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How E-Signatures Can Make a Surprisingly Big Difference

May 6, 2020

e-signature

The proliferation of software throughout our working lives has led to transformations of some of the most basic elements of conducting business.

The concept of the signature has been one of the most enduring elements of the modern world, acting as a cornerstone of legally-binding negotiations and business deals since the 17th century.

However, as technology and software has come to shape the modern working world, the methods behind this age-old business practice have been forced to change, leading to the adoption of e-signature software. Even if the meaning has remained largely the same, the form has taken on a greater importance than ever before.

The advent of this ‘digital transformation’ has come to affect nearly every aspect of business. From customer-facing roles such as sales and marketing to in-house departments like HR and accounting, as well as apps to help make the work from home experience as seamless as possible, the gains in efficiency brought about by digitization of formerly manual processes has led to increased returns on investment across the board.

With signatures being so central to how business is conducted, it only makes sense that e-signatures have become the basis for this new expression of human activity.

According to the United States’ ESIGN Act, an electronic signature can be defined 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.”

An electronic signature is a type of digital marker that formally captures the intent of the signer to accept the terms and conditions of the contract or deal they are agreeing to. This allows for easier record keeping when it comes to tracking the intent of individuals in business dealings and other legal proceedings, a core element of the growing trend toward the adoption of paperless offices.

Is an e-signature legally binding?

An e-signature is just as legally potent as a “wet” signature, one written by hand in ink. In 2000, the United States passed the ESIGN Act, so that e-signatures were valid for virtually any business or personal use. This has been emulated in other parts of the world as well, making it a reliable way to denote important documents across the world.

Benefits of electronic signatures

While it might seem that something as simple as an electronic signature is not a vital element of cutting-edge business operations, the integration of software into most aspects of life has given rise to the trend of putting control in the hands of the consumer.

Putting convenience and quality of life first will pay huge dividends when it comes to funneling your prospects through your sales pipeline and retaining customers.

Below are just a few of the benefits that adopting electronic signatures into your business operations can have for your organization.

Cost-effective

The use of electronic signature software is by far the most affordable option when it comes to documenting intent. Not only do you save money on paper, but you also save on postage, mailing, and supplies, which can cost a large amount of money over time.

Environmentally friendly

By reducing the amount of paper you use, you can help stop contributing to the massive amounts of waste produced by the paper industry. Around 400 million tons of paper and cardboard is produced by the world every year and is one of the leading factors in the destruction of the natural world.

Easier version control

One of the most important elements of any form of signature is the ability to provide a detailed, up-to-date record of the intent of the signee.

Unfortunately, when it comes to traditional paper signature methods, it’s all too easy for human error to enter into the equation and muddle the waters. This can be disastrous when it comes to important legal or business dealings, causing setbacks, fines, or even legal action should the appropriate signature be lost.

E-signatures leave nothing to chance as they automatically update and store the information of whatever document you use in an easily accessible digital storage space. Using e-signature software will make sure that you have all the signatures you need, when you need them.

Better user experience

The advent of the digital transformation of the early 21st century has transferred a lot more influence to the individuals who make up a given company or industry’s consumer base.

Instead of the “market” as a broad concept, the most effective way to conduct marketing, sales, and business operations has undergone a fundamental flip, requiring a tailored approach to individuals instead of large swathes of the population.

E-signature software helps ensure this through ease of use that eliminates the hassle involved with remote signatures and having to rely on mountains of documents where important information can easily be lost.

Secure

One of the unfortunate realities of the move to digital offices and operations has become the increased opportunities for security breaches and hacking.

While this could potentially pose a problem to collecting an online signature, most official e-signature software comes equipped with a high level of security that helps keep you and your clients’ information safe. In fact, it’s even being used in industries such as banking to help protect money and sensitive financial information.

Efficient

It goes without saying, but technology is just so much more efficient than a single human could ever hope to be.

E-signatures harness this efficiency by allowing for remote signatures to be completed in just a few seconds. Additionally, it makes scaling signature collection across an organization or client base easier than ever.

How are e-signatures used?

E-signatures are just one of many remote software solutions to help streamline business operations. They can be used for almost any circumstance where a signature is required.

However, there are a few areas where utilizing an e signature can become particularly useful.

Legal contracts

When it comes to the law, a signature is probably the most useful tool in your arsenal. Unfortunately, many legal processes can be nothing short of ponderous and difficult to navigate at the best of times.

The last thing you want is for the lengthy process of sending out documents for a manual signature and then waiting for them to be returned by mail. And heaven help you if they forget to sign a crucial page or two.

