E-signatures, the last piece in the paperless puzzle
By Benjamin Cher November 4, 2015
- Will transform and streamline all sorts of processes
- More accountability via digital audit trail, encryption possibility
THE industry has been going on about the paperless office for, oh well, a couple of decades now, but certainly the idea has picked up in recent years, with email footers even telling you to think before you print.
However, the reality is that the last step in almost any business process requires paper to be used to sign an agreement, invoice, or claim.
Such archaic processes, like the need for wet signatures, are all still happening in the age of touchscreens, augmented reality, and hyper connectivity, as Singapore startup Otonomos pointed out.
Digital transformation needs to be all-encompassing, which includes business processes, according to Mark Grilli, vice president of Acrobat Solutions at Adobe Systems Inc.
“Being digital is just not good enough – being digital and effective is really what’s important,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore.
“A scan of a piece of paper, how is easy is that to use? You essentially still need to retype it to use it,” he added.
Electronic signatures or e-signatures are the way forward, not just for big companies but also for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Grilli argued.
Companies which opt for e-signatures will find some immediate benefits, Grilli (pic above) claimed.
“Most of the time, companies don’t understand how their processes work, and anything that requires paper-based signatures is most likely undocumented – they don’t really know how many steps it takes,” he said.
“Off the top, they shorten their processes and are able to make changes at an incredible speed,” he said, on the benefits of going the e-signature path.
Grilli said that one Adobe customer, which he did not name, saved five days off its average sales cycle, which he argued was not just an incremental improvement but instead a significant one.
An e-signature also makes documentation easier and faster, he added.
It also allows documents to be encrypted when they are being sent, preventing unauthorised edits or tampering, and also creates an audit trail on who has seen and signed off on the document, Grilli noted.
“The audit trail can capture things like IP (Internet Protocol) address, date and time, and the order in which who received what,” he said.
“You can choose to do things from just allowing people to sign, to using two-factor authentication (2FA) and third-party verification – and even use certificate-based signing,” he added.
This is much better than the traditional way of faxing back the document, with no way of proving who signed it, he argued.
Paper jams and the future
Companies that are reluctant to adopt e-signatures will face two challenges, argued Grilli.
“One is understanding what is possible, two is making sure that you are competitive,” he said.
“Customer impression is an important perspective to consider in making this move,” he added.
Making an impression on employers is another consideration, with Grilli arguing that millennials would expect companies they work for to keep up with technology.
“People are concerned about maintaining competitive advantage and staying ahead of their competition,” he said.
“E-signatures will become the norm in a short order. There will be rapid acceleration and adoption, and it will happen faster than most people think,” he added.
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