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Why electronic signatures are key to document workflows

Why electronic signatures are key to document workflows.

It's sure most organizations, businesses, or companies have continued to rely on the manual document workflows, which also involve the manual signings for approvals. However, most forms and documents that drive companies can now be prepared or stored in digital formats. Thanks to the advancement in technology, many businesses have witnessed considerable differences in almost all areas. To mentionbut a few- customer relationship management systems, integrated communications, and social media marketing, among others. Meaning a streamlined approach of creating,retrieving information, and signing is made easier for organizations/companies. One of the notable and latest advancements most organizations and individuals have started using is electronic signatures. Before we indulge in the importance of electronic signatures on document workflows, let’s first understand its meaning, examples, legality, and how they do work.

What are electronic signatures?

An electronic signature is the digital verification of any signatory identification. Electronic signature (e-signature) is also defined as the method by which businesses, organizations, and individuals can legally bind documents. They allow for the flexibility of signing from internet-connected devices like phones, laptops, and computers. It also provides secure and precise identification criteria to the signatories in handling seamless transactions. In layman’s language- electronic signatures or the e-signatures are the electric expressions of a person's agreement on a specific document.
Which are some of the examples of electronic signatures?
In this digital era, documents are written and signed electronically. Some of the electronic signatures we even make without knowing. For instance, when you sign up for Facebook orGoogle accounts, you agree to their terms and work conditions. When you click on the 'Sign Up' button, it means you electronically consent to the documents' privacy policies on that website. 'The click is the signature.' Businessman putting electronic signatures on electronic shields.

How do electronic signatures work?

The e-signatures facilitate the signing of documents through electronic software such as adobe sign, wondershare SignX, and authentisign, among other software. The software uses encryption technology that verifies the authenticity of signatures made. The software ensures the signing process secure and easily traceable down to the dates, time, and IP address of the signer. It also gives the machine identifications used. Other electronic signaturesare a scanned image of a person’s ink signature and a typed name for like in emails. Also, a voice signature like saying 'I agree,' a handwritten signature created on-screen tablets using a stylus, among others.

What are the types of electronic signatures?

After discussing the examples, let’s now get to know some of the types we have.

a)Basic or simple electronic signatures.

Have you ever received an email with the attached document? In some cases, you may find a document pre-populated with a nameand space alongside it. Space is to be selected and generate a signature image. Then click the button confirming you have received the document have made your commitment by signing it. Therefore, basic electronic signaturesinvolve the cases where the signer applies their hand-signature mark on the biding documents, protected with cryptographic digital signatures. The simple electronic signatures will allow the signer to create digital crypto signatures using a server held key- also known as the witness signatures. Anytime the user applies the e-signature on any contract or document, the witness signature is applied. This binds the e-signature cryptographically to the form from subsequent changes. The process ensures data integrity.

b)Advance electronic signatures (AES).

These are high security leveled electronic signatures that meet all the electronic identifications and regulations in the internet world. Advance electronic signatures require that a key or certificate associated with it needs to be linked by an electronic identifier or the signatory's identity.

c)Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES).

QES is the advanced electronic signature made with additional features. They are created with a highly qualified signature creation device with qualified certificate for identifying the signer. The certificate contains electronic data that links data to the signer and the verification or the validation of the signature to identify the subject and contract. The signatures are based on the qualified certificate for electronic signatures and certification authority. Examples could be; electronic signatures made using electronic National identity documents or the electronic signaturesstored on the electronic cards. Also, the Qualified Electronic Signatures are the most secure and trusted versions of electronic signatures with top-level security to protect user signing key. They can also verify who has signed a document or contract, just like the advanced electronic signatures.

Are electronic signatures legal?

Yes, the e-signatures are protected by federally U.S Electronic Signatures Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) act of 2000. Different laws and legislations internationally protect electronic signatures. For example, there is ‘HelloSign’ in Australia and the EU.

Are there requirements for electronic signatures?

Yes; It is essential in the ESIGN act of 2000 that a significant signature must meet the following four legal hallmarks. The electronic signature made is the signer's identity- this indicates that the signer is who he or she claims to be. It's sure in some cases, you won't be able to see the signer, but if required, the act state that the identity of the signer could be authenticated or verified. Verifications are done using different digital markers; included is the IP address. The signer has a clear intention when signing- the act requires that before the signer could sign, the contract or the terms of the documentmust have communicated to the signerbefore the signing. The signer should go through the documentthen intentionally agree to undergo the e-signing process. Can the association of the signature and the signed document be verified?-The certification should involve the signing process; for instance, how was the document signed? What process did the signer complete? And which documentations support the electronic contract involved in the e-signature signings. Are the signing records kept?–The description of all the electronic signatures and documents should be saved, retained, or reproduced for further references. All the parties involved must ensure that they have a copy/copies of the contract.

Why electronic signatures are key to document workflows

To start with, let's define the workflow. Workflow is thegraphical representation of sequences and steps involved from the start to completion of a task. The process may entail, consumption of resources, human action, information flow, or physical transformation. In simple term, Workflow is defined as how organizations or companies get work done, the processes and sequences involved in performing tasks.

What is document workflow?

In document management systems, document workflow is the flow of informational documents among individuals, organizations, or companies/.businesses. It generallyinvolves capturing, generating, editing, sending, tracking, approving, storing, and retrieving - also, the process of retaining and destroying documents. Additionally, the process helps in providing decision support before action-taking.

Benefits of electronic signatures to document workflow

Electronic signatures;

a)Ensures an enhanced security

When you use electronic signatures in your business, you can be confident that your documents are safe and protected with higher security levels.Theyprovide additional security to records by the provision of passcodes and biometric authentication methods. Besides, the security controls may include automatic independent verification methods, also known as Knowledge-Based Authentication. The verification would be required, meaning one can only access their documents using the associated credentials provided by their solution providers. Also, the receiver of the email document will only access it throughtheir protected accounts. Which ensures the documents meet the right people.This provides additional security as compared to ordinary paper signing.

b)Facilitates a workflow tracking

How? Imagine a situation where you are working with several clients on paper documents. The time and expenditure you’ll take in sending, copying, and storing for filing are also the possibilities of the document getting damaged, forged, or lost. The use of electronic signatures avoids all problems. The digital logs with the help of e-signatures will provide the documents' details, such as the email addresses, the time when the document was signed, and the IP address. This will ensure an enhanced workflow tracking, knowing who opened, signed, and approved a document. Moreover, one will have a complete paper trail of who of the document without the actual paper.

c)Cuts down on Costs

Just think of how much a business or company would spend to process paper documents. Paper works accrue up cost – you must purchase papers, print, copy, scan, and store copies. Do you imagine how much your company/business could be saving by digitizing those processes? Documents that require electronic signatures would only make up a portion of the total amount of money spent on paper document processing.

d)Ensures faster document processing time.

Manual document processing can be time-consuming. Both the senders and receivers would have to be required to print, sign, and scan the documents involved several times. What happens when a contract requires multiple signatures? The process could take an even longer time. Electronic signatures save business time to avoid all the delays and shorten the turnaround time of processing the documents as e-signatures can be fixed to a proposal in seconds. Also, an electronic signature is much convenient as it collects signatures and approves multiple documents at once. You don't need to print any paper.

e)Facilitates mobility.

Electronic signatures help businesses and organizations operate or function irrespective of time and location. It ensures the ‘anytime, anywhere workflow.' Unlike in paperwork signatures where one is to sign, print, scan, or meet in person to deliver the document. The signed copy is then initiated and returned to the same address; electronic signatures save you the burden of movements and enhance paperless workflow.

f)Automation of contract generation and execution

The combining power of electronic signatures withcontracts management software used to managecreation, negotiation, and signature renewalgives the ability to generate a contract and execute them automatically. The software provides a physical document template and offers an opportunity to create and upload documents using an e-signature platform. You can add signatures and some additional fields of your wish; it enables users to fill in forms digitally. Also, it enables business/organizations to self-serve, agree, and manage their routine contracts from any workplace.

g)Enhances accountability, traceability, compliance of contracts, and legality

What else would be a priority for any business/organization if not staying within the regulatory boundaries? Electronic signatures are legal and are protected by the ESIGN act of 2000. Both the Business Management Processes and electronic signatures platforms provide an automatic digital audit trail giving insights into the auditors’ processes and third parties involved. They also designate required fields and validates different areas. This ensures that your business avoids non-compliance as a result of incomplete or incorrect information. Better still,

h)Electronic signatures are environmentally friendly

There is no surprise that pollution frommanufacturing paper and waste produce has negative impacts on the environment. To mention, paper clips, printing machines, and fax machines are also contributors to environmental pollution. Leave alone the fact that trees have to be cut to make papers, among other reasons. Have you ever gone to an office and found papers everywhere? Some are scattered improperly filed and evening making tracing a document a challenging task.Companies should strive to move towards paperless workplaces. Applying electronic signature use will save a company from the problems mentioned above. Companies that use e-signatures will help reduce paper consumption hence environmentally friendly.

Conclusion

For any company or business that want to go digital, electronic signatures would be the best technological advancement they should consider first. They will track documents throughout their document workflows in taking the uncertainty out of their contracts through electronic signatures. E-signatures will ensure businessescut costs of document management and experience enhanced security. They will also enjoy high facilitated mobility and that their contract generation and execution are automated and many other benefits.

Contributor: admin
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