Online Document Collaboration Best Practices

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Real-time team collaboration tools help employees avoid misunderstandings, speed up decision-making, and improve creativity and productivity. 

Popular online collaboration software includes standalone tools like Google Docs, Zoho Docs, Box, Dropbox, and full platforms like Microsoft’s Office 365. Office 365 offers a variety of options for collaborating on documents using online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and other tools. 

In addition, it includes SharePoint, which offers robust online collaboration on documents. However, collectively with the advantages, on line file collaboration brings approximately a few severe challenges. For example, an capacity for a couple of users to edit every file could make the editing procedure endless.

We’ve compiled the best practices for document collaboration supported by document management tools in this article.

1. Document Collaboration Management

computers sharing information

Controlled collaboration is the key to effective team collaboration on documents. The following measures can be used to exercise control:

Roles are clearly defined

Each member of a collaborative team should only be able to freely edit a document if the team has the same roles, for example, when a team of salespeople drafts a contract. 

However, if a team consists of members with different functions, this must be reflected in the appropriate permissions, since for example a field worker, a lawyer and an accountant look at a draft contract from different perspectives. In such a case, role-based permissions can look like this:

  • Owner: (viewing and editing documents, giving and removing permissions, lock editing).
  • Contributor: (viewing and editing documents).
  • Reader: (only viewing documents).
  • Commentator: (viewing and leaving comments on documents).

Keeping drafting and editing separate is a good idea

Before editing a document, a collaborative team should have all of the relevant information. As a result, editing should begin only after the final draft has been completed. In addition, an early draft of a document should only be viewable.

Defining timelines

For each stage of document drafting or editing, specific timeframes should be established. The first draft of a document, for example, should be completed by the end of the day and a final draft by the end of the week.

Only one document owner assignment

To make document collaboration work, management should be centralized and under the control of a single person

A document owner should be in charge of final checking and resolving conflicts over disputed changes in the document, setting timeframes for co-authoring stages, and locking down a form or parts of it for editing.

Limiting the number of co-authors

Only relevant people should be invited to online document collaboration to avoid chaos and lengthy co-authoring. It’s also a good idea to divide ownership of a document if it’s large or has sections related to different departments or teams. As a result, they can concentrate on their area without interfering with the work of other groups.

2. Communication

The following are some of the best practices for arranging effective communication during online document collaboration:

Instant messaging

Using messengers allows team members to quickly get answers to questions that arise while working on a document and resolving disagreements. As a result, they save time and avoid having to redo work multiple times. 

Many online collaboration tools also allow team members to save live chat messages alongside documents and search by conversations, which helps them avoid asking the same questions over and over.


Instead of overwriting text or changes made by other team members or deleting parts of the document, collaborators should comment during the editing process. They can leave comments on specific sections and tag other team members to let them know about their feedback. 

Team members can also use approval notifications when working on documents in real-time. If they agree with a document section, their initials will appear on the page after they approve it.

3. Consistency and security of documents

We recommend the following best practices to maintain document security and consistency:

Version tracking

Real-time collaboration tools with versioning capabilities make it easier to see what changes were made to a document, when they were made, and who made them. This feature allows you to detect unauthorized access and changes to sensitive documents right away.

Document leak prevention

Document leak prevention

Many real-time collaboration tools allow you to limit document saving to desktops, mobile devices, and portable devices. It’s essential for remote workers who use personal or borrowed computers to work on sensitive documents. 

These tools can also prevent document copying and printing, ensuring that sensitive documents remain exclusively within the collaboration area and are not accidentally left in plain view.

Controlling document access

Document collaborators should keep an eye on who has access to work documents and respond quickly to any changes. External access to a form, for example, should be revoked as soon as a user no longer requires it. It should be done automatically to avoid errors by setting a time limit after which access will expire.

How to collaborate effectively

By following best practices and supporting them with the right tools, you’ll achieve effective online collaboration. Call on Alcero consultants to help you implement technology-based collaboration in your organization or get it on track.

Take your collaboration to the next level.