What is a digital signature?
Advantages of digital contracts
How to use eSignatures
We have all opened an email and been asked to print, sign, scan, and return something. The scary thing is perhaps how often it still happens!
While you can still sit in bemusement as businesses trapped in the past try and do things like this, you can take advantage of a much better way of doing things.
One such way of doing so is with eSignatures.
What is an eSignature?
In simple terms, an eSignature is a means of getting a signature on an electronic document without needing to do all the print, sign, scan nonsense.
eSignatures are often considered to be the same thing as digital signatures, with the terms sometimes used interchangeably. However, although they will sometimes be used together, they are two distinct concepts. While a digital signature is based on an algorithm designed to protect the integrity and authenticity of documents, an eSignature can literally be a signature in electronic form.
That said, eSignatures and their use are intended to deliver similar outcomes to digital signatures.
In most countries, eSignatures have the same standing as a handwritten signature. Therefore, we can utilize them to sign contracts or provide proof of an agreement in legal proceedings.
While an eSignature can literally just be your signature written via an app like Contractbook, sending a document with an eSignature will still involve security features to maintain the document's integrity. Many jurisdictions define advanced eSignatures, meaning that:
- A person’s eSignature must be able to be uniquely identified and linked to the signature. This is where things like digital signatures and document sealing come into play.
- The signatory must have sole control of the private key used to create the eSignature.
- The eSignature can identify if changes have been made after it was signed. This would again usually be done in conjunction with a digital signature.
- eSignatures become invalidated if the data is changed, meaning the new data would need to be agreed, reviewed, and have another eSignature applied.
Different tools for utilizing eSignatures offer varying levels of security.
How do eSignatures work?
When creating a document, you (or a piece of software) can highlight the parts of the document that require a name, signature, and date. Then, upon receipt, the person can add these assets. The eSignature itself can be done "live" by signing on a touchscreen, or the recipient will usually have the option of importing an image of their signature onto the document.
If you are using Contractbook, you can also simulate a wet signature on your digital documents, add country specific electronic identifiers to verify the signature, or even use SMS messaging to simulate a signature.
What are the benefits of using eSignatures?
There are several benefits that you – and your clients, whether you are a legal firm or working in another industry – can enjoy when using eSignatures.
- Being able to get documents signed on the go. Most of us use our smartphones and tablets for work to some extent these days, and we are increasingly working somewhere other than the office. Using eSignatures means you can send a digital document via email link and get it signed and returned in a matter of seconds. Considering what the future of work will look like, having to wait until someone is in the office to get a signature will become unviable in the next few years.
- Documents signed with eSignatures are legally binding and secure. eSignatures are standard and familiar in nearly every country worldwide. Moreover, given all the additional metadata that can track the audit trail of an eSigned document, you will have no worries about being able to use an eSignature if you need to enforce a contract, for example.
- Efficiency improvements. eSigning documents is far quicker than doing things the old way. Another benefit in this respect is that, with an eSignature, you can use a data-driven document format. For example, if someone sends back a signed PDF or a signed page as an image file, you cannot do anything with the data unless you manually export it yourself. With an eSignature, someone is literally signing to agree to the data that is already in digital format and ready to integrate with other apps or processes. In this respect, you can also use an eSignature within automated workflows as a trigger for further stages. You might not even need to receive the signed document yourself if your software can verify it!
- Improving your bottom line. Efficiency equals money. eSignatures mean you can store documents securely in the cloud without worrying about storage space or buying paper to print everything. You become a greener business, too, as an added bonus!
How secure are eSignatures?
It depends on how good the software or app is that you use to gather the eSignature!
Assuming that you’re using a secure platform, which ensures that only the person receiving the document can sign it, you can have confidence that the eSignature you get is secure. Furthermore, if the software you use includes digital signature verification, you will have an audit trail that proves the person who you sent the document was the one who signed it.
Optimizing contracts and agreements using eSignatures
eSignatures are great for signing things, but they can function as triggers in processes, too!
You could use eSignatures to:
- Automate elements of your sales processes, including the sending and signing of contracts or the triggering of another process within your sales pipeline and workflow.
- Increase productivity by making it easier for your teams to sign updated policies, and to track who has and has not returned their documentation.
- Impress external job candidates in your recruitment processes by showing them how your business uses tech.
- Gain permission to access or use data that you may need to in the course of your business, such as client financial data, accounts, or other sensitive details.
- Create triggers within various workflows, particularly where processes involve several app integrations and require an eSignature for different rules and actions to happen.
Using eSignatures in your business
If you are not using eSignatures in your business, why not?
They do far more than giving you a cool way to get your documents signed! As well as leaving the dreaded print, sign, and scan – not to mention awful PDFs – back in the dark ages where they belong, you can achieve a raft of efficiency and workflow improvements, too!