Why is Version Control Important?

Sep 8th '21

Version control is important when documents are being created, and for any records that undergo a lot of revision and redrafting or annual reviews. It helps us to track changes and identify when key decisions were made along the way. It is particularly important for electronic documents that are being reviewed by a number of different users.


Knowing which version of a document you are looking at is important if you are trying to find out which version of a policy is currently in force, or which version of a policy was in use at a particular time. It forms good records keeping practice which is particularly important in meeting our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.


The aim of this document is to provide best practice guidance for applying version control to different types of document at the University of Nottingham. This guidance covers best practice use of:


  1. File Naming conventions
  2. Version Numbers 
  3. Version Control Tables
  4. Document control Tables


File Naming Conventions
At the simplest level you can use file naming conventions to identify the version of a document. Use the file name of the document to determine both the version and status alongside the subject, for example:


  1. Records Management Policy Draft v0.1
  2. Records Management Policy Draft v0.3


  1. Records Management Policy v1.0
  2. Records Management Policy v1.1 (note: first revision – minor)
  3. Records Management Policy v2.0


Remember to update the version number on the file name as well as the header (or barter) of the document itself. It is easy to update a document and forget to rename the version number on either the file name or the document which can lead to confusion.


Unless you don’t need to keep previous versions of the document, always save updated versions as ‘Read-only’ tag to ensure you are forced to create a new version the next time to go to update it.


File naming conventions alone will not tell you who made the change and what the change was. If it is important to record this information use a version control table.


Version Numbers
Version numbering helps to distinguish one version of a document from another. For some documents, you may decide that a simple numbering system consisting of consecutive whole numbers is sufficient to help you keep track of which version you are working on. However, documents that go numerous stages of development before a final version is reached, and for those that are developed through input by multiple individuals, you may decide to adopt version numbers
to keep track of both minor and major changes to that document.


Minor Revisions
Minor revisions are small changes made to a document such as spelling or grammar corrections, and other changes that… Minor revisions to a document are reflected by making increments to the decimal number.


Major Revisions
Major revisions are changes to a document that require the document to be re-approved (either by an individual or a group). Major revisions are reflected by incrementing the whole number by 1.



Version Control and Document Control Tables

Version control tables provide historical data about each update made to a document. It is useful to include the author, date and notes about each change made so you can refer back to what these changes were.


In addition to a version control table, it may be useful to include additional information in a Document Control Table which might include the following relevant information:



Remember – when electronically storing documents, it is often best practice to include the date at the front in reverse, as computers store files incrementally. So – 1st September 2021 becomes 20210901.


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