The use of electronic signatures (eSignatures) has become crucial in today’s business world, given its ultra-fast pace and volatility. To help you choose the right eSignature solution for your business, we’ve delved a little deeper into some of the factors you should consider, and put together a two-part Q&A.
The COVID-era has created the need for a clear line-of-sight when it comes to business transactions, compelling Australian jurisdictions to reform their legislation and clarify the types of documents that can be signed electronically.
With some governmental changes already implemented, and others imminent, it is essential for businesses to understand the technology that underlies eSignature solutions and enables them to transact digitally.
You can read more about recent changes to Australian legislation in the wake of the global pandemic in our blog, Australia’s changing eSignature landscape.
Let’s move on to what you’re here to find out: How to choose the right eSignature solution for your business.
eSignatures: The who, what, when, where and why
Like many Australian businesses out to maximise efficiencies and stay within the law, you may have decided to start investigating electronic signature solutions, knowing that not only will eSignatures make your life – and the lives of your customers – easier, but they also offer security and compliance.
To help you choose the best eSignature solution for your business, we have taken a look at some of the questions you may have around eSignatures and how they can address your business’s immediate and long-term needs
Security, non-repudiation, and compliance are top priorities for my business. What features should I look for in an eSignature solution?
You will need to consider the following “musts”:
- Type of signature: The three different types of electronic signatures are simple electronic signatures (SES), advanced electronic signatures (AES), and qualified electronic signatures (QES). AES and QES are digital signatures, which are steeped in cryptography and offer superior security and non-repudiation. To read more about the difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures, read our blog Electronic vs digital signatures: Defining the difference.
- Document storage: Make sure the eSignature provider you select handles and stores your information securely within Australia and New Zealand, in line with in-country Privacy Laws, which restrict the transfer of personal information overseas.
- Encryption: Sensitive documents should be protected. Be sure to quiz your eSignature provider on this – “Do you use the most robust data encryption technologies available?”
- Tamper evident: Should an individual try to make even the slightest change to a protected document, you need to be aware. Make sure your eSignature solution makes it immediately obvious if there are any attempts to change content, or attempts at unauthorised access.
- Authentication methods: Your eSignature provider should offer multiple methods for signer authentication, such as Registration and Login, Mobile Phone (One-time Pin/OTP), and Digital Identity Verification (e.g., Australia Post, Digital ID).
- Trusted Timestamp: A timestamp is a sequence of characters or encoded information identifying when a certain event occurred, usually giving a date and time of day, which is accurate to the second. Trusted timestamping means that you can say with certainty that the signature in question is genuine and legal.
- Security and Quality Management certifications: Be sure to look for an eSignature solution that is compliant with security and quality programmes, such as ISO 27001 and ISO 9001. Industry-specific certifications, such as Cyber Security Essentials for compliance with regulations like GDPR in Europe, might also be relevant.
From a functionality point of view, what are the main features I should look for when assessing different eSignature providers for my business?
Make sure the eSignature solution you decide to go with includes the features below:
- Multiple types of eSigning: Multiple methods, or multi-method design, allows users to choose between different types of eSignature to suit both their consistent, and ad-hoc, needs.
- Document and workflow templates: The ability to save reusable document templates and structure reusable document workflows will make document distribution and approvals much quicker and more efficient.
- Document workflows: Your eSignature provider should allow you to build, configure and automate document workflows. Again, it’s all about speed and efficiency – not to mention accuracy – all these things are essential for slick communication and transaction processes.
- Dashboard: A user-friendly dashboard that gives users a birds-eye view of their pending, signed, cancelled, deleted, etc documents is an awesome addition to any eSignature system. It just makes your life easier.
- Plug-ins: Another feature that facilitates fast, error-free processes, is the option of plug-ins or add-ons designed to work with the apps you use most, such as MS Office 365.
- Deployment options: Your eSignature platform should offer deployment flexibility, allowing companies’ IT departments to choose between on-premise, cloud deployment, or a combination of both.
It’s got to be perfect
Electronic signatures encompass a broad category of methods to capture intent to sign, consent, and, in varying degrees, provide document authenticity, integrity and non-repudiation.
Today more than ever, it is important that your eSignature provider guarantees their technology carries legal weight – and that documents signed with it carry the same legal weight as handwritten signatures.
In addition, there are certain feature boxes you should insist on being ticked, to ensure you, your employees and your customers have the best digital experience possible. Because, in today’s fast-paced, dog-eat-dog business world, there is no margin for lag, inflexibility or inferior security.