Why Excel is not the right tool for Document Control

Document Control eQMS Blog

Planning to use or already using Excel for Document Control and Version Control? I have spoken to 100’s of companies on what they currently use for Document Control the most common answer I get is we use do it manually oh and we use Excel.

So, OK excel is a spreadsheet program and you can list your documents and it’s properties such as Author, Version Number, Version Date, Publication date etc. Where it becomes a little more trickier is when we start to list the distribution list, who are the proposed assessors, who did the actual assessments & what are the assessment comments?

Now you can start to see the problem, information overload. It’s just too much information to handle in columns and rows for it to be effective, but this is just the start, here we look at some of the other issues around this.


1. Reminders and escalation

2. User acknowledgements

3. Document Change Traceability


Reminders and Escalation

There is no integral reminder system to remind your assessors that an assessment needs to be done on a document so it can be published. This causes a lot of grievances where new procedures of how things should be done are held up by some individuals.

Therefore lots of time spent taken to manually remind them to approve or reject the documents.

User acknowledgements

Within Excel the document distribution list is a flat structure and there is no record of when you notified your users via email that there is a new document and how do you confirm they have read it.

What if they read the document and didn’t understand it, is that logged too?

Even if they acknowledge this via email chasing up the people who have not acknowledged again is a time consuming business and let’s face it’s not something fun to do.

Document Change Traceability

If you are manually updating all records of a document change, who approved it, rejected it, all it takes is some of these details to be missed or be incorrect and the document traceability starts to lose all credibility.

This can be often a slippery slope, where version numbers are incorrect or a version number does not correspond to a version date.

We all know it’s possible to use Excel for Document Control and there are really diligent quality managers and document controllers that can use excel and get around the above problem, however there is no doubting that Excel is not the ideal solution at the very least it is not efficient for this purpose.

There are many tools out there designed for Document Control that not only achieve to address the above points but also give added advantage such as automated periodic revisions, links to QMS standards, document cross-linking and many more.


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