The Mouse is Mightier Than the Sword: Advantages of E-Signatures

Joe McKairnes, December 21, 2015
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I’ll be the first to admit, I love the feel of a fine writing implement, such as a Mont Blanc, as it glides across linen paper. But it’s clear to me that in today’s world, this is no longer the best method for executing a signature on a document. Let's talk about the advantages of e-signatures.

If presented a piece of paper with a signature on it, I’d challenge you with the following;

  • Prove the signature is authentic to the person who applied it
  • Prove the exact date it was signed
  • Prove the document has not been modified during the signing process
  • How do I track the document’s progress across multiple signers (and the risk of it getting lost)?
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These topics make me wonder how anyone can think that pen on paper is better than the many advantages of e-signatures.

In today’s digital world, we regularly conduct business in electronic form on the internet. Call centers, claims and policy management, up through an Army soldier trying to order more munitions from the battlefield. How disruptive is it when the digital process grinds to a halt due to any manual step? I can’t imagine being in a foxhole, trying to send a paper order for munitions to my superior!

Pen on paper is just this – a stumbling block. When manual steps are invoked, the challenges increase exponentially:

  • How do I get the signed document merged back into the digital process?
  • How do I guarantee the document wasn’t modified?

Your pen can't do this

Electronic signatures solve all of these issues and bring many more benefits to light. First, it’s faster. I open a browser, read the document and click-to-sign it. Done, secure and auditable. Depending on the authentication method I choose, I have full non-repudiation – I can guarantee you are the person who signed.

Since the process is electronic, I have available to me all the real-time data such as the exact moment I ‘clicked’ my signature, to auto-fill capabilities such as name, title and company, to name a few.

Now, if implemented correctly, I can also guarantee the validity of the document. Some vendors in the e-signature space only secure a document at the end of signing. This leaves doubt about what happened during the process. Top providers will secure every document, through every signer. The added e-sign advantage here is a complete audit trail of the signing – even better if this audit trail and evidence is embedded into the signed document. It becomes self-evident.

Now, I’ll concede – this is just like pen-on-paper, as you own the signed document. Well, a top solution is going to give you back this evidence. It won’t make you come to the server where the evidence resides and try to correlate it back to your document.

e-Signature replay

And, here’s one thing that the pen can’t do. What if I could replay the signing experience, as the signer saw it? That’s right – imagine being able to replay the signing experience of a signer!  Now I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what a signer saw and did -- a key legal advantage of e-signatures.

Finally, insight and visibility into the process. Imagine, you create a document and mail it out to one signer, expecting them to forward it to another, etc. How do you know where the document is, and whether anyone has signed?

A top e-signature solution will provide you real-time visibility into the signing process. You should be able to see, at a glance, who has signed, how many signatures they’ve applied (if more than one), and much more.

So, while I agree with the precept of ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’ I have to admit, a solid e-signature solution such as eSignLive proves that the mouse is mightier than the pen.