eSignature – A Critical Component of Transformed Document Workflows

eSignature - A Critical Component of Transformed Document Workflows

This is a guest blog by Holly Muscolino, Group Vice President, Content Strategies and the Future of Work, IDC. IDC is a global provider of market intelligence, consumer data analysis, and advisory services for IT, telecom, and consumer technology markets. This blog is sponsored by Zoho.

Documents drive business. It is hard to imagine business processes that don’t involve some type of document. From product requirements to sales proposals, marketing assets to purchase orders and operating procedures, there are an endless number of document-centric business use cases.

However, manual, paper-based processes slow down the pace of business. Even partially digitized workflows that are interrupted by manual steps are highly inefficient, and, in some cases, difficult to complete. This became painfully obvious during the pandemic, when half of the world's workforce were suddenly working remotely and unable to simply walk down the hall for a signature on that important contract.

Perhaps that is why CIOs told us the word "transformation" most reflects what their organization needs to focus on to thrive in 2024 (IDC's CIO Quick Poll, November 2023, n=153). “Transformation” even beat out “efficiency” and "growth.” Yes, we have been talking about digital transformation (DX) for a long time now, but it has become clear that DX is an ongoing journey, not a destination, and the digital transformation of document workflows is a critical part of that journey.

Many organizations are in the early stages of their document workflow transformation journey. In the U.S., one-third of companies have document workflows that are manual and paper-based or are simply digital versions of paper-based workflows, still highly manual and inefficient (IDC MaturityScape Benchmark: Content-Centric Workflow 2.0 in the United States, 2023, May 2023). These organizations face a number of challenges. Their employees are less productive, and undergo a diminished employee experience, as they perform repetitive manual steps, or they are frustrated by the difficulties in tasks such as finding information, routing documents internally or externally, or getting those documents signed. Customer experience suffers, due to longer transaction times, missing information, or repetitive requests. And manual document processes are more error-prone, exposing the business to greater regulatory and security-related business risk.

The good news is that organizations are investing in technology to transform document workflows, including content services, intelligent document processing, automated document generation, electronic forms, and electronic signatures (esignatures). In fact, 86% of respondents told us that their organization had invested in esignature technology in the past year or planned to invest in the coming year (IDC's State of Content Services Survey, June 2023, n=714). Investments include ongoing usage, subscription, and maintenance fees.

eSignature technology is an important element in improving both the efficiency and the experience surrounding business-to-business and business-to-consumer document-centric workflows that require agreement from one or more parties. We saw esignature technology shift from “nice to have” to “mission critical” during the pandemic, when it was required to ensure business continuity.

eSignature must be a component of an end-to-end digitally transformed document workflow to recognize optimal benefits from the solution. According to IDC's North America eSignature Market Survey (November 2021, n=227), those benefits include:

  • Greater operational efficiency

  • Increased employee productivity

  • Reduction in transaction time and cost

  • Increased security

  • Improved employee, supplier, partner, and customer experiences

  • Reduced business risk

We are seeing esignature technologies that are tightly integrated with other mission-critical applications and/or offered as part of a broader transformed document workflow technology stack. eSignature that is integrated with intelligent forms and automated document generation can facilitate bidirectional data management.

Recently, we have seen exciting esignature-related use cases incorporating generative artificial intelligence. IDC defines Generative AI (GenAI) as a branch of computer science that involves unsupervised and semi-supervised algorithms that enable computers to create new content using previously created content, such as text, audio, video, images, and code. eSignature workflow use cases include:

  • Making a document more understandable and/or readable
  • Summarizing the most important parts of an agreement or other document
  • Highlighting specific keywords or phrases within a document
  • Flagging clauses within contracts that need attention
  • Automating demographic-based translation
  • Setting up renewal reminders or reminders for other activities
  • Enabling biometric checks to authenticate signers

So where do you begin?

Start by evaluating your organization’s existing document workflows, including signing workflows. Recognize that esignature must be part of a broader strategy for transforming document-centric business processes. Select technologies that integrate well with existing front- and back-office applications.

Once you perform that evaluation, you will need to find the vendor and solutions that best meets your need. With that in mind, IDC suggests giving careful consideration to providers that offer a broad, open platform of tools for transforming document workflows.


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