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Alec Smith, Cadweb's operations director, explains the benefits of meeting the standards

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technical & practice

The British legal system has accepted, in principle, that electronic documents have the same legitimacy as paper documents. However, it is vital that your project extranet system stands up to close scrutiny - in court if necessary.

There are two important documents relating to the legal aspects of Eproject management: a Code of Practice, PD 0008; and British Standard, BS 7799 Parts 1 and 2 (Part 1 now renumbered ISO/IEC 17799:2000).

PD 0008 does not guarantee legal admissibility, but it does define current best practice. It covers system planning, implementation and the procedures for using the system. It also concentrates particularly on the importance of being able to demonstrate subsequently, in court, that these procedures have been followed.

Compliance with ISO/IEC 17799 implies that the weight of evidence will be on your side, and it would be up to the lawyers on the other side to prove some fault on your part. A system's ISO/IEC 17799 documentation sets out the procedures, including PD 0008 compliance, needed to set up a fully secure E-project management system. It is externally audited in the same way as quality and environmental policies, so its validity is independently guaranteed.

One requirement of ISO/IEC 17799 is that a rigorous audit trail is created every time a document is either sent or received. It must be guaranteed that documents cannot be tampered with, that what you send is what is received, and that every document is reliably logged.

It does not automatically follow that documents held on systems that do not conform to all the procedures in the code are not legally acceptable, but it would be more difficult to prove it in court. To be sure that your system will stand up to scrutiny in a court of law it is vital that it meets the required standards - ISO/IEC 17799, BS 7799 and PD 0008.

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