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E-signing: A change you’ll want to keep post-COVID
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E-signing: A change you’ll want to keep post-COVID

With many people working from home over the last couple of months, the processes we never thought twice about in the office have had to be adapted to ensure business keeps running smoothly. Document signing, a process which many companies still do physically, has had to be adapted as people work remotely. Thankfully, e-signing programs have made this process simple and efficient.

The evolving physical signature

Teams, particularly evaluation teams, working groups and committees, have faced challenges with getting large documents signed during COVID-19. These documents often need signatures from multiple parties, making the process cumbersome and, at times, causing delays in moving forward with certain tasks and projects.

To collect signatures historically, someone would often print and carry the “signing page” to each person until all signatures were collected. It would take time, but it was the accepted practice. With the advent of COVID-19, people replicated the process using scanning and email, printing the signing page for the first signatory. The first signatory would then sign, scan and email the page to the next signatory. This process would be repeated until all signatures were collected. While this option may be more convenient than someone walking around a workplace with the signing page, it still took a long time and had drawbacks. It required all signatories to have a scanner, and the image quality would deteriorate with each scan, though generally remaining legible enough to be acceptable. A key issue with both of these processes, beyond administrative inefficiencies, is that signatories would typically not see more than the signing page when asked to sign.

Making signatures digital

Electronic document signing resolves the issues that arise with physically collecting signatures on a document – the signatures are clear and legible; everyone can view the entire document before signing, and there is a documented “paper trail” of who viewed and signed the document and when. There are several platforms available to digitise your signature process, including DocuSign, SignX, Adobe EchoSign and HelloSign, amongst many others.

In simple terms, electronic document signing (or EDS) follows a digitised version of old physical processes for collecting signatures. The document owner or “sender”, having registered with an e-signing platform, loads the document, selects where signatures are required and enters the email addresses of all signatories. Each signatory then receives an email notification from the e-signing platform to click through and sign the document. If the signatory hasn’t previously registered with the e-signing platform, they’ll need to register and then review the document, adding their electronic signature at the places indicated throughout the document.

E-signing platforms create a “paper” trail and extra functionality

When a document is sent for signing, the e-signature platform will create and maintain a record of who signs and when, the signatories who have yet to sign, and a suite of other functionality. The sender typically has extensive control over the process including, whether a document needs to be signed in parallel or a pre-determined sequential process. This functionality is particularly helpful for processing conflict of interest declarations and other documents that need to be executed in a specific order.

Document senders can also restrict a recipient’s view of a document to protect confidential information. If required, the e-signing platform can be set to allow signatories to add comments such as requesting changes before being comfortable to sign. Most platforms have a mobile version as well, making it easy to view and sign documents from anywhere.

Maintain your business’s efficiencies post-COVID

With a limited number of document types still requiring a “wet” signature (and fewer still during temporary regulations effective under COVID-19 until 24 October 2020), digitising your document signing processes is an excellent way to realise efficiencies and have greater control and visibility over documents that need to be executed. Continue with this digitised process post-COVID to further integrate efficiencies in your business and build on the improved processes your team created while working remotely.

Contact a Pitcher Partners specialist if you’d like to discuss how your business can implement new efficiencies and integrate them into your workplace post-COVID.

This content is general commentary only and does not constitute advice. Before making any decision or taking any action in relation to the content, you should consult your professional advisor. To the maximum extent permitted by law, neither Pitcher Partners or its affiliated entities, nor any of our employees will be liable for any loss, damage, liability or claim whatsoever suffered or incurred arising directly or indirectly out of the use or reliance on the material contained in this content. Pitcher Partners is an association of independent firms. Pitcher Partners is a member of the global network of Baker Tilly International Limited, the members of which are separate and independent legal entities. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.
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