Hybrid work requires digital workflows for all processes: whether it’s video calls in place of meetings or live online documents for simultaneous collaboration. But signatures, the conclusion of almost all transactions and contracts, remain the last bastion of the analogue office.
Businesses are increasingly migrating from paper-based manual workflows to the cloud. For fast-growing startups hiring and onboarding new employees, banks acquiring virtual customers or for global pharmaceutical companies establishing networks of healthcare providers for a global vaccination programme, for example, electronic signatures have become an important factor.
The pen is still mighty
There has been a slow uptake of electronic signatures thus far, as the technology is far more complex than it might seem. Differing legal requirements for various use cases mean that today’s solutions are usually cumbersome and expensive, often making them the last step on the way to a wholly digital office.
According to IDC TechBrief 2020, only one in three companies use electronic signatures. The pandemic and forced shift to remote work obviously changed things, with paper-based work decreasing dramatically in parallel with being away from a physical office. While this should have encouraged the uptake of e-signatures, many businesses still rely on cumbersome solutions such as signature cards with reading devices, with printers and scanners prevalent in our home offices.
However, there is a better way – better integration of e-signature functions into existing collaboration platforms is crucial to ensuring that businesses can actually operate wholly without resorting to complex manual approval chains and analogue paper methods.
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The content journey counts – signatures are the last step
First, let’s look at the importance of content to a business. In simple terms, content is the inherent value of a company. It’s NASA’s designs for their new space station, AstraZeneca’s highly regulated pharmaceutical patents, and Oxfam’s humanitarian aid records. It’s the clinical trial results for the next breakthrough vaccine, or the blueprint for the innovative new approach to flooding solutions. Content is the entire work of an organisation and is completely unique for every company. Content is the database of its most valuable insights.
But to effectively realise this value, organisations need to find a single place for their content. Separating content between different silos and applications creates friction, which can stand in the way of employees accessing and sharing information, inhibiting innovation and productivity.
Applications in today’s content-driven world are often judged by their ease of integration with other technologies. As a result, businesses are turning to single platforms where content can be securely stored and managed, while all compliance requirements are met and all teams have the opportunity to collaborate on the content, both internally and externally.
E-signature capabilities must be natively integrated into these platforms to avoid adding friction by interrupting the ‘content lifecycle’ (or the path of content through the company). For example, a contract bouncing around inboxes can create a host of difficulties, from version control and editing to signatures. Integrating e-signatures into a platform will create a more seamless workflow from start to finish, eradicating the possibility of errors or lost data.
The security implication of integration
Integrated e-signatures that are legally compliant and legally binding are a key element of a content cloud platform. At the same time, these solutions should provide the opportunity for the business to define a central, uniform guideline for information security and governance across the entire content journey. Electronically signing does not then mean foregoing security or compliance – certified solutions are legally equivalent to advanced electronic signatures.
When choosing an e-signature solution for your company, it is important to look for technology that is easy to adopt and has the highest security standards. It has to be simple and intuitive for your users, but also very security-oriented in order to protect your content. As part of that security focus, businesses should define a single, consistent information security and governance policy for the entire content journey, which e-signatures should fit into.
The user experience should also be native and simple – there is no point in choosing a solution that requires more complex workflows and steps. Eliminating manual tasks is key, and omnichannel offerings (any device, any browser) will naturally work more seamlessly. The solution should also be able to support multiple document formats, in order to keep a consistent approach across the business.
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The complete content journey is crucial
The mapping of electronic signatures directly in a cloud platform offers many advantages. Signatures can be performed in a legally secure manner, even while remote employees or partners are working together on documents, and the business increases ROI and efficiency by eliminating cumbersome and expensive solutions for qualified signatures.
When choosing the right platform, it is important to guarantee that processes run as smoothly as possible. The most important points here are security, collaboration, productivity – and integrated with other best-of-breed tools for communication and collaboration.