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Methods: Document register

by David Blakey

Keeping a document register will give you more control over the documents that you collect during an assignment.

[Monday 30 July 2001]

During a consulting assignment, you will receive documents from your client. At the end of the assignment, you will have to return some of these documents, you will have to destroy others, and you will need to file some of them.

At the end of the assignment, you will not want to spend much time in working through the documents and trying to recall what is to happen to each of them. It would be useful to have a list of the documents that you had been given, with a note of how each of them was to be disposed of at the end of the assignment. Usually, you will be told what to do with each document when your client gives it to you. It makes sense, therefore, to keep a register of documents and to record details of each document as it is given to you.

I first encountered document registers when I was a managing consultant with Cap Gemini. CG's project auditing methodology included the use of document registers. I have continued to refine the original format and to use it on my consulting assignments.

My current document register lists the following information for each document that I am given.
The simplest method is to use the page number of the document register and the line number of the document on that page. Using this method, the fifth document on the third page will have the reference ‘3.5’.
This can be the title on the front page of a report, or ‘Annual Report’, or ‘minutes.doc’.
The media names that I use are:
  • document, for a printed paper, report or printed copy of a graphic or presentation;
  • book, for a bound book or report;
  • brochure, for a widely distributed, publicly available document;
  • file, for a folder or box containing a number of documents;
  • CD, for a CD-ROM;
  • diskette, for a diskette; and
  • attachment, for an email attachment.

Note that files in boxes or on CDs or diskettes are not individually identified on the main document register. If you want, you can start a new document register sheet for each of these and record each file within them. This is not necessary on many assignments, although it is on due diligence and other assignments with strong legal responsibility and accountability.
Received: from
This is the name or initials of the person who gave or sent you the document.
Received: on
This is the date when you received the document. When I am given a document, I also find it useful to record the person and date on the document itself.
Disposal: to be
This is how the document will be disposed of at the end of the assignment. I use:
  • return;
  • destroy; and
  • file.
Disposal: has been
Enter the method of disposal here. You can just put a tick here, or write in ‘returned’ or ‘destroyed’ or ‘filed’.
Disposal: on
The date when you disposed of the document.
This is a small space where you can record whether the document was used as a source for the assignment. It can include a reference to notes made from the document.

Two additional points.
  • Consultants should note that it may be useful to send a copy of your completed document register to your client as part of closing off the assignment. Some assignments will require you to furnish this information, so it is useful to have it continually available in the document register.
  • Managers should note that document registers can be useful on internal projects that do not involve consultants.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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