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It’s Time to Start Thinking About Electronic Document Management

12/3/2012 | Construction Blog

As a construction lawyer, I am involved in two of the biggest paper generating professions the world has known. When done correctly, construction projects result in paper being used by the ream. From notices to bid, to plans and specifications, to change orders and applications for payment: everything is documented. Then lawyers fighting over construction project issues create even more legal documents for filing in the court system using copies of the same project documents. It is not any wonder that construction firms and their lawyers’ offices are bursting at the seams a good deal of the time. Enter Electronic Data Management, or EDM.

EDM is essentially a digital file cabinet of sorts. It permits you to go paperless by taking all the things you would normally store in a file cabinet in a software system. It can be used to manage project paperwork, personnel and payroll files, and employee benefit records to name a few things. A system like this comes with many benefits and not a few disadvantages. Whether we like it or not though, the electronic age is here to stay and firms would be well served to at least educate themselves on EDM.

Here are a few things to get you started:


  1. It greatly cuts down on physical storage space. By scanning in and storing things electronically, you can save originals of important legal documents and dispose of others that you might not need to keep on paper. It also makes it easier to store “versions” of documents so you can go back and look over progressions and prior drafts if needed.
  2. It allows for a more integrated project from a document standpoint. By having everything stored electronically, those you want to grant secure access to can look over relevant and important documents for the project at anytime from anywhere. It also allows you to share documents with other contractors and members of the project team quickly and efficiently. Similarly, it can make for easier submission of project submittals, including shop drawings, safety reports, certified payroll and more.
  3. If done correctly, it can be a searchable database. That previously hard to find piece of paper becomes a lot easier to locate with the correct search term.


  1. To move to EDM requires certain types of technology, including the right type of scanner and a server big enough to handle it all. Cloud technology could also be used. None of this is cheap to invest in though, so a decision to go paperless is a long term investment.
  2. Power. By that I mean electricity. If you don’t have it, it can be a problem. Admittedly, this can be worked around by using laptops, tablets, and smart phones that can be plugged in any number of places. That being said, if your server is down because of a power outage – or even crashes for another reason – it can be problematic. A way to manage this will also have to be part of the plan.
  3. Integration is a great benefit, but it can also be a problem. With so many within and outside the company having access to documents, the risk of records being altered or becoming disorganized increases. It could also provide the opportunity for more sinister things if someone was so inclined and given improper access.

The reach of technology is growing by the day. As it inevitably infiltrates the construction world, firms that adapt to it and intelligently make choices regarding it will get ahead. Take some time to consider where you are with EDM and whether it makes sense to begin implementing a program now or in the near future.