A Comprehensive Guide to Electronic Signature Workflow

The world of business is transforming at a fast pace, and there is no scope for any organization to fall behind just for the sake of it! We have witnessed several technological advancements, making a huge difference to businesses all over the world, such as customer relationship management systems, social media marketing, and integrated communications.

One of the notable advancements which have started making a huge impact on businesses and individuals is the electronic signature. To understand electronic signature, it is essential to understand the electronic signature workflow first. Let us understand the definition of electronic signature and the how electronic signature works by reflecting the processes associated with an electronic signature.

Basic Understanding of the E-Signature Process

Before an illustration of workflow for electronic signature, let us reflect on what is an electronic signature. An electronic signature can be defined as a digital verification of a signatory’s identity. It is a proven instrument for verifying whether an electronic document has been signed by a person as claimed on the document without any concerns of tampering.

Electronic signatures are associated with coding and encryption, thereby reducing the concerns of security risks for digital documents. What is an electronic signature in a simple way! Assume that you have a document with your signature on it locked in a box that needs two keys for opening. In case the keys don’t match with each other, an alarm goes off! However, in the case of an electronic signature, there would be no alarms, instead, the signature would be considered invalid for accessing the document.

Most important of all, the other parties involved with the document would be notified about the interference. This is quite a simple way to describe the working of an electronic signature. On the other hand, it is not as simple as it looks! So, we need to go behind the scenes and break down the electronic signature workflow into different steps for understanding it better.

Want to learn more about electronic signature? Read our previous blog on the comprehensive guide on Electronic Signature.

Benefits of Electronic Signature that Can’t be Ignored

A clear understanding of how electronic signature works could also help in obtaining credible insights regarding its benefits. But let’s have a look at the important benefits of using an electronic signature.

With the help of e-signatures, you could be able to receive the benefit of time-saving. You don’t have to wait anymore for someone to visit or courier and scan signed documents. There is no need for any type of downloading, printing or sending through courier or mail with electronic signatures. All that is needed is signing and sending. You can easily send proposals, close deals, and sign contracts in matter of a few minutes with electronic signatures.

This benefit subsequently translates to another noticeable advantage of electronic signatures, i.e., cost savings. A business could save considerable amounts of money that would have been otherwise spent on buying paper, ink, and courier costs. In addition to that, you could also have savings on the costs of maintenance of printers and other hardware such as storage cabinets by replacing paper documents with electronically signed documents.

Most important of all, users of e-signatures could be highly assured of the security of their documents by understanding how e-signature works. Even though signing on paper does feel credible, there are a lot of pitfalls related to the security of paper documentation.

The threats of untimely disasters such as accidental fires or natural calamities as well as theft and damage due to negligence can be notable factors hampering the safety of paper documents. On the other hand, electronically signed documents are protected by a unique means of authentication and encryption to assure safety.

Why Do You Need to Understand Electronic Signature Workflow

What exactly is the objective behind understanding the e-signature workflow? The benefits mentioned above show the effectiveness of electronic signatures. However, a clear understanding of the electronic signature workflow could explain the benefits in detail.

Many individuals just think that e-signature technology is just a tool for obtaining consent and documenting intent associated with a document. On the contrary, the effectiveness of an e-signature solution depends considerably on the management of the different steps involved in the workflow of electronic signatures.

If you are aware of different processes involved with each step in the workflow of electronic signatures, then it can also support in carrying out the tasks effectively. Understanding the workflow would not only ensure that you get the desired benefits with the e-signature but also complete the process according to commonly accepted imperatives.

Furthermore, it could also help you understand the best practices implemented at each step of the workflow involved with an electronic signature!

No doubt, the electronic signature seems to be the future of businesses. Let’s have an eye on the Global E-Signature Market Forecast made by the experts of the industry.

Steps Involved in the Workflow of the Electronic Signature Process

Now that we have taken a basic impression of electronic signature and the way it works along with their benefits and the reasons to observe electronic signature workflow, let us get down to the main job at hand!

A detailed presentation of each step involved in the workflow for a general electronic signature process alongside the best practices could be the formidable highlight of this comprehensive guide. So, let’s dive deep into the steps to understand the electronic signature workflow.

1. Providing access to the document for signatories

The first step involved in e-signature workflow is to provide access When you have a document that has to be signed electronically, you need to establish methods for signers to access the document. You can observe that email is the first thing that comes to mind for giving access to the document to be signed to the signatories. Sending email invitations to the signatories could be accounted for as one of the proven and tested ways for providing access. However, there are other cases where the electronic signature process is integrated with a mobile or web application.

Signatories could be invited by requests for logging into a web application or web portal. The other practices which are observed in this step of an electronic signature workflow include the use of an embedded link with a mobile application or any native or third-party application.

The use of a shortened URL or a QR code on a printed document could also be considered for allowing access to signatories for a document. Another method to provide access in the first step of the electronic signing process is the involvement of a representative in starting the signing process through an enterprise dashboard or application portal.

2. Authentication

The next entry in the electronic signature workflow is the authentication stage. After the signatory gets an invitation to sign a document electronically, they have to prove their identity for starting the process. This is a mandatory requirement to ensure the security of the electronic signing process.

