If you'd like to take your paper contracts online, electronic signature software—also known as digital signature or e-signature software—provides a great solution.
But before you sign on the dotted line for a new system, we encourage you to read our Buyer's Guide below. We'll go over common functionality, pricing structures and more so you can be more informed when making your purchase decision.
Here's what we'll cover:
What Is Electronic Signature Software?
Common Functionality of Electronic Signature Software
How Is Electronic Signature Software Priced?
Is Electronic Signature Software Safe?
Who Uses Electronic Signature Software?
If you've ever put your signature on a form without touching pen to paper, you've most likely used electronic signature software. These platforms allow users to add legally binding signatures to documents using a computer, smartphone or tablet. This eliminates the need to print, scan or fax paper copies.
Electronic signature software provides numerous cost- and time-saving benefits to individuals and businesses alike. According to a 2013 study by Ombud, e-signature software can save enterprises an average of $20 per document.
Mobile e-signatures in eSignLive
The offerings of different solutions vary, but you can find the following functionality in most electronic signature software platforms:
|Form templates||Upload documents and overlay them with template fields for electronic signatures.|
|Electronic signature||Use a finger, stylus, mouse or keyboard to sign forms electronically and make them valid.|
|Email form sharing||Send documents via email to those who need to sign them electronically.|
|Signing status||Track whether sent forms have been signed by the applicable parties or not.|
|Document management||Safely archive signed documents in a database with search functionality to find specific forms as needed.|
Electronic signature software platforms aren’t all priced the same way. Here are a few common pricing scenarios to look out for:
Flat monthly or annual fee. You pay a set amount month-to-month or year-to-year regardless of how many users you have or how many documents you store.
Per document or signature. Your monthly or annual subscription fee is based on how many documents you have stored in the system or how many electronic signatures you’ve obtained.
Per user. Your monthly or annual subscription fee is based on how many people will be using the system internally.
Depending on what electronic signature vendor you choose, be sure to budget accordingly with their pricing structure.
Digitizing sensitive documents and sending them via email to get verifiable signatures sounds risky, but electronic signature software vendors are well aware of user fears. Here are some features to look for to ensure that your documents remain legitimate and secure:
|Multifactor authentication||Users input unique identifiers (e.g., a password, social security number) to sign documents.|
|Audit trail||Time and date stamps, along with in-document checkboxes ensure signees follow the expected procedure in a reasonable time frame.|
|SSL document encryption||Only individuals authorized by an organization have access to documents, and all files are encrypted during transit and storage.|
To test the security of a prospective system, demo it for yourself. The primary thing you want to check is that there is no way to alter documents or signatures after they have been signed, as this can lead to form and signature tampering.
Electronic signature software buyers come from a variety of industries and verticals—what organization doesn’t have forms that need signatures? But here are some user types that will benefit from these platforms more than most:
Real estate professionals. Purchase agreements, lease agreements, disclosures, liens, easements; the real estate industry has many forms that need a “John Hancock.” Electronic signature software enables real estate firms to make sense of their different documents, and allows them to easily get signatures from a client base that is often on the move.
Lawyers and law firms. Legal formalities are lengthy processes. Tons of paperwork is involved: commercial licenses, terms and conditions, business contracts, confidentiality forms etc. Electronic signatures help legal firms overcome this time-consuming administrative nightmare with digital documentation. Lawyers can finalize contracts faster by uploading legal documentation to a central location and allowing colleagues to review and validate the documents with e-signatures. Likewise, legal documents can be shared with clients via email or file sharing applications such as Dropbox, Evernote etc. Clients can review and send the documents back after adding their e-signatures using their smartphones.
Bank sales agents. Whether it's a loan application, insurance form, retirement benefits or investment plan, bank officials handle all kinds of documents on a daily basis. Each document needs to be carefully filled out and signed by clients and then finally scanned or posted to the bank. While that is already a cumbersome process, manual paperwork is also more prone to errors, such as missing information and incorrect details. With e-signatures and digital forms, customers fill in the details directly on an agent’s iPad. This ensures that clients cannot progress on a document unless they have filled in all the required information. As a result, banks can improve the accuracy of information, while saving tons of time by eliminating the endless back and forth of documents between the banks and their clients.
Human resources professionals. Modern applicant tracking systems help human resource (HR) professionals create an entirely digital employee recruitment and onboarding process. This means replacing manual paperwork with online documents and e-signatures to speed up employee recruitment, onboarding and payroll processes. Every formal document from offer letters, employee contracts, training manuals and bank forms to performance tracking sheets can be streamlined using digital signatures. This greatly reduces the inefficiencies of a predominantly manual and paper-based recruitment process, such as disorganized management of critical documents, duplicity of forms and an overall negative onboarding experience for new hires.
We're able to offer this service to buyers for free, because software vendors pay us on a "pay-per-lead" basis. Buyers get great advice. Sellers get great referrals.