Document Lifecycle Scenarios


This is an open-source article with the community providing support for it. For official Microsoft content, see Microsoft 365 documentation.

Not all documents are created equal. Based on the relative weight and importance of a document, we may decide on quite different ways to manage a document through its lifecycle. In this article, I present several different scenarios for managing a document lifecycle.

No one of these scenarios will be appropriate for all of your documents. Instead, you should consider this a set of potential options as you think through your own document life cycles. One or more of these scenarios may be adaptable to your specific needs.

Ad hoc Document Becoming More Permanent

When smaller teams of people work together in Microsoft Teams, they frequently come up with "chunks" of content spread across Files, OneNote, posts, Wiki pages, etc. As the ideas gel, those chunks often need to be assembled into more complete documents, whether for sharing with the entire organization, a customer, or perhaps management.

The effort of assembly in this case takes the ad hoc components and glues them together into a coherent document for further editing and polish. Common file formats in this case are Word or PowerPoint.

Personal Thoughts Turning into Organizational Document

This scenario is similar to the inner and outer loop ideas presented by Microsoft over the last few years. We usually test concepts first by writing them up for ourselves. The document generally sits on our desktop or in our OneDrive for Business.


Ideally if we are working with documents on our desktops, they are also synching to OneDrive with OneDrive PC Folder Backup (née Known Folder Move).

When we feel our document is "ready" or has reached a point where we would like some feedback - usually from "trusted" co-workers - we share the document where it sits by creating a sharing link and sending it to them.

Once we've collaborated on the document with the small circle, we may decide it is ready for our larger work team to review and give us feedback. At this point, we may move the document from our OneDrive into the Team Site (SharePoint) or Files tab (Microsoft Teams) where out team has access and we share a link again. This is the beginning of the shift from the inner loop to the outer loop.

If our ideas in the document are truly useful or brilliant, we may end up publishing the content on our Intranet as part of our department's Communication Site (SharePoint) or on Viva Engage.

We may get such rave reviews for this document that we end up publishing it externally, perhaps on our Intranet site or in presentations at conferences or symposia. Usually before this happens, the document (or connected content in another form) goes through another round of editing in its new form, and that can happen by resetting back to the personal thoughts entry point above. Content we share externally generally requires a different tone and filter than that which we share internally.

That little personal idea we had can have long legs!

Important Organizational Document

Some documents are simply too important organizationally to arise informally. They also may require some organized and sometimes mandated processes. In this case, the document is generally created in a SharePoint Document Library with important, required metadata columns. It may be moved through a process using a Power Automate flow for approvals or other important state changes.

The goal with documents like this - perhaps a company policy or regulatory filing - is to ensure accuracy and adherence to all organizational constraints.

Principal author: Marc D Anderson, MVP