Electronic signatures, or eSignatures, are a common part of most business operations these days. As more and more of our customers shop or interact online and digital processes become further entrenched, electronic signatures for business are becoming a vital component of an efficient, customer-friendly workflow.
Traditional paper signatures made with ink, also known as wet signatures, interrupt the workflow and add complexity to most transactions. If you have to mail documents for signing, it can take days to complete an application or a transaction.
An eSignature makes it instant.
There are quite a few e-signature platforms available.
Electronic signatures for business come in many forms; free eSignatures offer the entry point for most companies, but is that really serving your needs or your customers’ needs properly?
Follow our eSignature best practice guide to make sure your electronic signatures workflow is effective, and your provider is offering enough value.
eSignature Workflow Examples
Most of us have used eSignatures by now and have experienced one of the many electronic signatures workflow options for collecting and executing an electronic signature. The steps usually follow a similar pattern to this example from an insurance application process:
- The client goes online to submit an application for insurance
- The client is shown a box asking them to acknowledge that they intend to submit the document and attest to its accuracy
- The client types in their signature, uploads an image or draws a signature in a box using a touchpad or mouse
Or, consider the case of an employment offer:
- The hiring manager calls or emails the final offer to the prospective employee.
- The employee accepts the offer.
- The hiring manager sends a copy of the contract by email and asks the employee to sign the contract and return it.
- The employee signs the document online using a platform that collect electronic signatures for business and returns it to the employer.
These workflows may vary slightly, but the core aspects are usually the same and there’s a very good reason for this.
The correct way to collect and use eSignatures is defined within the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act). It defines an electronic signature as, “an electronic sound, symbol or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”
This means for an electronic signature workflow to be reliable and legally binding, it has to:
- Clearly identify the signatory
- Prove that they intended to execute the document/contract/agreement concerned
- Connect the electronic signature to the document concerned
8 Best Practices for Solo eSignatures & Collaboration
So how do we get to an eSignature workflow that achieves all these goals? The following best practices will help you set your business up for success when it comes to collecting and creating eSignatures.
1. Identify a List of Documents That Require Signatures
Any company that uses eSignatures should have a clear idea of what documents it uses that require signatures. This list should include all departments. For example:
- Human Resources
- Employment agreements
- Expense reports
- Contractor agreements
- Purchase orders
- Finance approvals
- Lending and borrowing documents
- Banking documents
- Sales agreements
- Scope of work
- Supply contracts
- Corporate governance and legal documents
- Legal forms
- Board member agreements
Building this list will give you an idea of where and how you should collect signatures and from whom.
2. Designate a Signatory
Decide who can operate as a signatory for your company on documents that require two signatures. For example, who will sign for the company on insurance forms, and will they be the same person who signs the employee contracts?
3. Organize Your eSignature Framework
Before you roll out electronic signatures for business across your entire company, it’s important to set up the right policies and procedures for using e-signatures.
This means understanding the regulations in your state or city around eSignatures, setting up a secure collection and storage system and also making sure you decide what types of signatures you’ll accept and how you’ll collect them.
4. Design Your eSignature Infrastructure With User Experience Techniques
User experience, aka UX or CX, is the process of understanding customer journeys through your systems. It’s no good selecting a platform that collects electronic signatures for business using a mobile app if your customer base interacts mostly using email, for example.
Likewise, if you have a procurement platform that collects quotes and assigns contracts in one place, it doesn’t make sense to kick users out to another platform to collect their signatures.
Map out user journeys and processes for every document that needs signing to make sure you are collecting eSignatures in efficient, convenient ways. Look for eSignatures for business solutions that integrate into your existing systems and workflows, including Customer Relations Management (CRM) systems and accounting programs.
5. Ensure Reliability and Trust
You’ll need an eSignature process that makes it clear who signed the document, which version they signed and when. You’ll also need to make sure your documents are stored in an accessible, safe and searchable system so you can call them back if you need to.
It’s important that the authenticity of your signed documents can’t be challenged. This means making sure that there’s a clear record of any changes to contracts or agreements. Your systems should include clear timestamps and a set audit trail.
6. Start Small
The best way to fine-tune your processes and build an electronic signature system that you can depend on is to start with a small number of low-risk documents. These might include internal approvals documents like purchase orders or policy memos. By testing the waters with these documents you gain more confidence and insight you can use when it’s time to create or collect signatures on more important things like financial and legal contracts.
7. Get Buy-In From Your Stakeholders
No process is effective in your business if you don’t have buy-in and participation from all your stakeholders. Whether it’s a free eSignatures solution or a paid one, making sure you have wide-spread adoption is the only way to make sure your system is as efficient as it can be. After all, one of the key benefits of electronic signatures for business is the way they streamline your processes and allow you to store all your signed documents in one convenient place.
Ways to ensure wide spread buy-in include:
- Training sessions or even ‘lunch-and-learns’ where you explain the processes
- Financial incentives like bonuses tied to participation rates for employees
- Making sure the solution you provide is easy-to-use and convenient for anyone who might need to use it
8. Measure Return on Investment (ROI)
Any new system is going to cause disruption alongside the improvements. A key way to gain buy-in and make sure your eSignature solution is the right one is to measure the ROI. To do this, you’ll need to understand some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) attached to the solution.
The testing process should begin with an understanding of the current metrics. For example, you might know that it takes an average of 36 hours to gain approval for a new purchase or 24 hours to secure a new hire. KPIs that you can see benefit from a new eSignature workflow include:
- Turnaround time for new sales contracts: the time taken to secure renewals or new contracts
- Contract drop off: the amount of people who drop off without signing
- Failed agreement rates: the number of agreements that never get finalized
Following eSignature best practices should allow you to improve metrics like these and more.
Making Sure You’re Getting it Right With eSignatures
Following these practices will help get your eSignature system in top shape. As a final checklist, your best eSignature workflow will include these steps:
- Give parties access to the forms or agreements they need to sign in a clearly readable and transparent manner
- Clearly identify the signatories and validate their ID
- Record an intent to sign and and acknowledgment that all parties agree to use eSignatures to execute the document
- Capture and store an electronic signature in the form of a typed signature, uploaded image or drawn image
- Distribute the final signed version to all signatories
The right eSignature solution makes it easy to complete these steps in full compliance with legislation and in a way that meets the needs of your business and your customers alike.
Ready, Set then Sign
Are you ready to take the next step? jSign provides a convenient, reliable and easy-to-use way of signing electronic documents for your business. Our web-based app identifies the signatories, collects their consent to sign by electronic means and stores the documents in a password-protected vault.
Every completed document gets a Certificate of Completion which is sent to all parties. This certificate is encrypted with blockchain technology that records the IP address, location and timestamp to help validate the signatories and the document. You can access these documents any time from your jSign account. Sign up for a 14-day free trial with jSign today to find out how jSign can help you meet best practice standards for eSignatures.