As we have discussed in previous posts, the lack of version control can cause no end of heartache for anyone who has ever created presentations in a group setting (which is almost always the setting in which presentations are made). Practicing the “Only One” principle prevents lapses in version control and the waste of time, energy, and effort they cause.
The fully articulated version of this principle is: “There can be only one file that contains the latest, greatest, most current version of a slide (or a specific collection of slides) and all edits must be done directly to that file.”
In practice, this means that the impulse to email out a copy of a PowerPoint file should be suppressed. Email is often the path of least resistance and it can be a hard impulse to resist. Sometimes there is a great deal of pressure from other team members or, even worse, management to do this. Everybody wants complete access to the file all the time.
Emailing slide files for review, approval, production, or any other collaborative activity can be bad. Email is the sworn enemy of version control. It’s very easy to lose track of slides once released into the wild. You can never control how the file is going to be returned or when. You won’t know how many versions will need to be reconciled or which set of changes take precedence over the others. What if someone you sent the file to sends it onto others for review without letting anyone know? It’s also not unusual to receive a copy of a file back after the deadline for changes has passed and the slide or presentation has been finalized. Most importantly there is no way to see what all of the work done by each of the team members actually adds up to, or to gauge what progress has really been made, until all the individual working versions have been laboriously folded back into a single file.
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There is no way to completely avoid the problems that arise when email is your go-to collaboration tool. All you can do is mitigate them with robust communication. Everyone on the team must know…
- Who the file was sent to
- Who is doing what
- Who needs to know if team members send it on to someone not in the original group
- Who has final responsibility for ensuring all the changes actually get made to the final version
- How changes need to be indicated
- The deadline for requesting changes
- What will happen if the deadline is missed
- How conflicting change requests should be resolved
- and so on…
Even with the best proactive communication however, it is almost impossible to avoid spending extra time, energy, and effort managing all the challenges inherent in this collaboration workflow.
And obviously, as I’m sure many of us have experienced, buy-in on these important measures is never guaranteed. There is almost always at least one team member who tends to “go rogue” and ignore even the most sensible and least restrictive protocols.
The best way to allow both access to the file, as well as to ensure strict version control would be to avoid email altogether. To do this, you must maintain the presentation file in a central location that is easily accessible. Ideally the location would allow users to make changes and manage version control at the same time. A tool like SlideSource.com can help you accomplish this and is the perfect example of a system that simply and easily gives collaborative teams the needed access and control. Instead of multiple copies of a file going out to all team members, all team members come to edit slides in a single file and in a single location. The latest, greatest, most-up-to-date version is always available to the entire team and every version of every slide and presentation is available should it be necessary to roll back.
Stop for a moment before hitting the send button the next time you need to involve a team in working on a presentation file. Consider the hidden costs behind what may seem to be the easiest way to collaborate. Enacting and enforcing the “Only One” principle will make the collaborative creation of a presentation more efficient than email can ever hope to be.