“The bottom line with e-signature is to NOT become paralyzed by the possibilities and end up doing nothing.”
If you’ve read any of my previous articles about e-signature then you’d know that I’m a huge fan of e-signing. But being a fan isn’t a sane reason for you to agree with me. Instead, I’ll show you the other side of the argument and the reasons why you shouldn’t use e-signature just yet.
Designing solutions should always start with the process and the people, not the technology. Technology is only a tool that is to be used within the context of your process and your team. With that in mind, there are a lot of reasons to not use e-signature tools yet – here’s the short list of reasons I hear most often:
- Wet signatures are more acceptable and perceived to be safer
- You don’t perform business transactions online
- Your firm isn’t prepared to accept e-signatures
Acceptability and Perception Of E-Signatures
Back in 2005 one of our customers hired two law firms to assess the viability of signing electronically. One reported back that e-signature was not acceptable. The other reported back that e-signing IS acceptable. Depending on how you look at the topic you can easily perceive e-signature to not be acceptable or viable. The truth is that e-signatures have been legal since 2000 but that doesn’t mean everyone understands how to defend themselves against e-signed documents.
Wet signatures have been defended in court since the dawn of courts and documents. E-signatures are relatively new and many companies are waiting to see how courts handle them. When you break down the legal aspects of a signature it becomes easier to defend an e-signature than a wet ink signature. With e-sign you have a certified document, the signer’s computer IP address, identifying and defensible information about who the actual signer is and an audit trail of the document’s life. What do you have with paper? Ink, paper and possibly a witness. Which appears easier to defend in your eyes?
Doing Business Online
Recently I met a guy selling vacations at an outdoor festival. While he loves the idea of automating paperwork, how can he realistically be online when he’s legitimately offline and nowhere near an internet connection? Point of sale purchases are arguably difficult to achieve without paper and pen. On the other hand, more and more companies are bringing computers out to the public to capture data electronically. But I have an even better idea that we plan to roll out in 2012 (contact me if you want a preview) that will make outdoor data capture super easy and fully electronic!
For the rest of us who do have internet access at some point during our daily activities, why not do business online? Financial advisors have often resisted the idea of doing their paperwork online because they prefer to meet with their clients in person. Who says you can’t do your paperwork in person and online at the same time? You can. In fact, you can send your customer their forms pre-filled to review and complete before your in-person meeting where you can finalize and e-sign the forms using any computer.
Being Prepared To Accept E-Signatures
Many firms aren’t ready to accept e-signature because of system limitations, lack of integration with third parties,and sales order processes that aren’t prepared for fully electronic documents. Accepting electronic signatures is foreign and therefore daunting until you get under the covers. It’s much simpler than you might realize. You only need the following components:
- Ability to sign the documents electronically.
- Access to the signed document.
- Access to the e-signature data and audit trail
- Ability to view the document (and data) to process the data
When you consider how most firms handle paper documents today adding e-signature doesn’t have to replace the entire process! Why not simply substitute the paper document with the electronic form? That’s not a big deal for most because they are already scanning their documents and viewing them electronically anyway. Simply replace the scan with the electronic original and keep the process intact. THEN,later on, enhance your process with data integration and other automation capabilities.
The bottom line with e-signature is to NOT become paralyzed by the possibilities and end up doing nothing. Instead, start small and implement some facet of e-signature or at least a foundation for your future e-signature adoption. Otherwise, you can keep not e-signing your documents and continue to lose money, time and future growth. Eventually the whole world will be signing electronically and those who don’t will feel the pressure to catch up or fail.