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In the normal development of an organization, the handling of digital information takes a scenic route. This is certainly true with regards to vendor document management.

vendor document managementAs the number of files grow, administrators create structure and rules to handle files – naming protocols, storage locations, file groupings, folder creation rules, revision handling etc. As more documents clog the system, the rules intensify. More time is required to train users, police compliance, fight for buy-in, and fix mistakes. More users start wanting access to various files, which sets off another round for training, policing and mistakes. Eventually, the system becomes unsupportable. The rules take too much time away from users, and administrators start to lose the compliance battle as users start taking work offline.

Then document management appears. While users suffer slightly from less flexibility, they no longer need to spend time on compliance. The rewards are easily visible, and the positive feedback loop drives compliance.


When we consider vendor documentation on capital projects, even the most robust document management systems face new challenges. For strong vendor documentation management:

  1. You must now manage a document workflow system. The document must be routed to various internal approvers, and returned (multiple times) to external parties (suppliers).
  2. There is unique meta data to create and manage
    • SDRL codes,
    • Multiple document numbers (supplier, project, subvendor),
    • Equipment Tags,
    • More ?
  3. You are generally operating without any formal list of deliverables.

You can, of course, customize a standard document management system to comply with number one. Depending on your document system (Sharepoint, Documentum, FileNet, etc.), various solutions exist or can be built. Costs are (very) variable.

Number two can be managed through a combination of customization, data creation (by vendors) and data entry (by your document control team). There is a lot of work, re-work, human error, and variability to this process.

The third entry remains an enigma. Someone must create a list of documents for every order, such that each one can be expedited, tracked and delivered. The list is often dynamic, so once such a list has been procured, it requires careful management to ensure accuracy. These lists are notoriously:

a) hard to get
b) hard to maintain, and
c) hard to understand.

When I was first exposed to the world of vendor document management, I found it amazing that such a structured industry (procurement for large project) would be attempt to expediting without an accurate “bill of materials” (document register).

And to watch the document register change from week to week with no defined method to communicate the reasons for change would drive me mad.

Overall, DocBoss was built to deliver to all three characteristics of vendor document management. Can you think of any others?