For many businesses, before the events of 2020, electronic signature options were rarely necessary. Some companies had already started to adopt e-signing options as part of a general digital transformation plan, while new companies were looking to implement them as part of a process from the start in order to appeal to an increasingly digital target audience.
It all depended very much on the industry, the demographics of the customers, and even the ambitions of the founders. But the pandemic turned that all on its head when almost every company was forced to reconsider how they managed traditional processes such as collecting signatures.
Companies might have easily overlooked just how often signatures were needed. While some companies were accustomed to dealing with lengthy processes requiring signatures of multiple parties, other companies were perhaps pretty surprised to learn that signatures are required much more often than previously realized.
The prevalence of signatures in the workplace
Signatures are required for more than just acknowledging that you’ve received a parcel or making that big purchase at the car dealership. As individuals, we’re required to apply our signature in a wide variety of circumstances. For businesses, the need for signatures expands significantly.
Most companies require signatures from the outset - whether you’re starting as an employee and signing your work contract, or you’re a new customer who is completing an onboarding process.
Signatures on the business side of things range from partner contracts, subscriptions, service contracts, legal documentation, courier services, digital workflows, and more. Depending on the industry, this list can seem endless.
So when the need for signatures in a digital world became pressing, the right solutions had to provide tools for these to be managed securely and in a way that met the needs of the particular document or workflow.
Types of electronic signatures
Like the need for signatures, the type of signature needed can also easily be unrealized. For unofficial documents, a basic scribble can suffice, but for official or legal documents, in-person verification in the form of a notary or witness are used - but how does that translate to the digital world?
The basic digital signature that comes to mind for most is through, for example, the use of Apple’s Preview application that allows the uploading of essentially a digital capture of a “wet” signature that can then be pasted onto digital documents such as PDFs.
While this can be a fast and useful method for adding a signature, it’s hardly what most would consider secure or verified. For that, online tools are needed that provide new levels of electronic signature gathering to meet company and regulatory demands and requirements.
In the world of electronic signatures, there are three levels of signatures: standard signatures, advanced signatures, and qualified signatures - each requiring a higher level of authentication. To learn more about the different levels of e-signatures, visit our page “Electronic signatures explained”.
Secure workflow and signature processes not only help to ensure the business adheres to requirements and protects itself from potential fraud, they also help the business to build digital trust with potential customers and partners.
The electronic signature process
The right e-signing solution will not only provide a variety of different levels of electronic signatures depending on the needs of the business, it will also give options for how the signatures are handled for each document.
For example, if a document must be signed by multiple people, this can easily be done with one action (as opposed to needing to send the document over and over again to each individual on a list). This bulk signing option can drastically speed up workflows and simplify processes.
Or, if a document that requires signatures from multiple people must be signed in a certain order, the right tools will also make it easy to set up a digital document to be shared with the next signee only once the first signature(s) has been added.
A great solution will of course always give a business the option to restrict access to only those who are required to sign the document, as well as providing a clear activity log to view the history of actions taken for that particular document.
And it goes without saying that these signatures can all be done in a secure, cloud-based solution without the need for email attachments back-and-forth.
Even for companies that were previously unaware of the prevalence of signatures in a digitalized world, there are ready-made solutions available that can quickly simplify a seemingly complex but easily manageable set of requirements for electronic signature needs.