Technology Tip

Improving Small Business Efficiency With eSignatures

Improving Small Business Efficiency With eSignatures

Electronic and digital signatures can help small businesses increase efficiency and productivity by eliminating the often-cumbersome processes associated with completing agreements that have to be signed in person.

While technologies and legal acceptance vary, electronic and digital signatures generally offer an efficient and cost-effective way to document agreements and to protect each parties’ legal rights.

Faster Processes

Getting signatures on contracts to conclude agreements has been a stubborn obstacle as more companies try to streamline processes and reduce the amount of paper they need to store. Some companies have to print, sign, scan and email an agreement - with the other party having to repeat the process. This back-and-forth wastes time and can waste money if the signed documents are sent by overnight mail instead of being emailed by the parties.

Instead, electronic signatures offer an easy way for the parties to an agreement to document their acceptance, and to trade copies of the signed agreement. This can speed the adoption and implementation of sales agreements, working with outside vendors or other deals your company makes routinely.

By reducing the time and effort required to document an agreement, you can increase your attention on the agreement and achieving the expected benefits to your business.

Some digital signature solutions allow documents to be distributed to multiple users to sign. This can be helpful for HR documents or other files that more than one person needs to agree to.

Depending on the type and value of the agreement, electronic signatures can take a variety of forms:

  • Checking a box on a web form
  • A finger- or stylus-scrawled signature on a touchscreen
  • Typing your name or initials into an encrypted field embedded in a document file. Because digital signature software records identity of the signer and the time a document was signed, and prevents further editing, this is the most secure version of an electronic signature.

Some people may use the term "electronic signature" and "digital signature" interchangeably, they represent different technologies. An electronic signature falls within the broader category and includes the simple check-box and scrawled notations listed above.

A digital signature, in contrast, includes specific methods for verifying and securing the signature, so it carries a higher degree of validity for important documents.

Electronic Benefits

The benefits of using electronic signatures for small businesses include:

  • Faster transaction completion by avoiding the need to swap physical documents or to print digital files.
  • Cost and time savings by eliminating the need to print, scan and mail documents
  • More efficient document storage and records retention

Under U.S. federal and state laws, electronic signatures generally have the same legal validity as in-person, so-called "wet" signatures. There may be exceptions for specific types of agreements in certain locations, so it makes sense to obtain legal advice about your needs as you explore electronic signature adoption or technologies.

Choosing a Solution

Small business owners interested in exploring electronic signature adoption have a variety of tools and technologies to consider. If you use Adobe products as part of your routine workflow, it’s straightforward to integrate digital signature capabilities into PDF files created with the company’s Acrobat software.

Other platforms allow you to upload documents into secure workspaces where users can access, sign and store agreements.

Popular digital signature platforms include DocuSign, PandaDoc, HelloSign and others.

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