March 21, 2024

How to Conduct an Annual Document Review Like a Champ!

Some people find an annual document review as scary as Halloween but if you follow our guide, it will be as easy as carving a pumpkin!

First of all, if you don’t yet have any documentation to be reviewing on a regular business, you may want to use the “contact us” link below to help you establish some great documentation for your company!

Assuming you have great documentation, you already know that is it important to keep that documentation up-to-date but what is the right timing, or have often should you be updating it? Ideally if it is process documentation, you likely want to be updating that regularly, and throughout the year. For documents that don’t change as often – such as company policies – annual reviews are generally the way to go.

So how do you go about conducting an annual document review? Especially if you have multiple reviewers and approvers? How do you organize the activity and what’s the right approach? Simply follow the steps in this blog and you will be well on your way (you can thank me later!).

Step one:

First, list off the documents that are in need of updating and identify the following for each one:

  • document owner
  • subject matter expert(s)
  • approver(s)

These stakeholders need to be involved in the annual review.

The last thing you will need is a document-updater-person, also known as a documentation specialist (if that’s you, congratulations)! We have amazing document-specialist-updater-people and we ❤️ them!

Next you want to engage these key stakeholders by reaching out to them to let them know that it is time to perform an annual review. Also identify any documents that you are expecting them to review with you, outline the general expectations of each stake holder, and give them an approximate estimate of how much time you are going to need from them, and when.

Stake holder engagement complete.

Step two:

Plan your approach and methods for reviewing documents, providing feedback, making edits, obtaining approvals, finalizing documentations, and storing it in the final location.

For purpose of this article, we are only going to focus on the review process for digital documents. You will need to ask questions such as:

  • What systems or applications does our company use?
  • How text savvy are our users?
  • What tools do we use for sharing and collaboration?
  • If you have multiple reviewers, how are you going to combine and consolidate their feedback?
  • How will you resolve conflicting recommendations by the reviewers?
  • Do the individuals prefer to review the documents on their own or altogether in a collaboration setting?
  • Do we need to convert the existing documents into an updated template, format, or branding?
  • How many approvers are required for each document?
  • How will you collect and keep a record of approvals?

If you are able to answer all these questions, you should be able to put a formidable plan together. One that will be engaging and efficient.

As a suggestion, here’s an approach that I have used with success:

  • create a draft version of the document that is accessible by all.
  • turn “track changes” on (just in case someone changes verbiage directly) and ask each individual to review the document on their own and provide their initial comments within it.
  • provide a deadline/due date for the reviewers to complete their review.
  • schedule a collaboration session with reviewers and approvers together after the deadline/due date.
  • review all the feedback/comments in advance of the collaboration session.
  • during the collaboration session, make live changes to the document based on the feedback and pause, where needed, for debate and discussion.
  • schedule follow-up sessions, as needed (you may not complete it all in one session).
  • after all edits have been made, finalize the draft and send it to all approvers for final approval.
  • once approved, update the document attributes (approved by, last reviewed, last updated dates, etc.).
  • store the final document in an appropriate location and export PDFs for the users to read (but not edit).

You should customize the approach to best suit your stakeholders and organizational culture. Embrace any feedback or suggestions you receive from your stakeholders to adjust the approach.

Step three:

Execute the document review plan. Ensure each stakeholder is offered a sufficient opportunity to review the documents and contribute feedback and don’t be afraid to make adjustments to the plan, if you discover that there is a more efficient or engaging way to complete the work.

Step four:

Thank everyone for their efforts and identify the accomplishment!

Ask for feedback on the document review/approval process from your stakeholders. Find out what went well and what didn’t. Make adjustments where needed on the next document review/approval activity until it’s a finely-tuned, efficient, and enjoyable experience!

Process Primer Consulting is here if you need more advanced or experienced documentation support or facilitation. We specialize in creating magnificent, company-branded documentation and will help you review and update your documentation with ease.

Feel free to schedule a free consult and we’ll be happy to have coffee with you and discuss improvement opportunities catered to your business goals.

Have questions? Need more information?
Leave a comment or contact us and we’ll be happy to respond!

Be healthy, be safe and be efficient.

Alwin Kwan
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Process Consultant

Comprehend. Reimagine. Outperform.

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