Procurement Pros Know the Differences Between E-Signatures & Digital Signatures

Remember the days when we printed a document, physically signed it, and scanned that document to be sent back? It hasn’t been that long since this, known as a wet signature, was the standard in offices across the world. These days, like everything else, this has moved to a digital format.

When we talk about digital signatures, most business professionals know what this term means. But what if I say e-signature… Is that the same thing? Most people would think so, but they are actually two completely different things. An electronic signature, more commonly known as an e-signature, is the most common type of online signature, defined as symbols or other data in digital form that are attached to an electronically transmitted document as verification of the sender’s intent to sign the document. However, a digital signature is a bit more complex, defined as a mathematical scheme for demonstrating the authenticity of digital messages or documents, and an electronic signature.

Defining digital & e-signatures

While both terms essentially mean signing something online, a digital signature is much more secure, requiring more verification than an e-signature. Think of them as an electronic footprint of sorts. In the form of a coded message, the digital signature securely associates a signer with a document in a recorded transaction. By using platforms like DocuSign, you’re able to create specific encryption keys and authentications, like logins and usernames, to make your documents more secure. This provides the highest levels of security and universal acceptance. 

When we look at electronic, or e-signatures, they are much less secure, and therefore much easier to set up. They still allow you to sign documents and authenticate the signer, but the authentication process is far less intense than that of the digital signature. So, which does your company need? That answer really comes down to how much trust you need in the signatures on your documents. Government and healthcare industries are the primary users of digital signatures due to their increased level of security.

What this means for procurement

When it comes to procurement professionals, it isn’t essential to use digital signatures, outside of some government entities. E-signature is the preferred method of online document signatures, and it’s widely accepted throughout the United States. For many vendors and service providers, the thought of signing something online may seem foreign or even new at this time, as many procurement professionals have had delayed adoption to online signatures, and many are still using the wet signature format. 

As we look forward to the next 10 years, we’ll see nearly every industry adopting an online signature format with contracts and documents. Likely many more companies will be using the higher-security digital signatures, with transition beginning to blockchain technology, which are lists of records that are linked and secured using cryptography.

There are many online signature and contract management services out there, and it’s easy to find one that fits whatever need your company has. Generally, an e-signature is perfectly acceptable, especially to those in the supply chain and procurement industry. However, `a digital signature is always a great option for those looking for a sense of heightened security. 

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