEDBACK AND CAN JOIN THE DISCUSSION

 

#4. I was not aware of those comments or changes

Building on our previous point, it’s usually not enough to be able to see others' comments on a document. You also need a good notification service and comment tracking feature. Let’s assume that you are reviewing a 30-page business proposal with three colleagues. You already collected feedback from everyone and think you are readyto go. However your VP of Sales makes a newcomment and requestsa change in the payment terms. Without some kind of email notification and online reminders, you may release the document and send it to the client without noticing that request.To mitigate that risk, your application needs to notify you ofany activity; periodic email notifications (daily digests) and activity feedsprovide a good solution.

OUR ADVICE: ADOPT A SOLUTION THAT TRACKS ACTIVITY AND CHANGES AND NOTIFIES YOU

 

#5. Are you done reviewing?

So you collected feedback from all collaborator and made necessary changes in your document. You’re ready to send the final version out to your clientand head home for a great weekend with your family. And here it comes: a last-minute change request from your CEO … He is obviously not aware that his request comes late in the process. Is it his fault? Not really. Is it yours? Probably, if you did not set clear expectations and did not communicate a deadline to provide feedback. To avoid such a pitfall, find a tool that lets you define a clear review process; this includes the ability to seta review deadline and the ability to track progress at individual levels.Set expectations early on in the process toavoid bad surprises!

OUR ADVICE: SET A DEADLINE FOR GROUP REVIEW AND TRACK INDIVIDUALS PROGRESS

 

There’s obviously more that can go wrong during a document group review, but we think these pitfalls are the most frequent. We’d love to hear about your own experience. What collaboration issue did you experience duringyour document review? Did you find tools or solutions to address them?

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  • Michelle Baker

    10-16-2011

    Thanks for sharing these excellent tips. I would also suggest that clients establish an Excel spreadsheet exterior to the software they're using to track deadlines and their completion. (As a former bank auditor, I believe in double checking everything.)

    Reply

    • Fabrice Talbot

      10-17-2011

      Hi Michelle,

      It may apply in some specific cases but having two separate systems to track progress/deadline is a recipe for disaster IMHO.

      I've seen in other corporations and you end up spending a lot of time in meetings reviewing the issues in the Excel file and not knowing for sure which one is fixed or not....

      That's why we advise above to share/review one master copy of the document and track deadlines/tasks inside you review solution.

      It's the basic principles behind Agilewords, our document review/approval solution.

      Fabrice

      Reply

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