Managing Your Business Processes

Related Documents vs. Hyperlinks and Embedded OLE Objects

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 1:44:05 AM

From time to time when I’m consulting with new clients, a review of their document management system reveals some old skeletons in the closet. I’m referring to the practice of inserting hyperlinks or embedding OLE objects from shared drives or folders into document content. This is done to show relationships between documents, or to word this better, the connection between documents. I use the word “connection” because there is no actual “relationship” between these documents in the hierarchical or parent-child sense. The hyperlinks or embedded objects just point to where the files are supposed to be.

Here is the scenario: Procedure “X” references Work Instruction “Y” and the work instruction requires the operator to complete Checklist “Z”. Therefore a path to “Y” is inserted into “X”, and “Z” are inserted into “Y” Although there is no actual ISO 9001 requirement to do this, the concept seems logical when documents are being created and quality systems are set up. The problem begins when documents start to evolve over time. File names change; forms, work instructions and procedures are revised; documents are saved to new locations or as different file names; and some of them are archived. At this point these connections start to fail. If there are hyperlinks in the document, they usually end up broken or disconnected. And where links remain intact, revision levels and issued dates etc. are not always accurate, because the file on a shared drive can get revised and may not be the same as the object that was once inserted into the content of the document. All this adds up to low hanging fruit for the auditor.

A solution to this common problem can be found in DocuQuest, the document management module of the ISOQuest software suite. Start by removing these hyperlinks and embedded objects from the document content. While you’re at it, you may as well remove any manually added footer details – including information such as document titles, revision levels, issue dates, etc. Server generated footers will be 100% correct 100% of the time, so there is no point in taking chances with the human error that will eventually find its way into your documents as they evolve. Documents uploaded to DocuQuest all have their own metadata and part of this metadata (or document properties) includes a field for “Related Documents”. From this Microsoft SharePoint picker, documents can be linked to other documents. These “links” are always live back to the most current version of these documents, as they reside in the same database. This forms sort of a “parent – child” relationship between the documents. If related documents are revised, the links are live and remain intact to the most current issued versions. If the parent document is archived, the child records will continue to stand on their own as they have all the required metadata like any other issued document.

To summarize, related documents are issued documents that link to other issued documents via their metadata. These links are always live – if the related document is revised and issued, the link points to the latest version. When a document is archived it is essentially no longer related to any other documents. It does not drag hyperlinks or OLE objects with it, so there is no impact on any other documents.

Ragnar Schreier
Business/Project Manager
The GQI Group

Tags: Document Control, DocuQuest, Process Optimization, ISO 9001, Avoid Document Control Errors