Electronic signatures are far from new, they have been around for decades, but they have had something of a revival the last few years. A couple of years back, Dropbox bought HelloSign, and earlier this year, Box bought Signrequest. To be followed by Nintex’s acquisition in June of AssureSign. Business documents and signatures, wet, dry or digital, go hand in hand, and logically one would expect all documents that need signing today to be signed digitally. But that is not the case, for despite eSignature technology being freely available many firms still use them infrequently, reluctantly, or do not use them at all.
One of the reasons eSignatures are not as widely used as they could be is the cost. Though Box’s announcement this week that they are essentially bundling this functionality for free in its platform takes that barrier away, at least for Box customers. But a more significant reason appears to be the complexity of configuring and using these systems. It’s simply not worth the hassle for many. And if they are to be charged on top, they don’t bother. A further reason is a lack of trust in the systems. It’s a similar problem that some enterprises see with cloud computing. The cloud or eSignature software may be incredibly secure, but people still don’t trust them. That’s a problem of the software industry’s own making; it’s not the tech, its trust in the technology vendor itself that is often lacking.
Even so, as we move into an ever more digitized world, more & more documents will be notarized, made immutable, and signed digitally. But eSignatures are not the only way forward here. Take, for example, the documents in an insurance or legal claim or, for that matter, medical records. In theory, at least, these are all records and should not be changed. Applying eSignature software to sign each record is impractical and likely never going to happen. In these situations, the logical solution is to mark them as records and automatically register them via a hash to a blockchain. Simple, cheap, trust is decentralized, job done. Despite being logical and straightforward to do, document and file management vendors have not done it yet. But watch this space because that functionality is coming, and it’s something we are excited about. But until it does, we (including the admin side of Deep Analysis) will continue to use eSignature software carefully. We will also continue to pull out the pen regularly to sign and scan contracts.