E-signatures can help avoid these complications by sending entire documents with the relevant forms at the click of a button. Keeping things moving in the legal sector is vitally important for any business to be conducted, so making it as painless as possible should be a top priority for your business operations teams.

Human resources

Human resource departments have a somewhat unique role in any company. They have to work with the law nearly as much as the legal departments themselves, yet their focus is entirely internal, focused on the employees themselves.

When it comes to conducting a smooth human resources operation, you want to ensure that everyone has the information they need and can agree to all the necessary things that keep an organization running smoothly.

This can be anything from sending offer letters to new hiring prospects, offboarding employees that are leaving the company, and helping to ensure a positive, healthy work environment through the support of diversity and inclusion laws and initiatives.

Sales

Making sure the selling process is as smooth and easy as possible for your prospects is one of the most important things that a salesperson can offer.

For most of the sales pipeline, this involves easy to access content, representatives who are responsive and respectful, and complete transparency on behalf of the company’s product or service.

However, all that hard work could go to waste if the actual process of signing a contract hits a logistical snag. Eliminating work on behalf of your prospect when it comes to signing the document that will legally bind both you and them can work wonders to reduce frustration and ensure a positive experience for the client, which can eventually grow into a healthy, loyal professional relationship down the line.

Finances

The world of finance requires countless signatures in order to work effectively. Want to take out a loan to start or expand your business? Need to file an insurance claim?

Those are both going to require signatures on the part of your finance team. Make sure this process is as quick as possible so you can get back to business as normal in no time.

Difference between e-signatures and digital signatures

While at first glance the concept of an e-signature and digital signature might seem to be the same thing, they are two different parts of the overall process that allows online signatures to function.

A digital signature is actually related to the practice of cryptography, the craft of creating and solving codes. While an e-signature might simply be a few words typed into a box, a digital signature uses complex mathematical algorithms to generate a unique digital fingerprint for each document.

This allows for the identification and validation of signatures made by the signee. After all, anyone can type a name into a box.

In order to ensure that e signatures are valid representations of the intent of the signee, it’s crucial to ensure that there are safeguards in place to prevent tampering or fabrication of online signatures.

This process of encryption uses the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) system to generate two sets of “keys”: one private and one public. The act of signing the online document provides the public key to the recipient of the document while encoding the private key into the document itself.

When it comes time for verification of the signature, the recipient can use the public key to decrypt and view the document. If the public and private keys don’t match, the document will remain locked.

how do digital signatures work?

How to do online signatures

There are a few different ways to approach creating your online signature.
Like your handwriting, everyone’s signature is somewhat unique, and that doesn’t change just because the form or document is being signed over the internet instead of in person.

While the format does depend on the software that’s being used, there are a few common methods for creating an online signature that you’ll probably run into more often than not:

  • Use a keyboard to type your signature. This is by far the most basic form of online signature. Simply click on the appropriate box and type your name like you would in a word processor. Don’t worry, the encryption tools in the software will help ensure its authenticity.
  • Use a stylus or a finger to draw your signature. This is a great option for recreating the feel of a traditional written signature, however, it requires a touch screen. Luckily, this is a built in function for many e-signature tools that have compatibility with phones or tablets.
  • Use your mouse or trackpad to draw your signature. If you don’t have access to a touch screen, you can use your cursor to draw your signature much like how you would with a stylus. While not as accurate, it will still work just as well.
  • Upload an image of your written signature. If you really want to go for authenticity, you can write out your handwritten signature and either scan it or take a picture of it to use as your online signature. It’s fairly simple to do, just upload it to your computer like you would any other image, and place it in the appropriate document space on the form you’re signing. Note that not all e-signature software will support this option.

Best e-signature software

It won’t take long for you to figure out that there are numerous options when it comes to selecting the e-signature software that will help your organization’s adoption of a virtual office model. That’s why it’s important to take careful stock of your business’s distinct needs so that you can provide the best experience possible to your consumers.

* Below are the 10 leading e-signature software from G2’s Spring 2020 Grid® Report. Some reviews may be edited for clarity. 

1. DocuSign

DocuSign helps organizations connect and automate the various ways in which they need to manage legal agreements. As one of the leaders in the e-signature space, their solution allows for the easy tracking and archiving of business information and helps to deliver a smooth experience anywhere in the world.

What users like:

“It is intuitive in prefilling signature fields. I like the convenience of just checking and emailing to clients for signatures. The fact that it is secure puts my clients and myself at ease. I also like the ability to go to the DocuSign website and find all the documents I've sent through or signed are available for downloading.”

- DocuSign Review, Jonathan W.

What users dislike:

“The only thing I dislike is that sometimes the security questions for clients can be very obscure. The questions are generated from LexisNexis, so i know DocuSign does not have much of a say in what questions a client might get.”

