Bring Order to the Chaos of Version Control

February 13, 2023

It’s an all-too-common law firm scene: An award nomination is due, and three partners are simultaneously reviewing it. They make their own edits without seeing their colleagues’ changes, then share their version with the person responsible for reconciling the edits.

We’ve all been there. Version control chaos may be unavoidable when you’re closing in on a deadline. But a few proactive steps can help marketers bring order to the chaos of the review process.

Streamline the approval process

Following these best practices can establish a more coherent and effective review process.

  1. Clarify the chain of approval. Before routing materials, determine who needs to see different types of pieces and in what order they should review. Determine back-ups for when a person or team is out of the office or unavailable.
  2. Include dates and initials in file names. Useful file names should include a title related to what the document is about as well as the date edited. And when individuals review a document, they should add their initials to the file name. This makes it easy to spot the most up-to-date version and to see who has weighed in.
  3. Save every version. It’s helpful to have earlier versions to refer back to, especially if you need to revert to language that was deleted.
  4. Embrace a common tracking tool. Microsoft Word and Google Docs both have a Track Changes feature. It’s an effective tool for collaborating and incorporating edits. Make sure everyone reviewing materials knows how to use it.
  5. Discourage workarounds. Insist on everyone using a tracking tool. Also, ask individuals to insert a comment in the document if they need to provide context for their edits, rather than explaining changes via text or email. This keeps everything in one place and allows everyone to see why changes were made. Just remember to remove all comments in the final version.
  6. Resolve straightforward changes at intermittent stages to keep documents clean. If you route a document for several rounds of review, it may be helpful to resolve changes one round at a time. This allows individuals to do a final review of a clean document.
  7. Insist on a final review before a piece is published. Before a blog goes live or an email is sent, “one last look” can help ensure that all edits have been incorporated. Another set of eyes also helps avoid last-minute typos when, for example, an email subject line is added that wasn’t part of the formal review.

These version-control best practices can help your firm minimize errors and prevent — or at least reduce — the panic of meeting deadlines.