This article is part 5 in our series from productivity psychologist Melissa Gratias. Follow her on Twitter @melissagratias.
John is an HR Generalist who is helping a department through a difficult restructuring of personnel. He must document the project every step of the way while ensuring that all decision-makers have signed off on the final plan. Sending email attachments is discouraged due to the potential for sensitive information to be dispersed prior to formal announcements being made. How can he share his documents securely and effectively, collaborate with stakeholders, and accurately track the decision-making process? Firstly, he needs to use an efficient document management system like Sharepoint to make sure his files are well organized and easy to discover should he need access to them. This will also mean that they are easier to track so won’t end up in the wrong hands. Any individual can partake in some sharepoint training whether it’s to benefit their own business of the business they are employed by.
As was discussed in an earlier blog post, email attachments are an inefficient way to manage documents – and for a project like John’s, sharing documents via email could be downright detrimental. If John tried to manage his project using email and attachments, here are three problems he would no doubt encounter:
1. Version control snafus. John’s plan will have several iterations. More than likely, one or more of the 11 project team members would look to an old email with an outdated attachment, thinking they were examining the most updated version. Delays, mistakes, miscommunications, and extra work would then ensue.
2. Inefficient approval processes. John will email 11 people, asking for a reply with the word “Approved” to signal signoff on the final plan. He’ll then have to keep track of who has/hasn’t given approval, follow up with non-responders, and save 11 (or more!) emails for documentation.
3. Confidentiality concerns. An email attachment is an uncontrolled duplicate. Once you click “send,” it exists outside of your control and can be edited and forwarded to anyone without your knowledge.
So, if not email, then what?
If John used a cloud-based document collaboration tool like Nitro Cloud to manage the documents for the project, he’d have much more control over the process and, by default, an effortless and thorough documentation of all document activity. With a solution like Nitro Cloud, John could:
• Share a document with view-only access if he wants people to view, but not edit its contents
• Choose whether to create a public link or to share documents only with specific people
• See at a glance who has or has not accessed any of the shared documents, and follow up appropriately
• Revoke access to certain documents and upload new versions to avoid potential version control issues
• Add, remove, or temporarily suspend a user’s access to the project documents if team members change
• Request a signature on the final plan from all 11 stakeholders at once, and set the order in which they’ll sign the document
• Examine the entire history of a document: when it was accessed, what edits were made, and by whom
Any way you slice it, managing a project – particularly a sensitive one – using email attachments is a very hopeful approach: you hope that stakeholders review what they are supposed to review. You hope your colleagues access the right version at the right time. You hope that a well-intentioned recipient doesn’t unknowingly forward a sensitive email attachment to the wrong person.
There are many widely available tools that render sharing documents via email both inefficient and outdated, and others that go a step further by enabling collaboration in the cloud.
Avoid the many caveats of email attachments – replace your old routine with secure sharing, eSigning, and collaboration through Nitro Cloud. Create your free account here!