Digital signature on documents is one of the areas where technology has made a significant difference and improvement to Document Controllers’ daily tasks.
Electronic signature represents a huge gain in time and manhours
Indeed, in companies which have implemented digital signatures, Document Controllers no longer have to print documents out, to walk around offices to gather the signatures, and then to scan the
signed documents in.
With digital signature, we manage only electronic copies all the way through, up to their signature point. This is really a huge gain in terms of time and manhours. Probably more than 10 minutes per document are no longer wasted.
Let's say you are turning over a hundred documents per week, if you save 10 minutes per document, that's an incredible 16 hours saved in the week!
Digital signature is available everywhere! (even on the move)
Digital signature is available from anywhere: in the office, but also anywhere else: from home, while communiting, on business trips,... and one of the benefits really is that people can actually sign even if they are not in the office.
We no longer have to wait for a manager to return from a business trip to physically sign a document.
Image's Copyright DocuSign
Digital Signature on Transmittal Sheets
One area where this has also significantly improved our lives is when it comes to signature of transmittal sheets.
Physically signing every transmittal sheet and acknowledgement of receipt can literally represent a significant part of our daily tasks. Electronic signature has significantly improved this process.
- When I want to send a document officially to a Contractor, I just have to prepare the Transmittal Sheet, sign it in a few clicks and I can send it immediately... the alternative being to print the transmittal sheet, sign it, scan it, save the scan locally and then attach it to the package of documents I want to send.
- When I receive a Transmittal Package from a contractor, once I have checked its quality, compliance and integrity, I can just sign the acknowledgement of receipt in a few clicks and send it back to the contractor.
Considering the number of transmittal sheets we issue and receive every day, once again it is a huge gain in time and manhours... Allowing us time to concentrate on higher value tasks.
What is the Legal Status of Electronic Signature?
As with any legal question, the answer lies with country's regulations and therefore the answer might differ from a country to another. But more and more countries actually now accept adequate
electronic signature in legal proceedings.
For example, for all countries member of the European Union, the directive no 1999/93/EC applies, and says:
"Member States shall ensure that advanced electronic signatures which are based on a qualified certificate and which are created by a secure-signature-creation device:
- (a) satisfy the legal requirements of a signature in relation to data in electronic form in the same manner as a handwritten signature satisfies those requirements in relation to paper-based data; and
- (b) are admissible as evidence in legal proceedings."
See the details of this legislation here
More information on the legislation Wikipedia
Digital Signature must include a secured certificate
The legislation specifies that electronic signature must be based on a "qualified certificate and (...) created by a secure-signature-creation device".
The easiest way to be compliant is to use a dedicated software packages. You will find some of them listed at the end of this article.
You can also use Adobe Acrobat's electronic signature. The benefit is that most companies already have Adobe Acrobat's licences, but it is not an authoring specific software so it might not be
the answer to all requirements.
Electronic Signature in Adobe Acrobat (screenshot):
Implementation requires discussions within the Company
Even if digital signatures are legally acceptable, many Companies have decided (sometimes without the right information at hand) to discard electronic signatures from the Company's policy and
Therefore, before implementing electronic signature in your project or department, you should make sure that there is strict rule against it in your Company. If there is, you will probably need
to discuss the benefits, risks and concerns with the relevant decision-makers.
As every change in any work process, the implementation of digital signatures requires proper discussions, agreements (notably on the contractual / legal side), but it is undoubtedly a great improvement in terms of processes and workload
Digital Signature Software Packages
A few software packages specialising in digital signatures have come to the market, and are really making it easy on a daily basis. For example: