The use of electronic signature systems has increased over the past few years as part of businesses' digital transformation to catch up with growing technological advancements. Companies thinking about e-signature solutions should think about the technology they need to implement and the various requirements that comes with them.
With many available solutions in the market today, choosing the perfect one can be difficult. In this article, we compile a list of factors to consider when choosing e-signature solutions to help get the right one.
What is an electronic signature?
In layman's terms, an electronic signature is a signature that is given in the electronic form. Like the traditional pen and paper signatures, e-signatures allow the signatories to agree or approve the terms of the documents.
Essentially, an electronic signature is a process that uses digital algorithms to authentic the signer and certifies the document's integrity.
Digital signatures, on the other hand, is a form of e-signature that uses certificate authority, trust service providers, and complex algorithms to validate the integrity of the document and authenticate the signatory.
The subtle difference between digital signatures and electronic signatures.
The difference between the two signatures is small for the parties that are participating in the signing of the documents. But they are not very subtle to compliance officers, auditors, managers, regulators, and judges.
An electronic signature is a general name for any signature that is transmitted electronically, whether it is a signature signed via an electronic document service provider or a digitally-handwritten signature on a document.
Digital signatures are a type of e-signatures with improved characteristics to keep them secure and compliant with different signature laws. Common e-signatures may be perfect for approvals and agreements but sloppy on security and compliance.
For example, a standard electronic signature may be ideal where a supervisor wants to approve of employee leave, but when the situation requires strict security measures, compliance, and confidentiality, then a digital signature is most appropriate.
In a nutshell, digital signatures are a branch of electronic signatures with advanced security features that are ideal for sectors such as health and legal. They come with encryption, backend tools, and trail capabilities for maximum authenticity. They are common in insurance forms, tax documents, contracts, etc.
Benefits of using electronic signature solutions.
E-signatures have a lot of benefits both to individuals and companies. Read the following section to discover the most common ones.
1. Saves time.
One of the most common benefits of using electronic signature solutions is time-saving. Instead of arranging for physical document signing or using mail deliveries back and forth, you simply send a digital link to speed up the document turnaround time within seconds.
The issue of lost documents warrants the signing process to start over again, leading to increased chances of a legal breach. However, you can electronically attach e-signatures on proposals or contracts and get them returned in minutes giving your business more convenience and flexibility to concentrate on project completion.
2. Boost employee productivity.
When you relieve employees from doing a routine, repetitive job and allow them to focus their time on more complex tasks, their satisfaction, and productivity increase. With e-signatures, you eliminate recurrent tasks electronically.
3. Saves money.
Saving time and cost-effectiveness go hand in hand. And every successful venture struggles to save money, so automating business operations is a perfect way to cut costs and increase return on investment.
On the other hand, reducing costs of printing, scanning, preparing documents for shipping adds extra savings and boosts your revenue in the long run.
4. Reduces risks and increases security.
E-signatures are more secure by nature, and this is why:
5. Improves customer experience and loyalty.
E-signatures provide customers the convenience of signing anywhere, anytime, allowing customers’ real-time documents access, hence speeding transaction processes.
Happy customers are satisfied and become loyal clients who will always support and promote your business, hence increasing your bottom line.
6. Enhances convenience.
Electronic signature solution providers like fillanypdf are easy and convenient to access by everyone, even the less tech-savvy users. Whether it is sending or receiving signatures, the signing process is inherent and straightforward.
If you know emailing process and can click a few buttons, then using digital signatures are no brainer.
7. Saves resources.
When using traditional or physical signatures, both parties- the sender and recipient- must perform back and forth printing, scanning, and sending documents by using several reams of papers and high-end printing machines.
These operations use a lot of paperwork, meaning this process requires the destruction of trees used to produce these papers. Going paperless in the office is environmentally friendly and saves you a lot of money in the long run.
8. Ensures compliance.
Every business must follow regulatory requirements in all their business transactions to be at peace with the government. Tracing paper documents for compliance issues can get your company into trouble if you are audited.
If your documents are intact without any tampers is the first step to avoiding fines and endless lawsuits which will require you to use money, hence reducing your revenues. E-signatures ensure your transaction are safe and complies with the relevant authorities.
Factors to consider when choosing e-signatures.
