One of the biggest drags on productivity, cash flow, and operational efficiency in most companies is handwritten signatures.
The act of signing a contract may only take an instant, but all the time it takes to get the right paperwork to the right people in the organization can add days or even weeks to the pre-contract lifecycle.
Every hour a piece of paper sits in someone’s inbox is wasted time.
If you want to drastically improve the amount of time it takes for a contract to move from proposal to execution, you need to kill handwritten signatures in your organization.
Legality of Electronic Signatures
Handwritten signatures are almost never needed. Several federal laws allow for contracts signed over a computer to be just as binding as contracts signed with pen and paper.
Electronic signatures don’t even have to look anything like a handwritten signature. You can use a variety of programs to simulate a handwritten signature if you want. But, you can also have something as simple as a checkbox.
Have you ever clicked “Yes” when installing software from the internet? Then you’ve provided an electronic signature to a contract. Clicking “Yes” or checking a box has the same legal force as signing your name and initials on a stack of physical pages.
How Electronic Signatures Enhance Security
Electronic signatures are more than just more efficient than physical signatures. They are also usually more secure.
You can encrypt all of you’re the digital files you have stored. You cannot encrypt paper documents. If someone gets a key or breaks into a physical file cabinet, they can remove documents or easily access confidential information.
If you encrypt your digital documents, a hacker or unauthorized employee will not be able to read the data. Even if they somehow gain access to the files.
Digital signatures are harder to forge and can provide many different ways of validating who signed the document. Digital forensics is much more accurate and powerful than handwriting analysis.
It is also much easier to find a digital document that has been misfiled than it is to find a physical document. Your physical file cabinet doesn’t have a search bar.
The Last Roadblock to Going Paperless
Fully adopting electronic signatures is typically the last roadblock between spending time moving reams of paper around and going paperless.
Becoming a paperless business allows you to save money on paper, toner, printers, and staff time. It also makes your business more secure and more environmentally friendly.
In the next three years, any business still relying on handwritten signatures will be like a business that still relies on the telegraph. You will be so far behind the competition you may never catch up.
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Do You Ever Need a Physical Signature?
For commercial purposes, the only reason you would need a physical signature is if another party refuses to move forward without one.
You may still need a physical signature for personal legal documents. Most states still require a handwritten signature on wills, codicils, trusts, and powers of attorney.