Common Document Management Problems in Microsoft 365

The Complex World of Document Management

There is a lot to juggle in business. And every decision can tip the scales of success, and every document is valuable. So effective document management is not just a convenience—it’s a necessity. For those at the helm the stakes are particularly high. You’re responsible for steering your organisation through the complexities of digital transformation, choosing the right platform for your document management requirements, and deciding how to use it. The challenge? Microsoft 365, a tool designed to streamline and simplify, can often become a labyrinth of files, content types and folders, a source of inefficiency and frustration.

Recent studies indicate that professionals spend 1.8 hours every day—9.3 hours per week, on average—searching and gathering information. Imagine this: In an organisation of 100 people, if each employee is losing this much time to inefficient document management, the cumulative impact is not just 930 hours per week lost; it’s a significant drain on the organisation’s resources and morale.

At the core of this challenge lies the complexity of Microsoft 365’s document management system. Its vast array of features, while powerful, can be a double-edged sword. Without a streamlined approach and proper utilisation, navigating this system can lead to critical issues like versioning errors, compliance risks, and collaboration roadblocks. These are not mere inconveniences; they can have tangible impacts on your organisation’s efficiency, compliance, and bottom line.

Understanding these challenges is the first step towards mastering them. In this article we outline the common challenges and we offer insights into overcoming them. Our goal is to transform what seems like a maze into a clear, navigable path, ensuring that your journey through the digital landscape of document management is not just achievable, but efficient and productive.

The Role of Microsoft 365 in Modern Businesses

Microsoft 365 is a leading collaboration platform and has become an integral part of the digital infrastructure in many organisations. It’s not just about word processing or spreadsheets; it’s about a comprehensive suite that includes email, collaboration tools, and more, all in one central location. However, its widespread use also means that businesses are increasingly dependent on its ability to manage documents effectively. For managers, the challenge is not just in using these tools but in optimising them to ensure team collaboration, improve efficiency and maintain compliance.

The Breadth of Microsoft 365

Before diving into the problems, it’s crucial to understand the breadth of Microsoft 365. It encompasses a range of applications – from Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to more complex tools like SharePoint and Teams. Each of these plays a role in document management, whether it’s creating content, storing it, sharing it, or collaborating on it. The interconnected nature of these applications and types of content is both a strength and a complexity of the M365 world. 

two people working on laptops, using the Microsoft 365 platform

Document Management Challenges in Microsoft 365

Navigating Complex File Structures

One of the most significant challenges is navigating the often complex file structures within SharePoint and Teams. These platforms are incredibly powerful, offering extensive capabilities for digital file storage and collaboration. However, without proper organisation and management, these document libraries can become unwieldy. They have very effective search capabilities, but often dependent on correct labels and relevant content. Often time is wasted navigating through folders and document libraries, sometimes leading to confusion and the duplication of documents.

Issues with Version Control

Another critical area is version control. Microsoft 365 offers robust versioning capabilities, but these can become a source of confusion if not managed correctly. Without a clear understanding of how to manage document versions, teams can find themselves working on outdated documents, leading to inconsistencies, duplication and errors. This is especially problematic in environments where accuracy and document integrity are critical.

Integration Challenges with Other Systems

Microsoft 365 does not exist in isolation. In most businesses, it needs to integrate seamlessly with other 3rd party solutions – be it CRM software, project management tools, or bespoke internal systems. When these integrations are not smooth, it can lead to information silos, where data is trapped in one system and inaccessible to those working in another. This fragmentation can be a significant barrier to efficiency and can also impact data integrity and compliance.

The Impact of Document Management Issues

Compliance Risks


In industries where compliance is critical – such as finance, healthcare, or manufacturing – the stakes are high with so many sensitive documents and administrative records. Document management mishaps can lead to breaches of regulations, resulting in legal and financial consequences. It’s essential for managers to not only understand these risks but to have strategies in place to mitigate them.

Efficiency and Productivity Setbacks

Beyond compliance, inefficient document management directly impacts productivity. Time lost in searching for documents, rectifying version errors, or dealing with integration issues is time not spent on core business activities. In a competitive business environment, this inefficiency is costly.

The Strain on Inter-Departmental Collaboration

Effective collaboration is the cornerstone of any successful organisation. When document management is inefficient, it hinders the smooth flow of information between departments. This can lead to delays, misunderstandings, and a general decrease in the quality of collaborative efforts.

Real-World Scenarios: Document Management Struggles

Consider the impact of these challenges in a real-world setting. A project team working on a critical report may find that their efforts are hampered by difficulties in accessing the latest version of a single document. Not only is time wasted impacting the project budget, tensions in the team increase with the potential for unhappy employees and retention issues. Or a compliance team might struggle to ensure that all relevant documents are up-to-date and in line with the latest regulations. The risks for an organisation to breach compliance, thanks to poor document management, could be catastrophic. These scenarios are not just frustrating; they can have tangible impacts on the success of business initiatives.

A male and female colleague sit behind a laptop, the man gesturing towards the screen at document management

Practical Solutions to Enhance Document Management

1. Streamlining File Organisation

The first step in overcoming these challenges is to establish a clear and efficient file organisation system. This involves not just the physical structuring of files and folders, but also establishing guidelines for how documents are named, stored, and archived. A well-organised file system creates an ease of access, reduces time spent searching for documents and minimises the risk of duplication.

2. Enhancing Version Control Practices

Effective version control is a critical component of electronic document management in Microsoft 365. It’s essential to establish clear protocols for how documents are updated, who is responsible for updates, and how versions are tracked. This might involve training team members on best practices for version control, using features like document check-in/check-out, co-authoring, and ensuring that everyone understands the importance of working on the latest version of a document.

3. Improving Integration and Automation

Leveraging the full power of Microsoft 365 often means integrating it effectively with other systems. This can involve using APIs to connect Microsoft 365 with other software, automating workflows to move data between systems seamlessly, and ensuring that these integrations are maintained over time. Additionally, automation within Microsoft 365 – such as automated alerts for document reviews or approval workflows – can significantly enhance efficiency.

4. Training and Support: Empowering Your Workforce

To fully leverage the capabilities of Microsoft 365 in document management, comprehensive training and ongoing support are essential. This involves not just initial training on how to use the various applications but also ongoing education about best practices, updates, and new features. This training will improve the user experience and uptake. Technical support and assistance also play a crucial role – having a responsive IT support team can make a significant difference in how quickly and effectively document management challenges are resolved.

man standing and presenting to a group of company managers sitting in a conference room about planning document management

Future-Proofing Your Business with Advanced Document Management

There is no doubt that technology is constantly evolving, and staying ahead of the curve is critical. This means not only keeping up-to-date with the latest features and updates in Microsoft 365 but also regularly reviewing and updating document management strategies to ensure they remain effective. Future-proofing also involves looking ahead to emerging technologies and trends in business process and document management and considering how these might be integrated into current practices.

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

Yes, the challenges of document management in Microsoft 365 are real, but they also present opportunities for significant improvements. By understanding poor document management and implementing strategic solutions, businesses can transform their document management processes into efficient, compliant, and effective systems. An organised M365 environment,  with meaningful records will not only meet regulatory requirements and utilisation, it will improve collaboration and culture in your business. Propelle’s expertise in this area means that we don’t just address these challenges; we turn them into opportunities for growth and improvement of your modern digital workplace.