Contract documents, work site documents, project documents, technical documents... In many projects, documentation and control thereof exert significant influence on the efficiency of the entire project.
“The starting point is freedom of contract, and contract terms and conditions must be drawn up proceeding from own objectives. If contracts and other documents are not stored and the agreements reached recorded in them, problems can easily ensue whenever unexpected situations occur”, said Aimo Halonen, Partner at Asianajotoimisto Mäkitalo Rantanen & Co, at the annual 2019 ALMA Days event in Kokkola.
Where are your documents when an authority asks for them?
Some work documents are included under official supervision or are otherwise clearly related to legislation.
“Such documents must be easily available and retrievable in case of an official inspection, for example.”
Document management brings order
Functional accounting practices and document management make the life easier and more efficient for all contracting parties. This concerns contracts, project documents, expert opinions and even audits alike.
“One should bear in mind that records and e-mail correspondence are often of considerable legal importance as well.”
Contract documentation: Ask a lawyer for help in good time
A good contract is a tool that defines the rules of the project. A poorly drafted contract renders balanced distribution of risks between the parties very difficult. A poor contract may also overlook specification of various interfaces and the possible follow-up impacts of the contract.
“In many cases, lawyers' help is requested only after problems have already occurred. Much more fruitful for all parties concerned would be involvement of an expert in contract law in the contract drafting process from the very beginning. This would result in a contract serving the interests of all parties”, Halonen noted.
However, according to Halonen, a contract is only a starting point. Contracts must also be developed into true and actual work life practices.
"Contractual discipline must be taken care of. Otherwise, it can easily happen that agreements no longer hold, in which case contract erosion reduces the meaning of the contract concluded.”
Work site and project documentation: Record matters clearly
According to Halonen, it is of primary importance that the rights and obligations of different parties are recorded in project documents clearly, accurately and without the risk of misunderstanding. Avoid using passive phrases. In other words, instead of “it was agreed to do something”, it is worth specifying who does what, when and on whose account.
“Regular project meetings are important and the records made there play a significant role. With the help of the records, between the meetings, outstanding issues can be resolved and surprises avoided later.”