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The top 5 questions why E-Signature is a vital building block to drive digitalization

Have you ever wondered if it could be possible to get rid of paper based processes and accelerate processing times of e. g. a paper based contract handling? In addition, wouldn´t it be great to have a proven history of what had been done, including a signature which has a legally binding? And last but not least, the solution should be capable to target your personal needs in regards of flexibility, so that you are able to do it anywhere, anytime and on any device? No worries - there is a solution and it is easily available like a click on a button!

By reading this article you will get an idea of the following benefits that an E-Signature solution provides:

  • Which legal and technical baselines are already set up and how could they support your specific use case?
  • What are E-Signatures in detail and are there any differences?
  • Which environmental impact could you accomplish using E-Signatures?
  • What about the Cloud? Could you leverage the new commodity already today?
  • How could E-Signatures accelerate your digitalization journey?

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Which legal and technical baselines are already set up and how could they support your specific use case?

When you first start with digital signatures you will need to know which legal baselines have already been setup and which industries and processes are targeted by them. You will also need to be sure about the national or international area (US/EU/CH) of each legal statement. A central point of this whole topic is trust. In the past, that was a serious obstacle not to say a show stopper for E-Signatures, since it wasn´t clearly defined which party you can trust and therefore which digital certificates you could trust. Thanks to regulations like Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) or electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions (eIDAS), the trust relationship is defined, at least for the US, Canada, the 28 member states of the EU as well as for Switzerland.

What are E-Signatures in detail and are there any differences?

Furthermore, you will need to distinguish the differences between an electronical signature and a digital signature to acknowledge the added value which is provided by using a digital signature. Only the digital signature will give you the complete security about the other person’s identity as well as the fact that the document hasn´t been modified since it was signed.

What about the Cloud? Could you leverage the new commodity already today?

To achieve this goal, you have the option to select two deployment models. Since nowadays it is common to leverage the cloud, there is a cloud service available of course, e. g. DocuSign. If you prefer to have an on-premise solution you could achieve this with an appliance that is placed into your datacenter. To ensure a rich user experience these products can be used in a browser or with a mobile app. If you already have other cloud services in use like Salesforce, O365 or SharePoint (watch this video to see it in action) you can easily integrate them into the DocuSign cloud service, and for some of them there is a single-sign-on capability. That enables your employees and customers to quickly interact with the new functionality without investing lots of time to get familiar with a new product. Connectors are also available for cloud services like SAP, SuccessFactors, Workday and many more. If you switch to the supported file types for client applications, the well-known file formats like Word, Excel or PowerPoint can be mentioned to name only a few out of a numerous options. You won´t need to be worried about data sovereignty, since Deutsche Telekom lately announced on CeBIT this year to host the datacenters for providing DocuSign services for the European market. As these datacenters are hosted in Frankfurt am Main (DE) and Paris (FR), the European law is applicable. The actual uses cases have a wide variance, but it´s a fact that already more than 100 Mio. users in 188 countries using E-Signatures to improve their business. You may have a contract management or proposal process based on paper or some internal workflows like travel expenses or resource ordering that could easily fulfilled completely digital, if there was a proper and sometimes legal binding solution. With E-Signatures, you could accomplish this goal, anytime, anywhere on any device.

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How could E-Signatures accelerate your digitalization journey?

Now that the baseline in regards of technical possibilities and legal is defined, what else do you have to keep in mind until E-Signatures bring your digitalization forward? Well, first of all you need to be sure about what you would like to accomplish, because as mentioned before, there is a huge difference between electronical and digital signatures. If your target is only to have a signature provided electronically, e. g. an image embedded into a document, this is quite easy. However, in this case "easy" will lead to certain restrictions, since you can´t use it for legally binding documents. You also won´t have an audit trail which stores every change and signature update on the document. So called digital signatures extend an electronical signature (e. g. an image of a handwritten signature) with these capabilities. Essentially, there are three different types of digital signatures available:

  • Basic E-Signature: No authentication of an individual
  • Advanced E-Signature: Only a legal entity or a real person could be the owner, so that an authentication is possible
  • Qualified E-Signature: Only a real person could be the owner, same legal binding like a handwritten signature, could contain special values for e. g. accountants or doctors

All types support the recognition of document changes after signing. What kind of certificate is the correct one for you heavily depends on your use case. Nevertheless, there is a solution for every challenge. Apart from the type of the digital certificate it is important to know who should be the issuer of the certificate. Since eIDAS and ESIGN are in place, this isn´t that hard. You can e. g. make use of an international recognized partner like IDNow (DE) or Swisscom(CH) or select one from a huge set of so called Trust Service Provider partner through the DocuSign TSP network. Alternatively, you could make use of the Standard Based-Signatures by DocuSign. As eIDAS and ESIGN are internationally recognized by law, you are now enabled to use them for your legal tasks and other business processes without being worried whether your client trusts your certificate or not! To emphasis this Mark Register, senior vice-president of business development at DocuSign, stated "Business is global, trust is local". As you can see, there are a lot of options to get your problem solved.

Which environmental impact could you accomplish using E-Signatures?

Beyond the boost of productivity, you would achieve by using E-Signatures, you would also saving resources and contributing your part in protecting our environment. Using E-Signatures and online processes already saved over 10 Billions of paper, 316 000 Barrels of Oil and CO2 emission of 27 210 cars per year, as well as 1 851 Olympic sized swimming pools of water! If you make use of E-Signatures you won´t need to print, fax, scan, post mail and store paper documents. E-Signatures have a huge impact, not only on your signing process, but also on your document delivery, sharing and archive processes that will save additional resources. Doug Wheeler, vice president of marketing at DocuSign has the following statement for that "DocuSign provides a healthy, sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to paper that is cost-effective, productivity enhancing and available from anywhere, anytime."

All these small parts are vital to create an overview of the possible improvements driven by E-Signatures. You can create the foundation for growing your digitalization and accelerate your own processes. With E-Signatures, you can replace paper in a specific transaction of your business processes, e.g. in processing sales orders or signing contracts. You can simplify complex workflows and get information flowing automatically from end to end. You will save a lot of time for every involved party, get more efficient and have a better overview of the whole process and its status. In addition, your customers and employees would be delighted with a digital solution for a classical task that used to be time consuming and prone for errors.

There are a lot of “ready to go” connectors which you can use in combination with your existing business applications or you can make use of an API to directly connect your custom application with the E-Signature functionality. There are no limits to get you and your processes up to speed within the race of digitalization.

Get an impression of the tremendous changes E-Signatures have by reflecting the following success stories: How to get more test candidates for cancer research, Closing communication gaps across multiple departments.

If you go back in history, some of you maybe recognize a phrase of Henry Ford questioning if it would be better to have faster horses or to get a car. This could easily be transferred to nowadays paper based signing processes. Instead of getting quicker delivery of paper based contracts you can get a completely new solution which is digital, anytime, anywhere, accessible with any device and million times faster than the commonly known paper based solution. On top of that, think about the amount of valuable resources you could save, like paper and electricity. In addition, you could help avoid a significant amount of CO2 emissions. You would also save a lot of time - for your employees and your customers.

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