When a contractual relationship binds two organisations, there is a potential for disagreements, disputes or litigation, especially in activity sectors involving engineering, construction, operations and/ or maintenance of assets.
When it comes to disputes and legal battles between two organisations, evidence makes all the difference: what was contractually agreed, how was the contract worded and most importantly, what pieces of evidence can be provided by each party to back up their arguments, to prove that what they say is true and to avoid liability.
Document Control plays a major role in this area.
What can be considered as evidence?
The Cambridge dictionary defines evidence as “anything that helps to prove that something is or is not true”.
There are different types of evidence that can be used during a conflict or disagreement between two parties, including:
- Demonstrative evidence: representation of an object, for example photographs, videos, drawings, charts, simulations etc.
- Documentary evidence: any proof that can be presented in writing, for example contract, invoices, technical documents etc.
- Testimony: verbal evidence, given by a witness, for example, in court or in a deposition.
What is a strong piece of evidence?
A strong piece of evidence is one that cannot be argued with, or at least one that cannot be discredited.
If, for example, an organisation provides evidence of submittal of a document or of information, but the other party can convince of the contrary, then the evidence is not strong enough.
Another example: a controlled transmittal sheet attached to any document sent to an external party, containing all metadata of the transmittal, signed by the sender and by the recipient is a much stronger piece evidence than an email alone, as the recipient can always claim that they never received that email.
How does Document Control help with evidence?
When an organisation enters a contractual relationship, it must analyse the ways in which disputes can arise and it must design solutions to prevent the development of such disputes.
However, in addition to prevention, each organisation must also design solutions to create strong records and to collect evidence in all aspects of its activity, just in case a dispute arises.
In essence, that is what Document Control does: Document Control activities help create records and evidence of activities in the context of a contract binding two organisations. The evidence created includes, but is not limited to:
- What rules were agreed for the management of documents;
- What documents are created;
- What documents are sent or received;
- Who made what comments on what documents;
- Who were documents sent to; who were documents received by;
- What were documents published for? What were documents used for?
A well-designed set of Document Control processes and practices allows to create and to produce evidence that can save an organisation.
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