The options that can be put in place here include the risk associated, type of transaction, and whether the signatory is new or an existing one. In the case of existing signatories, the recommended method would be the use of credentials assigned to them by the organization. However, the authentication method would be different for new signatories!

There are many approaches to verify a new signatory, and they have to be selected based on the risk profile associated with the process. Some examples of authentication methods for new signatories include SMS authentications, dynamic knowledge-based authentication (KBA), smart cards, or email authentication. The use of public and private keys could also be considered as one of the best practices that can be employed in the authentication stage of an electronic signing process.

Also Read: Why Should E-Signing be a Part of Your Business?

3. Presenting the documents to signatories

The next step in the electronic signature workflow is the presentation of documents. This stage would involve deciding the approach for presenting documents to the signatories for helping them read the documents before signing. The recommended method for completing this step is to use a web browser through the e-signature solution provider for presenting documents.

With the use of nothing more than a browser to access the documents for signing, a signatory would not have to download any type of software. This completely resolves the concerns that could arise with software incompatibilities.

You could always have the facility of printing copies of the documents for enabling signatories to review the documents on paper. However, you should always note that the presentation of documents on the screen is a mandatory step in the workflow of an electronic signature.

4. Making some changes and optimizing the process

As we move on to the next step in the electronic signature workflow, our understanding of how e-signature works get more refined! In this stage, the e-signing process deals with uploading and updating the document. For some business processes, signatories may have to add certain documents to the transactions. For example, in the case of insurance applications, the agents of a policyholder would ask for specific documents that have to be added to certain business application processes.

Therefore, the signatories have to use the facility of uploading scanned versions of additional documents to the e-signature solution provider so that they can add it to the transaction. The e-signature solution provider could also include other signatories required to sign a particular document.

A specific course of action triggered by certain events can be put in place to make a logical succession of events standing from the creation of the document to the review, signing, and acceptance of the document.

5. Addressing the needs of forms of data capturing

The signing process also involves the addition of data fields in the document for getting inputs from the signatories. This is one of the important steps to understand how electronic signature works. Majority of electronic signing transactions start with a final document already in place.

Such cases involve capturing forms data through an e-app or a core application and adding them to the document template. However, there are some instances where you have to capture data while signing electronically. This is where you could rely on the electronic signature solution provider for a platform to achieve forms of data capture.

Do you have any doubt regarding the use of electronic signature for your business? Here are the 8 reasons to adopt e-signature for your business.

6. Getting the signature

Now, the most important step in the electronic signature workflow arrives! You have to get consent and acceptance of the signatories, and this is where the ‘click’ comes in. The common assumption about electronic signatures is that you click to sign and it is a crucial stage in the whole electronic signing process. Some of the best methods that are followed in this stage include smartcard signing, digital handwritten signature, and ‘click to sign’.

The use of smartcard signing could be observed routinely in the case of contractors and federal government personnel who use digital certificates embedded in their PIV smartcard or Common Access Card (CAC). With the application of touchscreen devices, the signature can be obtained by capturing it through the device.

The simplest method that is used for getting the sign of acceptance and consent from signatories is the ‘click to sign’ option that enables signatories to click on a button through their browser on their PC, smartphone, laptop or mobile device.

7. Verifying security of the documents

Security is also one of the prominent aspects related to an electronic signature workflow. Therefore, the e-signature solution provider has to ensure that the electronic signature is compliant with the standards established by ESIGN and UETA. This will be mandatory to make sure that the electronic signatures cannot tamper.

The safety of documents is one of the primary selling points for electronic signatures. So, the compliance with ESIGN and UETA standards makes sure that your workflow for the e-signature process is appropriately optimized for security. Most important of all, the electronic signature workflow should also include reminders in case of unauthorized access to the documents or failure of the signatory to verify their identity.

8. Closing Stage

The next important step in the electronic signature workflow is the delivery of signed documents to the relevant signatories. The commonly followed approach for this step is the use of a cloud-based storage solution for uploading the signed documents. The signatories could access the documents by entering their credentials used previously in the authentication stage of the workflow for the e-signing process.

In addition to the delivery of signed documents, the audit trail also serves as an important component in the final stage of the e-signing process. The audit trail is a crucial element that is needed as evidence for all the events that happened during a specific transaction.

Only after verification of the audit trail, the process of electronic signature can be finalized for completion. Each signatory would then be sent an URL link for the completed document thereby making them aware of the fact that the process has been completed.

Don’t confuse between digital signature and electronic signature, the terms seems similar but are different. Check the detailed difference here Digital Signature vs Electronic Signature.

Final Words

On a concluding note, the importance of understanding the e-signature workflow could be observed from the above discussion. Good knowledge of all the steps involved in the electronic signature workflow not only makes the process easier to complete but also ensures complete accuracy as well as access to all benefits of electronic signatures.

The electronic signature is not just a boom, it’s a revolutionary technology in this digital era that has changed the way how businesses work completely. Avoiding something new and beneficial is an indication that you are lagging behind from your competitors. Before others leave you behind, adopt electronic signature for your business, and get one step ahead from your competitors.

Posted by Brian Felix

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