Aligning E-Signature Software with Business Processes

According to a May 2012 report by the market-research firm Gartner, “Growth in the e-signature market is becoming viral, and there are significant benefits to adoption for those organizations that plan ahead.”

Gartner said the overall market for e-signature software and services experienced explosive growth of 48% in 2011, reaching $164 million. Gartner projects similar growth for 2012.

Driving this increase in e-signature usage is the emergence of SaaS providers of e-signature software, which have made the technology more affordable and widespread. And as e-signature technology becomes more ubiquitous and accepted, it becomes even more attractive as a fundamental element of any enterprise contract management system.

But in the rush to take advantage of the numerous benefits of e-signatures, there’s the risk of not having an adequate strategy to use the technology to positively impact the bottom line.

Aligning E-Signature Software with Business Processes

For companies considering a move to e-signatures, it’s best to use e-signature software that’s integrated within software that is used to create a comprehensive enterprise contract management system. This integration allows for greater grains in contract completion rates, contract life cycle reduction, contract size, and customer satisfaction than if e-signature adoption is an isolated initiative.

As with any element of enterprise contract management systems, e-signature adoption should be focused on improving actual business processes—not on the technology itself. The technology isn’t worthwhile if it doesn’t result in increased revenue, increased productivity, lower costs, or some other tangible benefit.

Therefore, when planning to implement e-signature software, enterprises should evaluate what they want to accomplish, and then select e-signature software that provides the features and functionality that are essential to achieve those process improvements.

Understanding Different Uses

An example of concentrating on this alignment with business processes is appreciating how e-signatures will be used in different contract scenarios.

For mediated contracts, the e-signature software should be able to provide support to company representatives in the field or call centers as they negotiate and help customers complete the contracts. However, in non-mediated contracts completed over the web, the e-signature software’s function will be to directly assist customers as they complete transactions, with human support provided only for exceptions, technical issues, and content updating. If the software doesn’t work equally well in both scenarios, then it isn’t fulfilling its potential.

For highly complex contracts, particularly those that involve third parties, the focus should be on ensuring that the e-signature software supports multiple transactions and users in a convenient, reliable, and easy-to-use manner. It should reduce — rather than increase — the logistical challenges of coordinating a large number of documents and signatures.

E-signatures can also be useful for internal purposes such as validating internal agreements or signing off on progress — a benefit that is often overlooked. Meeting these internal needs will require different e-signature interfaces and features than are necessary for external contracts.

Allowing for Customization

In addition to tailoring their e-signature programs to varied scenarios, an enterprise will need to be able to configure rules, process flow, dashboards, etc. to fit its unique needs based on size, industry, and other factors. E-signature software that isn’t suitably customizable will almost always fail to deliver a satisfactory experience for end users.

Customization is also important in allowing the e-signature software to be integrated into the analytical features of the enterprise contract management system because each organization’s strategic information needs will vary.


E-signatures are becoming increasingly popular, but without a well-developed plan to properly align the technology with specific business goals and the overall contracting process, the full potential value of e-signatures will almost certainly not be achieved.