- DocuSign Review, Miriam H.

2. Formstack Sign

Formstack Sign (formerly InsureSign) is a simple, fast and secure way to get any document you might have signed electronically. This software has the functionality to let your clients and partners sign documents from their phones, laptops, and tablets.

What users like:

“Formstack Sign provides a customized professional appearance and an easy to use template available on all platforms. Our customers love the ability to have documents securely sent for signature electronically versus having to make an additional trip to the office. In addition, it allows us to expand our marketplace geographically, no longer needing the client to physically come to our office.”

- Formstack Sign Review by Justin L.

What users dislike:

“There are times when we don't get the documents to our email but they are in the system. And also the fact that when we get the notification of what is sent the document sent is not attached . We have to go into the document section to retrieve. We upload our emails to our activities and it would be nice to have the document sent in the activity. It used to be able to do that before the update.”

- Formstack Sign Review by Cristina C.

3. SignNow

SignNow is an e-signature solution that is widely used to sign, send, and manage documents around the world.

What users like:

“Very user friendly and easy to use as a document sender and a document receiver. There are constant updates to the site to allow more functionality. Since starting with SignNow there are things that I always hoped the site had and before long, those functions were implemented.

"For example, uploading multiple documents at one time instead of one at a time as well as adding and deleting documents from an already created template. I also like that you can replace a signer when a document has been sent because sometimes the email provided is incorrect. I like the direction that SignNow is headed.”

- SignNow Review, Jasmine S.

What users dislike:

“There are no initials for my signature, only for the signers, I always need to change the signature because of that. Also, it is hard to insert the fields, it always duplicates. I thought it was my computer but it is not. Please check the possibility to include initials for the signer and leave a few models of signature saved. Also check the transparency of the field so I can insert in the right place. Try to see what PandaDoc is doing, they have a great option that the field is filled in the text, this looks like it was filled by a computer.

- SignNow Review, Elton O.

4. eversign

The idea behind eversign is helping both large and small businesses make the leap into a digital office space while providing guidance every step of the way. Many companies hesitate when it comes to managing and processing sensitive data in the cloud, which is why eversign prides itself on a cutting edge, secure e-signature platform.

What users like:

“It is a lightweight solution for no so complex documents. Other providers like Docusign etc do provide a lot of features and cater to complex business logic. But when it comes to normal day to day simple forms like NDA, HR processes contracts and almost all common processes, these platforms may become an overhead maintaining everything and considering the pricing. Whereas Eversign covers up quite a lot signing formalities in a simple and lightweight manner. Their apis are also powerful.”

- eversign Review, Bikram S.

What user dislike:

“So far, there's not much I dislike. I would like to see a robust form fill option in the template area. Our contract agreements require form-filling and currently I fill offline, then upload to prepare the document for sending. The form-fill would allow me to fill out the document within the application. I would also like to use Eversign in the field and fill out agreements while with the customer.”

- eversign Review, Steve M.

5. PandaDoc

PandaDoc’s all-in-one document automation software helps to streamline the process to create, approve, and eSign proposals, quotes, and contracts. PandaDoc helps you simplify processes and increase efficiency across the entire organization when you integrate your existing CRM, payment, and file storage apps into a single workflow.

What users like: 

“What I like best about PandaDoc is the integration with SalesForce. I also like how much it speeds deals up. Having customers able to use PandaDoc instead of mailing papers back and forth is a game-changer. I also the recent panda update that shows the new features and updates that they are working on and have pushed out to the public. Having clarity and transparency to the users is huge and really nice to see.”

- PandaDoc Review, Kidder S.

What users dislike:

 “I'm excited for updates based on the field integration, especially as it pertains to something like Pipedrive, which pulls the info from Pipedrive, into PandaDoc- some of the fields don't always match up, which does mean I am manually entering address info, just because it's named differently on pipedrive as opposed to Pandadoc. The customer support is amazing, however!”

- PandaDoc Review, by Ruth O.

6. SignRequest

The platform offered by SignRequest enables you and your network to get documents signed. Easy, fast and legally binding while maintaining the highest standards of security, their vision is that digital signatures are no longer an expensive 'high end' product, but actually a 'commodity' accessible for everyone.

What users like:

“The best thing about SignRequest is that interface & the onboarding is super easy. You just need to follow 3 steps & you are done, also signing the document for the client is super simple & it can also be done via mobile. Gone are the days when you print your agreement, send it to the client & wait for them to read & review it, now you know if the client has viewed the document & signed it. All done in real-time so that we can ask client difficulty with the agreement.”

- SignRequest Review, by Varsha L.

