You've probably already felt the pressure to move towards paperless solutions for your business. While it's still unclear if the concept of a totally paperless office will ever be practical, we're getting closer and closer to this reality. While it's not realistic to completely eliminate paper in your office next year, 2018 could represent the perfect time to ditch the pen and paper method and adopt electronic signatures.
What Are Electronic Signatures?
As one definition puts it, "An electronic signature, or e-signature, refers to data in electronic form, which is logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign. This type of signature provides the same legal standing as a handwritten signature as long as it adheres to the requirements of the specific regulation it was created under."
It's also important to note that an electronic signature is distinct from a digital signature, which is a cryptographic mechanism used to implement electronic signatures.
The objective of an electronic signature is to quickly authenticate a document with a uniquely identifiable mark that doesn't require the use of paper and pen. While there are still some security concerns, electronic signatures are now widely used in private affairs, legal dealings, business transactions, and even as part of official government documents.
Understanding the Benefits of Electronic Signatures
Before you can give serious consideration to the use of electronic signatures in your business, you have to understand the benefits and advantages. Let's examine a few of the most notable ones:
1. Simple and Intuitive
The biggest benefit of electronic signatures is that they're simple and easy to use. There are a number of different online solutions, but we'll use eversign as an example. With their system, you upload a document, declare signers and recipients, and deliver a secure link to the recipient. The recipient signs the document and the process is complete. It's that easy! If you can open a link and click a button, you can use electronic signatures.
2. High Level of Security
Believe it or not, electronic signatures are safer and more secure than traditional paper documents. Not only do they contain a signature, but they also contain traceable information on who signed the document, when they signed it, and where they signed it. That's much stronger and more enforceable than your average paper-based transaction.
We operate in a geographically dispersed business world. These days, even small, local businesses deal with different suppliers, customers, and partners in various cities, states, and countries. Electronic signatures allow for remote authentication, which makes it a much more convenient solution than the alternative of mailing and/or printing and scanning.
4. Faster Turnaround
The convenience of electronic signatures means there's a much faster turnaround. Instead of sending a document to one party, getting them to print, sign, and scan it, sending it to the next party, and repeating the process down the line, everyone can sign off within seconds. This faster turnaround gives businesses greater versatility in time-sensitive situations.
5. Lower Cost
Finally, electronic signatures are more cost-effective than the traditional pen and paper method. Not only do you save on paper, but you also save on postage, mailing supplies, and time (which is money). Over the years, every little bit adds up.
Now's the Time to Transition
There's no need to sound the alarms and go into panic mode if you're still using good old-fashioned pen and paper signatures, but now is a good time to think about switching.
Electronic signatures are finally common enough that people won't squint their eyebrows or ask curious questions when presented with a document that needs to be signed electronically.
Perhaps you could wait a little bit longer, but what's the point? Go ahead and get ahead of the curve so that you can focus on bigger and better things for your business.