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Expediting the document approval process through digital transformation

Sam Crook argues that e-signatures are a low cost, high impact initiative that can be undertaken by companies at the earliest stages of their digital transformation

Digital Technology
Digital Technology

Digital technologies are helping to create new, efficient workplaces – from face scanning systems and augmented reality apps to virtual meeting rooms and idea platforms. No longer are employees expected to occupy one physical space. Their daily tasks are being supported and enhanced by connected, instant access environments, anywhere and everywhere.

Digital transformation has disrupted the way that businesses are run. The opportunities now afforded by social, mobile and cloud computing technologies are forcing organisations to reconsider not just how they operate, but what they should be investing in to maximise business outcomes.

It’s important to keep ahead of the game. A recent FutureScape Predictions report from IDC acknowledged that over the past year there has been tremendous momentum in the influence of digital transformation on technology spending. This is encouraging because in its previous report it predicted that by 2018 at least 20% of all workers will use automated assistance technologies to make decisions and get work done.

Resistance to change
IDC pointed out that digital transformation is a board-level initiative and is at the heart of business strategies for companies of all sizes, but in some organisations there has been a reluctance to change, and the concern is the business will experience a negative economic impact as a result.

A report by Progress on the State of Digital Business found that 62% of digital decision-makers feel their organisation is in denial about the need to transform digitally; 55% believe they have a year or less to make digital inroads before suffering financially and competitively.

The fact is that without making that digital transformation it will be difficult for companies to survive. Perhaps, given that the biggest disruptive technologies are the cloud, mobility and collaboration, there is a perception that all digital solutions involve a massive investment in time and money and considerable inconvenience, but this is simply not true.

Simplifying signing
One change that requires little effort, but has the advantage of delivering high impact results, is e-signatures. These have the ability to accelerate the signing process in any business, expediting document workflows and boosting productivity.

Estimates indicate that as many as 80% of organisations are still dependent on paper-heavy processes and wet-ink signatures. Employees still spend hours seeking approvals and signatures for documents and then print, scan, mail or even fax them to complete the job. And this is just for standard office processes.

In the finance department where budgets, contracts and forecasts have to be signed off, the workflow becomes even more complex – with multiple parties required for approval, there is an increased chance of human error.

One of the benefits of using e-signatures is that there are solutions with built-in digital workflow records. This enables users to see who has yet to sign a specific document and then send an alert to avoid unnecessary delays in the approval process.

Given the critical nature of many financial or contractual documents, every word needs to be read thoroughly before signing. There are solutions available that include ‘personal initials’ fields next to critical sections, to provide evidence that documents have been read and understood.

When companies are considering the question of expenditure on digital tools, it is important to remember that an e-signature solution can save on financial resources, enabling an increase in efficiency and avoidance of additional outlay associated with delay and approval issues.

Furthermore, across all departments today’s litigious and compliance-focused workplace is a key concern because documents can contain sensitive or secure information. Companies should look for a solution that ensures long-term Advanced/EU Qualified Electronic Signatures are supported in line with the ETSI PAdES standards so they cannot be tampered with and will be future-proof regardless of software format changes. This also means that if required, long-term verification (LTV) evidence can be embedded into the document with trusted timestamps proving the time and validity of the signature.

Programme integration
e-Signatures can minimise the time spent on administrative tasks through integration with other core business programmes such as document management systems and CRM applications. Because documents are accessible from anywhere, they can be reviewed and amended in real-time without the need for printing or rescanning after each revision. This has a positive benefit to the customer’s experience, helping to improve communications and minimise changes.

As these examples show, the digital workplace is an inevitability. Transformation, however, can take time, and companies are advised to start with simple but effective changes using digital tools that are designed to deliver workflow improvements and better efficiency and productivity as a result.

Sam Crook is in Solution Sales for SigningHub by Ascertia.

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