In a truly all-digital world, there would be no need for printers – or scanners or document couriers. Documents would never need to be printed, and processes would run smoothly from all-electronic input to all-electronic output. This may already the reality for some leading companies, but for most organizations, forms, contracts, agreements, and signoffs are still rooted in wet ink on paper. In this post, we’ll examine the importance of signatures for various organizations - particularly for process sign-offs and professional authorizations, look at the drivers for electronic signing, the issues that might be preventing adoption, and look at how the AIIM Community views digital signatures. Sound good? Great, let’s dive right in!
Eighteen years after US ESIGN Act and 21 years after the world’s first laws on electronic signatures went into force in Germany and Singapore, the benefits of e-signatures are widely understood, and many organizations rolled out e-signature to some extent. However, users are reporting mixed experience with some of these solutions: some are not providing a compelling user experience; some have not been designed to support omnichannel strategies; some have found a lack in workflow orchestration, deployment options, or integration capabilities; and some have found that the solutions were not designed to meet global compliance requirements. Today, many e-signature implementations are in a silo stage.
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First, the good news. According to P&S Market Research, the global digital signature market is expected to increase to $3.3 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 31.5%. That’s billion with a B. The bad news is that despite the long-standing and well-documented benefits of digital signatures, many organizations are still lagging behind. According to recent AIIM research, 65% of organizations say they are still signing on paper.
Today the use of E-Signatures is an acceptable business practice that is admissible in times of litigation and audit. The key to success is to identify and understand regulations based on particular business processes for E-Signing. In Europe, one regulation is changing the game.
The law is on your side. Digital signatures are as legally binding as a physical, hand-written signature in every circumstance where a signature is required. The E-SIGN law and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act are supported by the federal government and have been adopted by 47 states. It clearly states “(c) If a law requires a record to be in writing, an electronic record satisfies the law” with the purpose “to facilitate and promote commerce and governmental transactions by validating and authorizing the use of electronic records and electronic signatures." Further refinements by the EU, PIPEDA and the FDA recommend making sure the signature is unique to the signer, and that the signer’s identity is linked to the document. When combined with good governance and unalterable file formats, you can easily meet the guidelines for legality.
As the traditional “paper-based” world gives way to digital documentation and transactions, enterprises are demanding innovative solutions for digitally signing and authenticating such documents, files, and forms with iron-clad protection against forgery. Solutions must guarantee non-repudiation and promise the same level of security and trust that exists with conventional documentation. At the same time, such a solution should be simple to use, easy to deploy, and offer a rapid return on investment. With the rise of global digital businesses, transactions and documents may need to be signed by many people in different parts of the world. Users should be able to sign documents directly from their desktop or via a zero technology footprint using any web browser.