Electronic signatures or e-signatures have the power to change the way we interact with all kinds of documents: mortgages, vendor contracts, sales agreements, briefing NDAs, check requests, FDA submissions, even how we pay for our mochas at the coffee shop.
As use of e-signatures becomes mainstream, capturing legal signatures is no longer a stumbling block to digitizing processes. Instead, digital signatures accelerate workflow. Who wouldn’t want to remove the long-standing wet signature obstacle from a document-laden workflow? Who doesn’t want to reduce approval turnaround from seven or eight days to just hours or even minutes? There are many reasons e-signatures have become part of everyday processes of all kinds:
- Accelerate interactions between partners, clients, employees and others
- Speed up sales revenue by closing deals faster
- Expedite new hire onboarding and HR policy acknowledgements
- Eliminate overnight couriers and other document handling steps
- Reduce need to print documents for signing
- Maintain tighter control over contracts, NDAs and other confidential agreements
- Minimize risk associated with managing paper copies of signed documents
The rise of secure cloud capabilities for document transmission and repositories has fueled interest in e-signatures, too, and don’t forget their use has been sanctioned by the law of the land. But if you haven’t been paying much attention to them yet, here are some things you’ll need to know when you decide to pursue an e-signature strategy.
Screening an e-signature vendor and solution
- Ask for examples of other customers in your industry that have achieved measurable value through e-signatures. Have them break down that value in terms of hard savings, risk mitigation and process improvements.
- Does the solution allow you to transact anywhere in world and stay compliant with country laws?
- How much flexibility does the product platform offer in terms of modeling processes and interacting across smart phones, tablets and laptops?
- Can the platform support live signatures made by a finger on a tablet?
Integration with systems and processes
- E-signature adoption must be made in the context of the processes it affects. How well the e-signature technology can integrate with your existing solutions?
- Does the vendor use prebuilt connectors to quickly integrate with other common systems like Xerox® Digital Alternatives, Sharepoint or Microsoft 365? The vendor should have robust APIs to connect to almost any other system, commercial or homegrown, so you can move data from and between those systems for approvals and signoff.
- Does the solution support both ad hoc signatures and as part of a defined process?
Digging into stability and redundancy
- Get the stability lowdown. How many minutes was the operation down in the past year? For the best vendors, the answer will be less than five minutes total, while others could be a lot more.
- Does the solution offer carrier-grade availability? That is, like a phone service provider, is there always a “dial tone”? This 99.99% availability isn’t the norm in the cloud environment, so ask.
- Does the provider have global data centers and how are they structured for redundancy if one goes down? As a benchmark, consider this approach used by DocuSign, as explained by Ed Mathews, DocuSign Strategic Account Executive-Enterprise, “The same signature transaction is sent to three data centers, and within each center, three identical systems manage customer data. If something goes down, the transaction would revert to one of the other systems or centers with no interruption or loss.”
Support for audits and tracking
- What about tracking? What information is collected about usage, sharing and collaboration?
- Can the solution provide an audit trail or digital certificate when required?
- What features are available for non-repudiation, and does it include a digital audit trail? (Non-repudiation refers to proof of the integrity and origin of data, such as a signature. It refers to the ability in court to prove an individual in fact signed the document in question.)
Security is a must-have
- How secure is the solution’s transmission capability? Does it encrypt and transmit securely?
- Does it protect information confidentiality at the application level with AES 256 bit encryption?
- Do anti-tampering controls maintain the integrity of documents?
- What mechanisms are in place for validating participants in a signing transaction to ensure authenticity?
“While the e-signature is important, it’s just the beginning,” says DocuSign’s Mathews. “It is even more about Digital Transformation. This type of capability not only enables organizations to transform and fully automate business and approval process across an enterprise, it also helps drive unnecessary paper from business processes.”
At a high level, e-signatures are indeed an important part of digital transformation. In our day-to-day world, they have a place wherever you want digitize a transactional process and expedite approvals. E-signatures can speed up contract processes by a factor of five or more. The Digital Alternatives solution from Xerox supports an e-signature capability that meets these requirements. It’s an easy way to put Digital Transformation straight into the hands of your employees.