Technology

What Associations Should Know About Electronic Signatures

By / May 26, 2020 (ilkercelik/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

E-signatures are gaining popularity among remote workforces thanks to COVID-19, but the best solution requires more research than just putting a signature on a PDF. Read on for some e-signing considerations.

With people located far away from their usual offices, it creates logistical problems that can be frustrating and annoying to solve.

For example, have you ever had to send a document via fax just so it had your signature? Not fun, is it? (Also worth considering on a frustration angle: sending those same documents through the mail.)

Perhaps it’s for this reason that digital signatures are gaining popularity as an alternative to a paper-heavy process. Some are even calling it “the norm” for the COVID-19 era. Is your association a part of that norm?

If not, here are a few insights for would-be document signers:

Consider the many benefits. Beyond helping you avoid the fax machine as necessary, e-signatures allow for a simplified user experience, along with easier ways to track different versions and the ability to avoid extra weight. It can also do wonders for customer relations, notes Piper Thomson at G2 Learning Hub. “While it might seem that something as simple as an electronic signature is not a vital element of cutting-edge business operations, the integration of software into most aspects of life has given rise to the trend of putting control in the hands of the consumer,” he writes. “Putting convenience and quality of life first will pay huge dividends when it comes to funneling your prospects through your sales pipeline and retaining customers.”

Know the differences. Simply signing a paper with a signature you drew with your trackpad may be enough for some, but when security elements are a part of the equation, it may be a better choice to get a digital signature, which adds cryptographic and encryption features to the signed document. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency has an article thoroughly explaining the difference between electronic and digital signatures.

Research the legal considerations. But while it may be convenient, is it strong enough legally? This may be where you want to do your homework. In a recent article for Bloomberg Law, a group of lawyers with Norton Rose Fulbright noted that regulations in the U.S. and many states make electronic signatures just as effective as physical ones, but they warned that complex transactions can create challenges. “As with handwritten signatures, the signer must show intent to sign the document electronically, which can be demonstrated by typing one’s name or drawing a signature with a mouse,” the authors wrote. Remote notarization is also an option depending on the type of contract or document that needs a signature.

Check out the different software options. With options varying from free to thousands of dollars, there are many directions that associations could look for putting signatures on sheets of paper. Zapier has a list of options—varying from the bare-bones (Preview, the default document viewer built into MacOS) to the robust (the widely used DocuSign and the contract-oriented Contractbook).

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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