Electronic signature platforms increase the weight of document management


Digital transformation and its acceleration due to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced more and more companies to use automated document management systems that include digital and electronic signatures. Paper-based processes just weren’t practical when people took shelter in place and worked remotely.

“We’ve seen this paper-to-digital transformation accelerate very quickly over the past 18 months in a number of use cases,” said Simon Longbottom, vice president of product marketing, Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Sign for Business. “[A] a quarter of Americans electronically signed a document for the first time in 2020. “

Adding electronic signature platforms to the electronic document process can improve organizations in several ways, including saving time, reducing costs, reducing risk, and advancing sustainability goals. Meanwhile, customers, partner companies and employees get a faster and more convenient experience.

How digital and electronic signatures differ

Digital signatures and electronic signatures may look similar, but they are not the same.

An electronic signature is the more common of the two. A person can initial or sign a document using a keyboard, numeric keypad or mouse – or, if the platform requires it, by writing the signature in a blank box on the using a finger or stylus on a trackpad or touchscreen. The different mechanisms for capturing a person’s signature do not change the outcome. They are simply different methods of confirming an individual’s recognition, approval, consent, or agreement.

A digital signature adds a digital certificate to an electronic signature. According to a Forrester Research report from June 2020, “Digital signatures offer greater assurance than simple electronic signatures on the identity of the parties involved in the transaction. They integrate a personal key infrastructure into the signing process to identify both the party requesting a signature and the party providing one. “

Metadata matters most, said Tricia Phillips, senior analyst at Gartner. “It’s the IP address, the email address it was sent to, the time and date it was signed and various other things,” she explained. “What matters is that there has been a clear consent that is captured.”

The COVID-19 effect

Businesses have been forced to digitize traditionally analog processes to support their remote workforce in 2020. And electronic signature platforms have suddenly become a staple of automated document management systems.

“They had everything built in except the last mile,” Phillips said. “You print something, sign it, scan it and download it. With the pandemic it got really heavy, so we’ve seen an increase in the last segment of the workflow, which for this use case is signing. “

B2B and B2C companies include electronic signature capabilities in a variety of automated document processes, ranging from hiring or on-boarding an employee or subcontractor to entering into a sales agreement or conclusion of a partnership agreement. Likewise, documents can be signed by a group of people during a meeting.

“It changes the speed of business because you have the ability to shut things down quickly,” Phillips explained. “There are also some interesting use cases like Adobe Sign built into Microsoft Teams. You now have the possibility to share a document in a Teams meeting, to discuss it, to answer questions and the participants can sign within this videoconference. You can complete this. the whole process as if you had been in person. “

The growing role of the electronic signature

Users of business applications are constantly creating and personalizing documents. Each of these applications can use a different electronic signature platform. In today’s API-based business world, companies want to go beyond putting signatures on a document. They want to invoke electronic signature features from apps like Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, ServiceNow, and Workday.

Rather than having a different signature technology for each application, some companies are centralizing capabilities to ensure consistency of metadata – where it is stored, where the recording system is located, and whether signatures are incorporated into verification tools. ‘identity, to Trusted Service Providers (TSPs) and Certification Authorities.

Customer and employee experiences are additional reasons to take a company-wide approach. School districts, for example, can use multiple K-12 platforms that have electronic signature capabilities, but parents may need to sign a consent document on one platform and acknowledge their consent on another platform.

“Employee experience and customer experience are two use cases that have really grown over the past 18 months,” said Adobe Longbottom. “You’ve had companies that have had to completely reinvent their entire recruiting and onboarding process. You have to make it transparent, easy and warm.”

Adobe Sign is integrated with various applications and services, including Microsoft Teams, ServiceNow, Workday, national identity programs, and various authentication services. “One of the advantages and challenges of the digital age is having a lot of information at our disposal, but finding this information quickly and easily becomes a real challenge,” admitted Longbottom. “Our partnership with Microsoft is really important in terms of the deep integration where your documents reside.”

DocuSign has been integrated with Salesforce for some time. Its DocuSign Gen document integration tool allows users to generate sales contracts and personalized documents with just one click in Salesforce.

Automating sales contracts “is the first thing businesses do,” said Steve Krause, senior vice president of product marketing and strategy at DocuSign. “Then they say, ‘Our sales plans are managed by HR. Can we do them electronically? Then we get into a long list of all the things that are digitized, so it really works through the backlog of things that already exist in companies, which are agreements. “

It’s all about document workflows

Enterprise content management (ECM) software maker Laserfiche has its own digital signature product. The company is also partnering with Adobe and DocuSign to ensure that its proprietary signature product does not interfere with any workflows supported by its ECM software. Partnerships help ensure smoother workflows throughout a document’s lifecycle, noted Thomas Phelps, vice president of product strategy and CIO at Laserfiche.

“We get signatures right in the process,” Phelps explained. “We can manage the workflow, automate approvals, store signed documents in a repository, automatically draft sensitive data that should not be shared with others in a contract, and then archive it once signed through a DocuSign envelope. . It goes beyond a simple document that must be signed. It’s a holistic approach to optimizing processes and finding innovative ways to do things differently. “

Highlighting the importance of uninterrupted workflows, a December 2020 Gartner Market Guide highlighted the role of electronic signature platforms in the entire automated document management process of a business. “While the basic electronic signature technology is very commonplace, business, legal and regulatory requirements make the selection of one or more electronic signature vendors an important cross-functional initiative,” said Gartner. “Support for workflow features, specific platform integrations, signer and sender user experience, and TSP integration in key markets can all lead to the selection of ‘one supplier versus another. “

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