Electronic signatures are quicker than paper ones. They’re more portable. More environmentally friendly. So why do so many companies insist on receiving paper signatures in person or by fax? According to a 2015 article from NPR, the main reasons are emotional rather than practical. Many of us grew up using physical pens to sign physical paper and we feel less connected to our e-signatures than to the ones we’ve spent years crafting by hand.
But while electronic signatures aren’t entirely risk-free – and those risks can be multiplied when rolling out electronic signatures across a variety of countries and regions – potential issues like these are far outweighed by the likely benefits, and by the potential for increased returns throughout your organisation. Here are some of the main barriers to rolling out e-signatures in your business – along with reasons why those barriers are well worth overcoming.
Just as the push to adopt electronic signatures is driven by three main factors, so is resistance against them. Aside from the emotional resistance described in the introduction to this piece, many companies face the barriers of cultural norms, differing regulations, and technological limits. Yet despite all these hurdles, companies that persevere and roll out e-signatures are already reaping the benefits.
The first barrier many businesses face is that of cultural norms and expectations. While some countries are already widely adopting electronic signatures, many others prefer to do business in more traditional ways, sealing a deal with an in-person handshake or a verbal pact between friends. It can be tricky to fit e-signatures into cultural patterns that have existed for centuries – especially when the business people involved are reluctant to deviate from the familiar. Instead of trying to force e-signatures into existing cultural norms, it’s crucial to position them not as a disruption but simply as an upgrade; an additional layer of security on top of the traditional forms of agreement.
Many organizations also face barriers related to laws and regulations, whether in their native country or in other regions into which they’re expanding. Almost every country maintains its unique cluster of legal precedents and interpretations around the issue of e-signatures. Some countries – particularly in the EU – now mandate specific types of electronic signatures for real estate documents and wills, while other countries don’t even treat electronic signatures as legally binding in all cases. However, this hurdle isn’t an excuse not to adopt e-signatures – rather, it’s a reason to demonstrate the security and reliability of e-signing on the home turf of every region in which your business operates.
Thirdly, many companies face technological barriers in their adoption of electronic signatures. Electronic signing isn’t a single technology – rather, it encompasses a variety of layers and verification methods, supported by a range of different technological infrastructures. For example, Austria and Germany require multi-layer security around every electronic signature to prevent it from being copied, while other countries ignore the facts and treat all forms of electronic signatures as equally secure. Overall, though, standards are becoming stricter and are likely to continue to tighten up over the foreseeable future. This means any company rolling out electronic signatures needs to be aware of the relevant security regulations and understand the security measures protecting the electronic signing methods they use.
Despite these hurdles, an ever-increasing number of companies are feeling the push to adopt e-signing technology. Changing customer expectations are creating increasing pressure to roll out electronic signatures. The need to maintain consistent and cost-effective databases is also a significant driver. And the growing impact of international privacy regulations continues to push e-signatures forward. Some of these reasons might have been easier to ignore ten or even five years ago, but today they are seriously impacting the ways companies do business.
The first major reason to adopt e-signatures is that of changing customer expectations. While many customers would have been comfortable with paper signing process ten or even five years ago, an ever-growing number of users now expect every task to be doable from any screen, and for choices made on one touchpoint to propagate instantly to all the others. In light of these expectations, customers feel extremely jarred when required to physically print out a form, fill it in and fax or mail it back. The majority of business leaders now agree that paper forms hurt brand image – period.
Secondly, a growing number of businesses are feeling the push to consolidate all their customer data into a single integrated internal database. You might be shocked to learn that some Fortune 500 companies still store customer data on paper in old metal filing cabinets – but it’s true. This lag creates a major opportunity for companies that adopt e-signatures across every region. Those companies will easily be able to organize, analyse and draw insights from data on customers across the world, giving them a clear competitive edge on companies who fail to adapt.
The third most significant source of forward motion on e-signatures is that of compliance with international privacy regulations – especially in the EU. Investigative committees continue to hamper the expansion of companies who fail to comply with these regulations, even when they’re major players like Google and Facebook. In truth, any company that’s not storing all customer data within a secure digital system is probably already in violation of international privacy regulations, whether they know it or not. This can not only slow down growth, but can leave the company wide open to liability and litigation.
Given all these sources of pressure, there’s really no other practical choice except to adopt e-signatures as soon as possible.
When you are ready to make your move, SignWise Services offers the industry’s simplest, most secure API for Know Your Customer (KYC) services, as well as customer authentication and electronic document signing. This service provides a one-stop solution for identifying your customers, collecting secure electronic signatures, authenticating users and streamlining access control for maximum convenience.
Whether you just need to collect basic electronic signatures, identify users with advanced signatures, or tie specific signatures to digital certificates and smart cards, SignWise has the plug-and-play solutions you’re looking for.
POST IS WRITTEN BY
founder @SignWise Services and electronic identity expert
I have primarily worked as an R&D visionary and adviser for PKI-based authentication, eSigning, eSignature validation and eAuthorization services. I was part of the team that worked on the Estonian electronic identity for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, creating service portals for local authorities and annual electronic reports submission system for the e-Business Registry – winning the Best e-Government Solution award at the World Summit Award in 2011.
Learn more about electronic identity and document signing trends and how you can get the support for your business by contacting SignWise Services team now.