The Cost of Wet Signatures

There are few IT activities as pointless as making a process “paperless” and then printing a document so that you can get a wet signature on it. Two of the benefits of paperless technology are avoiding time delays and expense caused by using paper to capture transactions. Yet the process of printing an electronic document just to sign it continues in many industries. Companies and agencies are left with more paper to be scanned and then shredded, or worse, stored in cabinets and archives. 

There are countless articles written about digitally signing documents, but most of that content overlooks the most obvious fact: Not every signature process is the same, so how can a single type of electronic signature solution be the right fit? Failing to address all of your signature processes makes the solution nothing but a band-aid. As a best practice, address all of the signature processes and make sure your solution addresses each of them.

Let’s look at a couple of different processes to see the differences:

Capturing a Vendor Signature Externally

This is the most common example used to justify the implementation of electronic signature technologies. In this example, we need a technology that will digitally transmit the documents to be signed to the signatory, capture the signature electronically, and enable the signatory to return the signed documents to the sender. An ideal solution would include the signing event within the contracting, purchasing, or transaction workflow technology so that the process of sending and receiving the documents to be signed is just a continuation of the business process. The documents can be emailed or delivered via a secure link with an integration and be auditable directly from the workflow technology.

Capturing a Vendor Signature in Person

Contrast that process with the same contractor sitting across from you at your desk or in a conference room. Capturing a vendor signature while they are in your office is a very different event. Transmitting a document to be signed would require the signatory to leave and go to their office or log into their computer or smart phone from your office. A much smarter technology would be to capture the vendor’s signature on a signature pad.  The ideal process would include capturing a signature as a part of the larger automated business process.

Internal Approval Process

Internal approval processes present another type of challenge. Think about separating internal approvals that require signatures from those in which the approval event just needs to be captured. If you are capturing an internal signature and it is a frequent event, digital signature certificates are an excellent and inexpensive way to go. Having witnessed supervisor’s spending significant time approving internal process requests with wet signatures, I can state that finding ways to eliminate or reduce the difficulty of these signatures is a quick win that can provide organizations significant time savings for some of the most expensive staff. 

Approvals that do not require signature can be handled in a less formal way.  Imagine a supervisor who spends 80% of their day in meetings (far-fetched, I know). Providing an approval mechanism that can be handled from a smart phone or tablet while away from the primary workstation would allow them to submit approvals faster, reducing the bottleneck for both the employees and external parties waiting on that approval. This not only helps keep processes flowing but also reduces the time demand on the busy supervisor on those rare occasions when they are at their workstations.

Get Rid of the Band-Aids

In my experience any solution which seeks to implement electronic signatures needs to consider the various ways in which signatures and approvals exist in an organization to be a complete solution. Anything less is both inefficient and frustrating to participants in the processes. The OnBase software has a solution for each of these signature processes. Whether integrating DocuSign to be a step in a business process, integrating with a Topaz signature pad signed on an electronic form, or implementing approval processes that log the approving user rather than requiring a wet signature, OnBase can meet all use cases for electronic signature.

On top of that, OnBase is a robust Workflow engine that can automate the process of capturing electronic signatures or approvals with very little human interaction. With OnBase, the band-aids are replaced with a thoughtful solution that considers the business process and the best way to capture necessary approvals and signatures.  

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