How versioning will reduce print problems by 60% or more

The phone is ringing constantly.
People are getting bad tempered with each other.
Artwork is late.
Paper has not have been ordered by the printer.
Deliveries are made before warehouses are ready.

If people are not informed about changes to jobs, problems rapidly happen!  And those problems can translate into reprints, claims for compensation and losses for all concerned.

It’s a print buyer’s nightmare

Print specification version numbers

Using version numbers for schedules and specifications helps avoid errors at your printers

To avoid this nightmare, the change in a specification or schedule must be handled carefully.  How do you make sure that everyone knows that there has been a change?  How do you make sure that everyone knows what that change is?  And how does everyone know that they are working from the latest specification?

It’s the same with software

Are your spreadsheets the latest version?  Is your browser fully updated?  Has someone got a more modern word processing package than you?  How on earth do you know?

It’s easy to find the answer.  All you need to do is to look at the version number of the software.  If you Google “Office 2003” you will see that there have been two new releases of office software since your version.  If someone can’t read one of my documents I automatically ask what version of the software they are using.  And if I have a problem with my browser the first thing my IT man asks me is what version I am using.

Version numbering is also a great tool for specifications

Every time I issue a new specification or schedule I attach a version number to it.  There is nothing complicated about this system:  I simply have versions 1, 2, 3 etc.  I also attach a date.  This now makes it easy to work out if everyone is working to the same specification.

I then make sure that I e-mail a copy of the new specification through to everyone who is working on the project.  The e-mail has a message which underlines that I am sending out a change to the specification.  The e-mail contains the new version number.  It contains an overview of the changes.  And finally the e-mail contains a request to destroy old versions.  And I also attach the new specification or schedule to the e-mail.

I always send out a request for a read receipt from this e-mail and request an acknowledgement.  An acknowledgement means I know that everyone has received the changes.  This has been vital on a couple of occasions when people have told me that they were never informed about changes!

Isn’t this a complicated way of telling people about changes?

This system may seem like overkill.  But think back to the scenario at the beginning of this article.  Does it sound familiar?

Is there lots of extra work?
Are there lots of arguments?
Are losses mounting?
Is this because people don’t really know what is happening?

Maybe it is time to solve all this by sending out version numbered specifications and schedules.

I once worked for a publisher who could never make up their mind

The publisher claimed they needed to be reactive to the market.  In reality being reactive meant changing the on sale dates of magazines every couple of issues.  It also meant that the number of pages in the magazine changed every issue.  This required a constant changing of schedules and specifications reschedule every issue.  No-one was ever quite sure what was the current specification or schedule on the magazines.

So I introduced version numbering for the schedules and specifications

We put the schedule and the specification on a server.  Every time a change happened to a schedule or specification I sent round an e-mail.  The e-mail contained the version number and the overview of the changes.  And the changes to schedule and specification were made on the server to reduce the chances of someone having an old version.

The number of changes didn’t decrease.  But the number of errors reduced dramatically.  And the amount of extra costs reduced dramatically.  And my number of working hours reduced dramatically!

Reduce your problems with versioning

Here are three things you can do to start versioning effectively:

  1. Firstly, make sure every specification and every schedule has a version number.  If you wish to distinguish specifications and schedules, use numbers for one and letters for the other
  2. Create an e-mail group for everyone on a project who needs to receive schedules and specifications
  3. Make sure you chase anyone on that e-mail group who doesn’t respond with a read receipt or acknowledgement when you send out a new schedule or specification.  It is vital that you know that they have received your e-mail and have no excuses for not working to the new version

Then any time there is any misunderstanding, just make sure that you are working to the same version number.  Just like I make sure we are working to the same software version when someone can’t read my documents.

P.S. If this article has been useful to you, you will also find my training courses on practical purchasing and print and paper specification useful.  Click here for more details about practical purchasing

and here for more details about print and paper specification

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