The ability to electronically sign documents frees up your workload and saves you money on printing costs. There’s no question about the benefits of investing in an e-signature solution.
But the issue is that there are so many providers to choose from, and each one advertises different features. How do you know which e-signature solution has what you actually need in order to streamline your business processes?
Here’s a complete list of all the must-have e-signature features, plus several additional items that can take your e-signing to the next level.
Must-Have Features of an eSignature Solution
Plenty of e-signature providers have a long list of features, but many of them don’t actually have anything to do with electronic signatures. These solutions offer additional services that you may or may not need, which can make it difficult to understand what you’re getting from the provider.
Start by looking for these must-have features that ensure a legal, compliant and safe e-signature solution.
According to The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act), e-signatures are as legally binding as handwritten signatures. However, you must use a provider that complies with the stipulations outlined in the E-Sign Act for those signatures to remain enforceable.
Electronic signature solutions must also comply with the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), which preceded the E-Sign Act. Like the E-Sign Act, this document lists regulations for legally binding e-signatures.
Outside of these national regulations, you should also consider industry-specific compliance. For example, healthcare workers can benefit from the simplicity of an e-signature solution — but they must ensure the provider is in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
While HIPAA doesn’t stipulate how documents are to be signed, it does outline rules to ensure patient confidentiality. And not all e-signature solutions offer document protection against unauthorized users. So if you work in healthcare — or any other industry that requires strict confidentiality — look for an e-signature provider that offers such protection.
Companies usually advertise their compliance, so look for phrases like “UETA-compliant” or “HIPAA-compliant.”
Part of offering compliant electronic signatures means including safety features and document protection. So even if a provider advertises that they are HIPPA-compliant, you should dig a little deeper to make sure that they truly offer document protection.
For example, some e-signature solutions protect sensitive documents with blockchain technology in the form of a distributed database. You might only know about blockchain in reference to cryptocurrencies, but that same technology offers a compelling way to verify signatures.
Providers that use blockchain technology offer various levels of protection for every document that needs to be signed. With blockchain timestamps, you can track every step of the signing process. And since you can’t change something on the blockchain, it prevents documents from fraud attempts.
Aside from blockchain technology, look for other safety features like a certificate of completion. This document is like an e-receipt, except it also includes in-depth document information that is there to protect you and your company in case of any legal trouble down the road.
Identity Verification Process
The risk of forged signatures has existed for years — and it has become much easier as everything went online and people started working remotely. Unless, of course, you select an electronic signature solution that offers an identity verification process for each signee.
For example, the aforementioned blockchain technology and certificate of completion display each signee’s location, device, browser and IP address when they signed. With these details, you can confirm that the signee actually signed it themselves. Many solutions also offer two-factor authentication. That means that each user must confirm their identity via a phone notification or email during the signing process.
Cloud Storage Integration
Once you e-sign a document, where will you store it? If the e-signature provider doesn’t connect to any storage platforms, that means extra steps for you as you have to download and distribute the document to everyone involved. In today’s digital age, cloud storage integration is practically a necessity.
Look for e-signature solutions that integrate with platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox that offer easy document accessibility, improved shareability and streamlined workflows.
eSignature solutions save you from a trail of tedious paperwork — and they also streamline processes by allowing you to sign anything, anywhere, provided they offer mobile capabilities.
An e-signature platform that only works on your laptop or desktop is certainly useful, but it doesn’t have the complete flexibility of a solution that offers mobile-friendly options. So make sure your e-signature provider has an app option. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a web-based platform or a downloadable app. The important thing is that you have the ability to sign documents in the car, on a plane or even while standing in line at the store.
Non-Essential — but Advantageous — Features of an eSignature Solution
Most of the must-have features address safety concerns and legality. But let’s be honest — even if an e-signature solution has all those things, it can still be a clunky service.
The ideal, all-in-one e-signature service will have all those essential features, plus extra perks that make your life easier. They shouldn’t overwhelm and confuse you — just make the e-signature process much simpler and more flexible.
Here are a few great features to add to your wishlist of e-signature features.
E-signatures mean no more waiting for in-person meetings and printing excess documents. That’s time and money saved. But what if you could save even more time and streamline your workflows with document templates to use with those e-signatures?
There are some e-signature services that include template creations on their platforms. You simply design the template for documents you regularly use, then save it for future use. These templates can work for everything from rental application forms to purchase orders.
Various Document Types
Some e-signature solutions let you sign only a few different file types, like Google or Word documents. But what if you need to sign a PDF? Or an Excel document?
You don’t want to limit your eSign capabilities to just a few file types, so try and find an e-signature solution that accepts various types of file uploads.
Let’s say you have a document that needs to be signed by five different people. But three of them can’t sign until the first two have. With a limited e-signature solution, you would have to send the same document out for two rounds of signatures, which means more work for you.
Instead, consider platforms that let you set the signature order so you only need to send the document out for signatures once. You can typically set the signing process as sequential (signees have to follow a specific order) or parallel (the signature order doesn’t matter and everyone can sign at any time).
Due Dates, Reminders and Messages
Speaking of e-signature flexibility, look for other great features that give you more control over the e-signature process. For example, some providers let you set e-signing due dates and reminders so the document doesn’t get lost in the signee’s inbox. e-Signature solutions can also offer you the ability to leave messages for signees to help them along in the process.
Various Ways to Sign
Some people like to draw their signature on a trackpad. Others prefer to type it. And still others would rather upload an image of their actual handwritten signature to use with online documents.
So look for an e-signature solution that allows each signee to choose how they want to sign. Many platforms also let you save signatures for later use, meaning you don’t have to continually re-sign on the trackpad or upload the same image over and over.
We’ve already talked about the absolutely essential safety features of e-signatures solutions, but you might also want to look for a provider that offers audit trails.
Audit trails include a complete document history, providing you with detailed information about who accessed the document, what they did with it and when they signed. It can build upon many of the safety features mentioned above, like blockchain technology and a certificate of completion.
Whether you work for yourself, a small business or an enterprise, an audit trail provides you with the evidence you need to track your documents and provide any proof in case of a legal dispute.
An All-in-One eSignature Solution
If you’re wondering how to pick and choose which features to prioritize, there’s no need. jSign offers all the features above and more that let you streamline your workflows and focus on more pressing business issues.
Need an e-signature provider that’s HIPAA-compliant and offers audit trails? Check. Want the ability to set due dates, signing orders and reminders? Check. Interested in a free trial before to see how jSign works? Also check.
Sign up today for a 14-day free trial to see how jSign can change the way you think about electronic signatures forever.