Clifford Gouldson Lawyers

Version Control Protocol: Safeguard your business from a costly mistake

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19/11/2019

Documents, whether it’s simple policy documents or complex sales agreements, are the bread and butter of almost all businesses. While it may seem obvious, a business should take great care when creating, storing and amending business critical documents.
 
That’s where a version control protocol comes into play.
 
A ‘version control protocol’ is a business policy which ensures employees (with the appropriate credentials) have access to the correct version of a document. It can also be used to track the changes made across various versions and is useful in documenting the initial development and subsequent revisions of a document.
 
A recent war story demonstrates the importance of strict version control protocols in any business.
 
CGLaw was asked to review a client’s sales agreement document. When reviewing the document we realised the majority of the numbers of the document (ie. Para 1.1, 2.2.3 etc.) had been removed. The document, which frequently referred to paragraph numbers that didn’t exist, was illegible making it almost impossible to enforce and interpret.
 
Somewhere along the line an employee had edited the document and mistakenly removed all formatting. This had the potential to lead to costly legal issues regarding enforcing the document.
This serves as a useful reminder to be aware of your business’s version control protocol, particularly if your business has a basic document which is frequently improved or enhanced. In the case of our war story, the lack of any protocol or adherence to such a protocol meant that the client could not easily revert to a previous version of the document which meant the document had to be meticulously redrafted.

We recommend internal documents for any business adhere to a strict version control policy. We encourage all businesses to think about the risks associated with one of their significant documents being incorrectly amended/improved and used without appropriate permissions or authorisations in place and the legal ramifications that may come as a result.

The war story highlights some key takeaways and tips for you and your business to consider:

 

  1. Think about creating a clear version control protocol document for your business.
  2. Consider locking documents and using access passwords, particularly for business critical documents.
  3. Safely store all important information on a secure server.
  4. Review who can access and edit important documents. In the example above, any employee had the power to make changes to a document vital to the business. Ensure that only senior (and qualified) employees are able to access critical documents.
  5. Implement a business wide version control naming procedure to eliminate any confusion regarding the current version. For example: V1.2 | Created September 2018 | Last Updated 5 September 2019.

For more information or assistance regarding policy drafting and version control information contact our Intellectual Property team.

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