Version control is great and with new products like SharePoint hitting widespread use, it is becoming a common part of document management. But version control has some major limitations.
The first is that the comments tied to a new version are tied to the document as a whole when you really want comments spread throughout the document each tied to a point in the document where that comment is discussing that change. Comments are even more powerful when used to comment on suggested changes where the document is not changed, but a suggestion is tied to a specific point.
The second is how changes are displayed. With version control you can get a difference between the old and new document. But that is a cumbersome procedure and it is read only. Much better is a system that shows the changes in the document, identifies who made each change (and has their comments right there), and provides the reviewer the ability to accept or reject each change.
This detailed view of changes to a document is revision control. And when married with version control, provides a superb document management system. This is available today in the case of Word & Excel documents. For both of these you can turn on track changes to get revision control and combined with SharePoint or another version control system, you then have the perfect document management & tracking system. For word processing & spreadsheets – problem solved.
But what about report and docgen templates? The changes made to a template can have serious consequences. Changing the legal wording in generated insurance documents or the calculations in financial reports can lead to significant financial costs. Reviewing exactly what was changed, who changed, their comments about the change, and then approving and rejecting each individual change is critically important for companies.
In the case of report & docgen template design – revision control is essential.
And the good news is that this is available – from Windward Reports. Because Windward uses Word, Excel, & PowerPoint as its report templates, you can use the revision control in Office for your template revision control. You can even feed Windward templates where the tracking is on with some changes approved and some not, comments included, etc, and Windward will ignore the comments and use only the approved changes. This means you can permanently store your templates with all the revision tracking intact.
What's really cool about this is the effort we had to put in at Windward to make use of this functionality in Office. None. That's right, there was absolutely nothing we had to do. This is one of the great advantages of using Office as our report & docgen design tool – for much of the significant functionality our system provides we don't have to do anything.
And when Office adds new features, our customers are able to use those features without our having to add or change anything. So improvements in Office are by definition improvements in Windward Reports. Basically the Microsoft Office team is part of our team (but don't tell them that).