This article was written by Scott Donald: Google Workspace Developer, Google Developer Expert, and Google Champion Innovator.
Oftentimes when your organization generates workplace documentation like policies, guides, and training materials those files are shared and embedded in other documents, sites, and locations across your Google Workspace ecosystem. Even your organization’s staff may have their own personalized set of links to documents that they need to reference regularly.
A Problematic but Common Approach for Managing Workplace Documentation
When updating these documents a common approach is to start afresh with a new file or a copy of the original file. This new file is approved and published to the relevant stakeholders with little or no consideration for how the original document was shared. Then, the original document is either renamed and archived, forgotten, or deleted.
What does this mean for the people who rely on that document?
Either they still have access to the original document and may reference that instead of the new document ostensibly causing confusion and issues, or the document has been deleted and all linked or embedded locations are now broken. This again results in inefficient workflows and a time-consuming process of updating new links and re-embedding locations.
What to do?
The Best Workplace Documentation Solution
The best solution is to update the original document. This means all the links to the document are maintained, preventing multiple document confusion and lost links.
Let’s look at some steps for achieving a smooth workplace documentation update transition.
Prepare An Updated Version of the Document
Whether you are rebuilding the document from scratch or updating the existing document, ensure that this process is completed privately with the team allocated to complete and approve it. The last thing you want to do is have organization members read a work-in-progress and question it prematurely or adhere to tentatively proposed policies before the document has been vetted and approved.
Create a private staging or development folder in Google Drive, or better yet in a Google Shared Drive. Then share this folder and file with your document creation team.
You can even use the Google Workspace formalized Approvals process to send a request to reviewers to approve or reject the document before it is migrated to the core document file.
It is also good practice to name the document “DEV”, “WIP” (Work In Progress), “STAGING” or provide some other indicator that this document is not the official document. This prevents any confusion from those users who have access to the staging and primary (core) document. Even including a watermark in a Google Doc or Google Slide can help with indicating that this is not the original document to prevent any confusion.
Keep in mind that you don’t always have to wait for the entire document to be updated. If it makes sense to your workflow, you can update sections of the document as each one is approved.
Make a Copy of the Original Document
Before updating the original core document it is always a good idea to archive a copy of the original document. Yes, you can use the “Version History” in Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides to go back and review or even make a copy of a previous version. However, it can simply be more efficient and better organized to maintain a private folder with copies of previous versions of the document.
Here you can name the folder “Archive | Document name” and then each archived document could be renamed something like “ARCHIVED 22 Dec 14 | Document Name” for easy reference.
Keeping the old version of the document archived also makes it easier for a new editing or review team to read the old version of the document and even share comments inside the old version.
You can use File > Make a copy to copy the original document, rename it and place it in your archiving location.
Migrate the New Version to the Original Document
Once you have archived the current version of the document, it is time to update it.
Provide a version number or date of the change
Another good practice here is to add a version number and a date at the top of a Google Doc, on the title page of a Google Slide, or something like a “Notes” or “Information” Sheet tab in a Google Sheet.
This lets users know that there has been an update to the document and they should pay extra attention to the document to understand the changes.
If you are updating just a section of the document, it is a good idea to provide something like “Updated 22 Dec 14” to indicate where the change occurred.
Copying in new data
Depending on the Google document type you will need to copy the data in different ways. However, in general, a simple copy and paste will do the trick. From Google document to Google document copy and paste will maintain formatting.
For Google Docs copy and paste in your update with the copy and paste shortcuts or from the Edit menu. If you have different formatting in your staging file to your core file then you can use “Paste without formatting” from the Edit menu. Your text will then be formatted to match your core document.
If you have a table of contents in your document, ensure that you use the refresh icon to update it. It is likely that pages and headers have changed.
In Google Slides, like Google Docs, you can rely on using copy and paste or copy and paste plain text only. However, Google Slides also has the ability to insert slides from other Google Slides directly into your core Google Slide.
To do this go to File > Import Slides
Select your slide from the file picker. You will then see a menu of all the slides from your staging Google Slide. Select all of the slides that you want to add and then select Insert slides.
You can then reorder the slides as you need and delete any of the originals that have been updated with the new slides.
Google Sheets provides more options for copying and pasting ranges into your core google sheet. You can paste in only formulas if you are doing a formula update or paste in conditional formatting, data validation, and more.
Note that if you have a large amount of data to transfer over, say many tens of thousands of rows and columns, you may have to copy and paste the data over in sections to ensure there are no memory errors.
You can also export whole new Google Sheet tabs from your staging Google Sheet into your core Google Sheet. To do this, select the desired sheet tab and then select Copy to > Existing spreadsheet.
A file picker will appear. Search for your core Google Sheet and select the Insert button.
The sheet tab will appear in your core Sheet as “Copy of <<your sheet tab name>>”. Make sure you rename the sheet tab name back to the original name.
It is important to note that if you have changed any Named Ranges or renamed Google Sheet tabs, these will need to be updated in the core sheet too. Otherwise, you will get reference errors to your selected locations.
Maintaining the link integrity of your core workplace documentation in Google Workspace is an important policy to introduce into your own administrative practices.
One interesting time-saving approach that zenphi can provide for this practice is to automate the workflow from edit approval through to, archiving and updating portions or whole core documents with a simple click of a button. You could even automate an email notification of a document update with some notes on what has been modified.
Something else you could consider by using a zenphi flow is to keep a record of all the connections each core document has. Then if you really need to make changes to the URL, your zenphi flow has already automatically provided locations for you to access and update. A zenphi flow could also update these links for you with just one click.
This would be particularly useful for non-Google Workspace files of your workplace documentation stored in Google Drive like images and PDFs that can’t be edited. Watch the on-demand webinar to learn how you can automate this and other Google Workspace tasks.
There is so much potential for you to explore. Start your free trial today!