What users dislike:

“That there is a limit on the number of documents you can sign with the basic feature. When compiling multiple documents you need to convert them using a PDF merger for the free version. Also it was difficult to know when someone had reviewed but not signed a document. It would be better if there was a way to remind something - like a boomerang feature for sign requests. For the basic feature as well you are limited to how many documents you can review that you have shared -- I think that with the premium version it is even better to know what you have sent and to whom.”

- SignRequest Review, Sophia C.

7. SignEasy

SignEasy is an easy and fast way to sign and send documents for signature from your phone, tablet, and computer. This software solution offers integration with dozens of other common office products such as G Suite, Office 365, and Dropbox.

What users like:

“I’ve been using SignEasy for business since it became available. The app has had a profound impact on the way I’m better able to manage my time and my business. I no longer have to wait several days to sign and full documents while I happen to be at my desk. SignEasy has allowed me to make my “down time” (when not physically at a desk) into productive time. There are many apps that do “similar,” but I have not found one that’s as simple and user friendly as SignEasy.”

- SignEasy Review, Sidney G.

What users dislike: 

"The resizing of signatures as well as adding characters could be automated. Intelligence should be built in to look at the document size and or average character size and when the signature is requested it's sized. Also when characters are brought in or applied on the document where the signature has been resized the same sizing should be applied to these characters as well.”

- SignEasy Review, Juan E.

8. HelloSign

HelloSign is an easy way to send, receive, and manage legally binding signatures for your business of any size. They work to provide the same workflow, security, compliance, and custom branding to help meet the requirements of any business at a SMB price range.

What users like:

“Due to its easy handling it is not necessary to be a user with extensive technical knowledge to be able to use it, it is not necessary to do any type of training it is enough to navigate its functions and options to be able to understand its operation without any problem. The opportunity for Hellosign to digitally sign documents and contracts is quite remarkable due to the efficiency of its features without overdoing complexity in order to maintain that ease of use at all times.”

- HelloSign Review, Chad Nolan M

What users dislike:

“The recurring cost of signing up for this program can be costly, especially for small businesses. If you do not need to sign or prepare a lot of documents that need to be signed digitally, the return of an investment will be low, and the application will not be much help. It could also be confusing to use for those who are not familiar with digital signatures, thus going back to the traditional physical documents.”

- HelloSign Review, Mazni R.

9. Adobe Sign

Adobe Sign is an e-signing solution that has everything you need to turn existing signing processes into 100% digital workflows. With Adobe Sign, you can automate signing and approvals across your entire organization, reduce signing and approval processes from days to minutes, improve staff collaboration and mobility, and create great customer experiences.

What users like:

“I love the clarity of people's actual signatures or chosen signatures on official legal binding documents as they can really be questioned as one could with simply putting a check in a box or typing one's name. I also love all the other variations of choices that can be chosen and the mapping ability for integration purposes is fairly simple with the proper key terms provided. I've found ways to add it into building client contracts that they find very simple as well.”

- Adobe Sign Review, Matthew R.

What users dislike: 

“Adobe Sign could be somewhat clunky. It would be good if you could preview the document and then edit it again without deleting all of your data, as it's very irritating and time consuming. However, if you use MegaSign, it would be best to preview the document so that all fields are filled out correctly. It is not necessary to check the document.”

- Adobe Sign Review, Abigail R.

10. OneSpan Sign

OneSpan Sign (formerly eSignLive) is an e-signature solution built on digital signature technology to guarantee the integrity of the document and underlying signatures. This creates a digital fingerprint of the document (also called a hash) that can be used at a later point to verify the electronic record. If the document is tampered with even in the slightest, the e-signature will be visibly invalidated.

What users like:

“After a thorough search process, we selected OneSpan as our digital signature tool for a number of reasons. Primarily, unlike most other tools, OneSpan allows for unlimited initiators within a company. This will allow us to establish a self-service forms portal for easy global roll-out, without an exorbitant cost. Overall it is an excellent product and far FAR more cost-effective than any other product we've seen.”

- OneSpan Sign Review, Jeff C.

What users dislike:

“Our account has transaction limits which is fine, but we would prefer that the limits be aggregated rather than per user, or that we can buy more transactions in bulk (e.g. 1000 additional transactions). As it stands now once we've exceeded our limit we're charged per transaction.”

- OneSpan Sign Review, Anthony G.

Signing off

Regardless of the industry in which you operate, finding a way to transition your office operations to a digital format will go a long way in saving time, money, and hassle in the long run. E-signature software offers a comprehensive and secure way to conduct business and legal deals without any of the fuss of traditional pen and paper methods.

Looking for more ways to transition to a completely virtual office? Check out G2's complete work from home knowledge base!

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