From: John Conover <>
Subject: FYI
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 1994 13:17:56 -0700 (PDT)

This is FYI.  Several years ago, I had to "electronify" a document
control system for a medium sized company. Cost was an issue, and I
used free software that is available via anonymous ftp from the GNU
Free Software Foundation at in /pub/gnu.  Although the
system is dated, I thought someone may get some benefit if I posted
the system's concept. I happened to remember the system after finding
out that the company recently obtained its ISO 9001 registration,
where document control is a significant issue.

The software was originally developed by the GNU folks to be used as a
source code control system in a large programming environment, and was
adapted to fit the document control needs of the engineering
development, quality assurance, programming, customer support, and
manufacturing organizations.

The Revision Control System, RCS. Revisions are time stamped, stamped
with the author's name, and the author's reason for the change, and
stamped with a revision number that reflects the document's "position"
in the revision tree. There is on line documentation for users, a
manual, on line man pages, and a hypertext manual that runs under GNU
emacs. (It is very simple for the users. There are only two commands
that the users have to know, "co" to check a document out, and "ci" to
check a document in-and you can change this to something less cryptic
using the Unix alias command.) "Permissions," as to who has authority
and signature to alter documents, authorize revisions, etc., is
inherent in the system. This program is still available as rcs.tar.gz
from the above ftp address.

The Concurrent Version System," CVS, runs on top of RCS. This allows
multiple users to edit different sections of multiple copies of the
same document simultaneously, and will resolve concurrency issues when
they check copies of the updated document(s) back into RCS. This
program will control documents across a corporate wide network and
accommodates Sun Microsystem's Network File System, NFS, so that PC's
and Mac's, etc. can be used to edit the documents (eg., the document
tree's are remote mounted on the PC's.) This program is still
available as cvs.tar.gz from the above ftp address, also.

These two programs were used extensively for a corporate wide document
revision control, particularly as engineering drawing control
system. (It was also used for management of quality documents, and
corporate policies and procedures, etc.) The concurrent engineering
framework automatically checked documents in/out from this system to
automate work flow through design and development (eg., if this
document was updated, then those documents must be updated, also.)
Hooks were created that that would automatically cut time cards (from
the system logs,) and update pert charts, etc. There was also hooks in
place to link work flow requirements into the program, lp_solve, (also
still available via anonymous ftp to one of the AT&T machines) which
was an operations research program that optimized engineering resource
allocation, automagically, under close scrutiny, of course.

The system was used as a document control system for all corporate
email and faxes from/to the customer base, also.  A customer could
call concerning an email/fax, and anyone in the company could get the
the docket number (which was assigned by RCS,) and fetch the original
document. Worked well in groups, say, where the group does customer
support, and you want to organize the correspondences between the
group and the customer base into a full text database, like WAIS
(which is still available via anonymous ftp to

The program "gnats," also still available from the above address as
gnats.tar.gz, was used to automate work flow through the support
organizations.  Gnats was originally developed for bug tracking in
software projects (get it, it is from GNU, and tracks bugs-thus the
name "gnats,") and works well where there is a lot of documentation
flow between the customer base and support organization (for example
handling quality issues.) If a customer emails an issue in to the
organization, it is time stamped, and a docket number created, and
assigned to someone in a round robin fashion. If that someone does not
respond in a specified time, it emails the manager, with a
notification of the delinquency. Customer notification of work flow on
the issue is automatic. It runs on top of RCS, so management can query
for outstanding issues, etc. on demand, to insure nothing falls into a

The company size was about 250 people, with annual gross revenues just
under a quarter of a billion dollars a year.  There were 3
organizational levels in the company. Their were 173 work stations and
126 PC's and Macs. (Yes, that is correct- there were more computers
than people.)  The system was deemed as cost effective, required no
software to be purchased, and required only one support person.



John Conover,,

Copyright © 1994 John Conover, All Rights Reserved.
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