Security Aspects Of Your Construction Documentation

The most important thing about construction is the fact that there are no small projects. Even the cheapest construction project deals with the amounts of money that would seem significant in any other field.

Then, there’s the issue that these are people’s homes and businesses we’re talking about and the fact that this information may contain exploitable details. You would also be surprised at how much intellectual property is involved in every single one of these projects.

Overall, the security aspects of your construction documentation are serious and need to be taken seriously. Here’s what you need to know about this. 

  1. Understanding the risks

There are so many risks in the way you handle construction documentation.

First of all, these contracts sometimes contain trade secrets. For instance, if bidding information is leaked, it might undermine the competitive bidding process. As a result, you’ll end up paying a lot more than you otherwise would.

Next, there’s always a risk involved for the future property owner. You see, modern security systems (like alarms and access control points) are no longer installed later on. Today, they’re integrated into the building during the construction stage. All of this will be available to anyone who gets their hands on the documents if they leak. Structural weaknesses are also important from the perspective of future physical security, and they’re always in these plans.

Other than this, it’s important to mention that construction documents also contain intellectual property. Unique design features and innovative construction techniques are quite valuable, and you don’t want them to fall into the hands of your competitors. In this case, they could gain an unfair advantage, or you just might lose your own competitive advantage.

Then, there’s the risk of losing the files. Sure, it’s not as bad as a leak, but you need those files, and if they’re truly lost, this is a major problem. After all, you’re legally obliged to have them. This happens to 7.5% of all physical files, but there’s also a risk that it might happen to digital files if you fail to make the backup.

Ultimately, a loss of vital data or a leak will almost always result in major reputational damage. This will affect not just clients but also shareholders, partners, and even some members of your own staff. In other words, if preventable in any way, you have to find a way to do it. 

  1. Protecting your digital documents

The first thing you want to do is keep your documents digital. The key thing to understand here is the fact that digital documents are not only safer (we’ve already talked about 7.5% of physical documents getting lost), but they’re also a lot handier. 

This way, you get all your documents on demand. They’re more searchable, easier to organize, and simpler to share.

Now, while sharing would, technically, be a problem, the reality is that with digital documents combined with project management tools and collaboration platforms, you have an easy job restricting access. Even with regular documents, you can demand that each party who wants access requests it. 

Also, you get the protection of the electronic construction signature. Unlike wet signatures, these electronic signatures leave a digital footprint. This means that the diagnostics (in the case where there’s anything off) will be pretty reliable. 

Most importantly, there are a lot of people who are afraid of the idea that the forgery of electronic signatures is easy. First of all, this is not the case. Second, even if it were, the truth is that it’s really not more difficult to do a forgery of an electronic document than it is to do it with a wet signature. 

Moreover, the majority of jurisdictions don’t make a difference between an electronic signature and its wet counterpart.

In construction, there are always new documents to sign, and unsigned documents are a serious problem. They’re a legal liability, but a digital contract requiring an electronic signature is too hard to ignore – there are too many notifications and reminders. 

For an industry that depends on dual structures (headquarters and field teams), the ability to sign remotely is life-saving. 

  1. Implementing practices for keeping your documents safe

There are a lot of practices that can help keep your documents safer. We’ve already mentioned the importance of restricting access and setting up backups but there are more issues worth addressing.

First of all, field teams have access to a lot of files from their (personal) mobile devices, and some of your management officers even continue their work from home. This is just an inevitability of the modern workplace. This is exactly why you need solid BYOD and remote work security policies.

Other than just restricting access, you need your entire team to undergo an extensive training session. They need to learn how to make good passwords, how to recognize phishing, and why it’s risky to log into unknown networks, use other people’s devices, and let other people use your devices. 

Next, you need to ensure that the files are transferred via secured, encrypted channels. Not only that, but you don’t want interactions and correspondences all over the place. You want this centralized so that you can always find what you’re looking for. At the very least, you need to know where to look. 

Another thing you need to understand is that the standardization of your documentation processes can save you a lot of trouble. So, make sure to use the right templates and that everyone’s on board with this. 

Wrap up

The key thing to keep in mind is that, while in most industries, trade secrets are sacred, in fields like construction they’re even more important. The security risks come from the fact that the majority of projects involve a lot of people (usually more than on projects in other fields), and there’s heavy involvement from external factors (partners, subcontractors, suppliers, etc.). Due to all of these things, it will sometimes feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. Still, it’s a battle worth fighting and one that you have the tools to actually win.

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