As electronics OEM look for ways to increase supply chain efficiency, e-signature and e-contracting capabilities are emerging as an excellent avenue to streamlining the paperwork process.
“The technology around e-signatures has evolved so that it is more affordable and easier to implement,” Andrea Masterton, corporate marketing director at Silanis Technology, a provider of electronic signature products. “When you do anything online, it removed the bottleneck inherent in paper.”
The time savings can be substantial. One Silanis customer in the business to business space reduced their contract signing process from twelve weeks to just one or two days, Masterton said.
On paper the process can take up to 12 weeks, now looking to reduce that to a day or two of approval process. “There are tremendous efficiencies to be gained,” she added.
Further, if there is a dispute down the road, an electronic paper trail is more likely to offer resolution. “There's a lower risk of the problems that happen when a paper trail is gone or documents are missing,” said Masterton. “With an online signature, organizations can better audit the process and build in workflow rules to avoid mistakes.” For example, a rule might be created that would not allow a contract to be filed unless all signatures are on the document.
Some organizations, though are reluctant to adopt this new approach, most often citing legal ramifications. The concern, though, is overblown. “In the US and even elsewhere, there is e-commerce legislation in place and, not only that, but it's been in place for a long time, at least ten or fifteen years. That's plenty of time for case law to evolve.”
By taking a careful look at the needs of the business and the available solutions, organizations can build a winning strategy for incorporating the use of e-signatures into their business. In a recently released white paper, Forrester Research outlined five best practices for organizations that want to incorporate e-signatures into their business processes. The list includes:
- Focus on customer experience to drive adoption. Whether launching the use of e-signatures with suppliers, distributors, or customers, adoption largely depends on whether or not using it makes customers feel inconvenienced. Security and authentication are important, but users refuse to use products that are overly complex, the report said.
- Make the use case with real numbers whenever possible. When making the case to the corner office, supply chain pros need to offer hard and fast figures around the cost of paper processes compared to the price associated with a digital process.
- Be open to a variety of e-signature approaches. At times, adoption of digital signatures is slowed by a lack of agreement about the best path forward. In the end, one solution may work best for one type of transaction, while another would be preferable at a different time.
- Use knowledge-based authentication as a key approach. Especially for financial transactions or contracts, security is paramount. Although one-time use passwords, biometrics, and other approaches offer benefits, knowledge-based authentication offers the best balance between risk mitigation and user experience.
- Choose solution providers that offer flexible solutions that support complex scenarios. Especially as the business evolves, the needs around signing scenarios may escalate. The solution needs to offer a breadth of features to allow for these different scenarios.
Let us know your experience with e-signatures in the supply chain in the comments section below. What advantages did you identify? What lessons did you learn?