An audit trail, as the name implies, is simply a formal examination, inspection, and verification of a path taken. In the case of a Document Management System (DMS), trail refers to the path followed by the document across its lifecycle.
Take the example of a simple publishing process. In a publishing company, the document (manuscript) passes from the author to the publisher who then goes about putting it through the tasks to get it ready for publishing. It has to be proofread or copyedited. If it has any citations or references, these have to be checked as well, and the document has to be formatted. Artwork, images, and cover also have to be added.
Not all of this is done by the same employee. The copy editor is in charge of the content, the designer/illustrator takes charge of the artwork and images, and specialists check the references and citations. All the above-mentioned people will work on the same manuscript, either simultaneously or step by step.
In such a case, if something goes wrong, say a block of content has been deleted or an important reference has been misrepresented, then how do we find where it went wrong? With so many people having a hand in this process, how can we know who really committed the mistake? It may not be just about the blame; it is about accountability too.
This is where DMS and audit trail come in. A Document Management System provides a central repository for secure storage and retrieval of documents and files. It comes with the audit trail feature, which administrators can use to pull detailed reports on the path that the document has followed. A typical report contains the date, time, name of the user who checked out or checked in a document, the action performed, and comments from the user while checking in or out. It gives the administrator answers to all the above-posed questions.
In the next post, we’ll look at audit trail and an audit trail report in detail. For more information about DMS or audit trail, click here.