The traditional wet ink signature is being taken over by the electronic signature solutions in various prominent sectors like law, healthcare, real estate, construction, and accountancy. We recommend that you consider the following factors when choosing e-signature solutions.
Do all the forms of e-signature solutions have similar legal requirements? Doubtlessly no. Though the eIDAS regulations outline three levels of electronic signatures, i.e., simple, advanced, and qualified signatures, and the various level of legal considerations that should be factored to consider them similar, other forms may have weaknesses in compliance with these laws.
And it is possible some signature solution providers may tell you that most are considered advanced while others are not. In this regard, it is extremely important that you be cautious when choosing e-signature solutions for your needs so that you can understand their authenticity in case of a legal dispute.
b. The simplicity of usage.
When choosing an e-signature solution, it is vital to consider the people who will use the system. The best thing to do is put yourself in their shoes and ensure the solution provides a channel that is easy to understand and use.
Make the solution usability easy for everyone in your organization and your customers too. Let it operate in such a way that the person who has never used an e-signature before can use it automatically and successfully.
In a nutshell, an e-signature solution should allow usage by everyone, at anytime, anywhere, and in any situation.
Factor in the usability in this way, can my old mother sign a digital document intuitively with this digital signature solution? Are there any kinds of digital certification required to sign? If you've got the answer to these questions, then you can decide the level of usability moving forward.
c. Security and confidentiality.
In most cases, the document to be signed contains compromised or sensitive information. For this reason, encryption and security systems must be in place to secure both the signature and document to validate that they have not been modified or tampered with.
To consider an e-signature advanced, the integrity of the signed contract or document must be guaranteed. It must be shown that it is created with a certified signature provider and the signatory exclusive control act.
There must the evidence showing whether the document is encoded or encrypted. Proof of who signed it and the location and time of signing. Are there any standards facilitating future interoperability of the encrypted data in the signature with verification tools?
a. bility to identify the signing parties.
While e-signatures are considered secure, not all of them have the capacity to identify the signatory. For instance, though OTP and biometric signatures are considered advanced, you cannot be 100% sure of the signatory.
And if an SMS gets into a phone, do you know who the sim card owner is? And the person who has input the OTP code to sign the copy.
The eIDAS regulation in article 26 states that, for an electronic signature to be considered advanced, it has to be specifically connected to the signatory and allow for identification of the said signatory.
When pending a signature on a paper document, the calligraphic expert will only identify the signer through the signature itself, the way strokes are implemented, and their pressure.
In the current digital era, this can be improved and replicated through biometric signatures on tablets and smartphones since they do not only capture graph images but also further collect different data during the signing process. They further identify the time when the sign was made, the signing location, and the signer.
With such an advanced level of authenticity, the ability to identify the signatory is one of the critical factors to consider when choosing e-signature solutions.
Like any other business, the cost of services is an essential consideration that needs careful evaluation for maximum return on investment. When choosing e-signature solutions, carefully check prices according to your budget.
Are the providers have options to pay once, per signature, or periodically? Although the option of paying per signature may look cheaper and ideal, it may turn out to be costly in the long run. Therefore, consider how long you'll use the solution to choose a paying model that is long-lasting once and for all.
c.Versatility and adaptability.
Of all the available signature solutions, there will always be the one that adapts well with your business model or has a scalable potential with the growth of your company.
In terms of the signature digitalization program, it is imperative to have a signature that, if you need to sign physically, can work in areas without network coverage and can still work remotely without failing.
Or a signature that customers and employees can use through apps or in an entirely web-based environment. These are the reasons the signature solutions should be versatile and not limited.
Up to this far, we can admit that paper signature digitalization allows us to improve or scale our businesses.
However, due to some reasons such as high costs, system failures, the weight of the signed documents, system management, and network coverage can limit us from scaling at the required pace that e-signature solutions allow.
Therefore, it is essential to be keen in terms of scalability when choosing e-signature solutions. Consider factors that point to how these systems can improve your business without compromising your business operations, productivity, and budget.
The increase of technological advancement has led to the digitalization of business operations, including signature processes. Electronic signature has a lot of benefits that can be harnessed to scale companies and improve productivity.
However, choosing e-signature solutions requires many factors to ensure you get the right one that is aligned to the business and company needs.
Always consider the following factors when choosing e-signature solutions: scalability, legality, simplicity of usage, security, confidentiality, ability to identify the signatories, costs, and versatility and adaptability.