Could An Electronic Way To Sign A Business Document Open The Way To Paperless?

Spot what’s wrong with this sentence: the majority of business executives think paper signatures are still the ‘gold standard’ of authenticity needed for important contracts and order forms.

And that’s a conviction that also means they demand their organisations maintain vast paper archives – as all that paper has to be what’s needed for their compliance needs.

If you believe in the power of paperless working, I guess that wasn’t too hard a question!

But it’s still astonishing that the ink signature has such a totemic value in modern business.

We’ve just asked our global membership about signatures and paper, and some interesting information came back. (The survey was taken using a web-based tool by 430 individual members of the AIIM community between August and September last year, by the way.)

No less than 56% of the sample confirmed that that’s what they thought.

Nearly a third (31%) of respondents admitted most of the paper documents they retain are only there for that ink signature at the bottom.

The problem is that with the imminent EU eIDAS regulations on their way, we are in a confused state about when an e-signature has a role.

Big headache

eIDAS, in case you don’t know, is coming into force at the end of June – so only three full months away and is going to finally clearly define where and how such things can and can’t be deployed.

But our data suggests a lot of people are just confused. Keeping paper files because of a mis-guided belief that signatures are required for compliance needs to be addressed, clearly.

But you can’t blame business people – a big part of the issue is the confused morass of legislation across the EU, which has been a big headache for global firms to navigate.

A key last barrier to paperless?

We think the members of thedmcollaborators community need to help here.

That’s because eIDAS could be the solid basis at last for full corporate rollout of e-signature technology, which will be fully EU-regulation compliant – and help remove the last big block on us helping users get rid of all that paper, stubbornly kept in the mistaken belief that those signatures need to be on pulp forever!

So to sum up, e-signatures are a great way of reducing paper in business processes – which is something we can all sign up to!

The author is Chief Analyst at AIIM Bob L’Arrivee @BobLarrivee.

Many of the issues Bob L’Arrivee discusses here are addressed in greater depth in a special free AIIM resource, E-Signatures in Europe: Understanding the legal requirements for proof of intent, available for download here.

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