Best practice for improving document transmittal

What is document transmittal?

If you work on complex projects, chances are you need to exchange a high volume of information. Usually, this information is in the form of documents (e.g., the creation of design specification documents if you were working on construction or engineering projects).

Due to the complexity of projects, a regulated and traceable exchange of information and documents is needed. This is where a ‘Document Transmittal’ is used.

A ‘transmittal’ acts as a coversheet, and is an acknowledged method for controlling the exchange of documents. A typical Transmittal contains all necessary recipient and sender data as well a list of the documents, the revisions to the docs, revision date, version control information, etc

Who is responsible for it?

A document controller is typically the person responsible for handling and managing various documents and files at a company. This would include both physical paper documents and electronic digital document files. The controller is typically tasked with overseeing the flow of information in a company, ensuring that proper documents are available or sent to those who need them. He or she is also typically responsible for overseeing incoming documents, organising them as necessary, and updating records and logs for tracking them.

It’s an important role because when done well it fosters a culture of efficiency, compliance and strong governance. However, it can also be a very taxing role as the sheer volume of information can increase dramatically.

How would those responsible like it to be done?

Typically Document Controllers exchange hundreds of transmittals daily. This can be via FTP servers or email. A major headache comes from the manual intensity required to handle and manage this.

So what does a Document Controller/Project Manager need to make their lives easier and more efficient?


o   If Document Controllers were able to facilitate a seamless, automatic synchronisation of transmittals then it would massively unburden themselves from the manual effort involved in managing the flow of information

An easier way to load documents

o   Transmittals can include hundreds of files/drawings, therefore it is important to be able to automatically load large amounts. However, inevitably, some transmittals may contain errors. To avoid/minimise this, it is in the best interest of the project owner/Document Controller to implement a best practice process. Using an automatically generated Excel spreadsheet that lists the documents and metadata for each transmittal, you could validate the metadata and reports errors. If there are no errors, the transmittal is automatically loaded. If there’s an error, the system updates the Excel spreadsheet, adds a comment or explanation next to the error, and it’s ready to send on.

Swifter document distribution

o   Once all transmittals are uploaded, work doesn’t end for the Document Controller. The next step is to distribute them to the internal teams for review. To ensure distribution is handled well, the Controller may want to rely on a system that centralises sending (and receiving). This could either being from a ‘hub’ integrated with 3rd party or external system, or a single repository that accommodates all records.

Security, governance and permission controls

o   A manual process, ie, one based on receiving email attachments, leaves itself open to error and security vulnerability. Best practice would be to adopt a governed and controlled environment for receiving, sending, viewing and managing all information.


o   No one wants to continually reinvent the wheel – or duplicate work. A best practice process should include consistency of recorded and delivered information. Any system/process/environment needs to have a standardised framework for information. This fosters better data and tracking and would also aid compliance requirements.

How can you achieve these things?

Surprisingly Microsoft SharePoint is commonly overlooked for business processes such as this. Well, it’s surprising to us, anyway! Many organisations see SharePoint as an intranet or extranet solution, not realising its wide capabilities can be applied to many different business management scenarios.

There are three things to bear in mind about SharePoint when considering it as a Transmittal management tool:

  1. It has significantly advanced document management functionality
  2. It was built to facilitate collaboration, workflow, reporting – basically it handles the flow of information
  3. It is amazing at Records Management

With SharePoint you could implement a robust system for Document Transmittal. This can be done using established features such as;

  • SharePoint libraries. Project members have the freedom to create documents. The library enabled security, controls access, permissions, versioning, document-tracking and simple recovery
  • Permissions. Each site can introduce highly configurable permissions which are easy to establish and maintain for each project manager/Document Controller
  • Search. A rich search function is available so Document Controllers don’t need to hunt down records
  • Workflow. A major benefit (and one that brings efficient coordination) is automated workflow functionality. This can be used in many, many ways. Eg, document approval processes, uploading, syncing, reporting – and much more!

We have been delivered various Document Transmittal solutions for our clients. We would be more than happy to go through the details involved in such projects and the benefits of leveraging SharePoint as the platform for transmittal.