Version control

by John Bandler

Version control is a process of keeping track of a version of a document, with two main instances (1) organization approved versions over time and (2) document draft versions during a governance document project.

Version control is an important process for managing documents. We can use it individually and it is essential for organizations. I discuss it in more depth in my book on Policies and Procedures.

Version control for individuals

We all manage various electronic documents, sometimes share them with others. While our computer systems have some tools to help us determine certain version information, those can be hard to analyze.

There are things we can do affirmatively to help us track our documents. I encourage these habits with students, including as they work on a paper throughout the semester.

Some tips include:

  • Good filenames
  • Include a revision date in the filename
  • Include a revision date on the first page of the document itself

Version control for organizations

Organizations need to track versions two ways:

  • Track and maintain all approved versions of all documents, including when an approved version becomes obsolete by a new version
  • Track draft (unapproved) versions of documents.

All approved versions (even when obsolete) need to be tracked so the organization knows which is current and what was in effect at what point in case there is a dispute or legal action.

Draft unapproved versions need to be tracked to ensure review, input and feedback is properly done, with necessary changes included. It is confusing when multiple versions are circulating, and it is hard to tell which is the current version.

Version control is done with

  • Good filenames that incorporate a date
  • Notations within the document indicating revision and approval dates (or status as a draft)

When version control is sloppy

When version control is sloppy or otherwise falls short:

  • The wrong document might be submitted for approval or filing or otherwise released
  • Needed changes might not be incorporated
  • Proper review might not have occurred
  • The product may not be as good
  • The process may not be as good


Version control saves time, reduces inefficiency and confusion.

Build yourself and your organization with solid effort and following solid principles.

If your organization needs help with improving its internal documentation and policies and procedures, feel free to contact me.

Additional reading

This article is hosted at, copyright John Bandler, all rights reserved.

Originally posted 2/11/2024, updated 2/11/2024.