What are e-signatures?
An e-signature or electronic signature is the virtual version of a handwritten signature, used for electronic documents or forms. The e-signature securely links a signer with a document in a recorded transaction. It is completely legal and can replace the handwritten signature in virtually any process.
How are e-signatures used?
Here’s a typical example of when an e-signature is used;
- An email is sent to the signatory with a link which will then take them to a site hosted by the e-signature service.
- They can then preview the document, usually through a web browser to avoid software incompatibilities, and sign the document by either typing their name or, in some cases, signing the document with a touch-enabled device like a smartphone or a signature pad.
- As part of the process, the e-signature platform captures the signing time which is recorded in conjunction with the signature.
- You will then be offered the option to add documents into the transaction if you need to do so, which you can also sign or request to get signed.
How do e-signatures work in Dynamics 365 ?
Designed with the Sales department in mind, implementing e-signatures into Dynamics 365 CRM helps you close deals quicker. You can route contracts to the necessary people, allowing decisions to be made and contracts approved within minutes.
The simplicity of the process can be seen when using, for example, DocuSign with Dynamics 365 CRM. The “Sign” and “Get Signatures” actions are preconfigured so you can easily send or sign a document.
This time saving will benefit your salespeople. According to Harvard Business Review research as much as 21% of a salespersons time is taken up by admin. By switching to e-signatures, salespeople will become more efficient and effective.
If you’re an SMB who already has high digital implementation; you’re a Dynamics 365 user, for example, then most of your paperwork will already be digital, making e-signatures much more appropriate. This also means salespeople can easily share the correct information during negotiations and then round things off smoothly by obtaining an e-signature. This fast turnaround between negotiations and signing is often the key to the sale.
Should you opt for DocuSign for Dynamics 365, they provide you with an audit trail of edits and notifies every signer when a document is changed. This increases the visibility of the sales process, giving you more control.
How will e-signatures improve your business?
- Cost Reduction. You will save money on paper, printing, mailing and storage. As well as lost time spent on sending out and trying to retrieve important documents.
- Risk Mitigation. By using the audit trails and the analytics you can keep tabs on the paperwork every step of the way.
- Time saving. With the time saved through getting the sign off, decisions can be acted upon much quicker, maintaining the enthusiasm and momentum about these changes, making them more effective.
- Better Customer Satisfaction. With e-signatures, you are offering the client the opportunity to sign anywhere they want, at any time and on any mobile device. The experience of signing will also feel much smoother on the client side.
The Main Providers
DocuSign. With more than 200 million users worldwide this is a proven, reliable e-signature provider with a strong reputation. This massive userbase is largely down to the provider’s numerous integrations. It works with any Microsoft Word template, it is compatible with Dynamics 365, Google, Apple and Windows.
DocuSign places emphasis on the security they provide, investing in industry best practices for protecting data and using strong encryption technologies.
They’ve had their application for Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs) approved which is the EU’s highest level of certification for data transfers outside the bloc.
Adobe E-sign. Similarly, this also works well with Microsoft Office products. Although slightly expensive if not used frequently, they offer personalisation and availability from both PC and Mobile devices.
Assure Sign. Known for its easy-to-use interface, this platform enables users to sign via the on-demand SaaS platform, on-premise installation or through a hybrid cloud.
Secured Signing. This offers a more cost-effective approach to e-signatures if you only have a few documents per month to sign. They also have a video confirmation feature where you can identify the signer for extra security.
Types of E-signatures
eIDAS (Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services) is an EU regulation on electronic identification for electronic transactions in the EU, and it defines 3 types of electronic signatures:
- Simple E-Signature: This is the most common type. You will come across this when, for example, you open an email with a document to be signed. This document contains a name where it needs to be signed. You select a generated signature image and click a button to confirm you are happy to return this as signed.
- Advanced E-Signature (AdES): This is a more secure option than the simple version. This type requires that the private key used to create the e-signature is under the sole control of the signatory. This could be through an application on their phone which they need to use to validate that the signature is their own.
- Qualified E-Signature (QES): This is the digital version of having your signature witnessed ‘as done on pen-and-paper’. It is the same as an advanced version but with the added security of electronic validation of the signature by a third-party Trust Service Provider (TSP). Once the signature is given through the app, the TSP looks at all the associated criteria and validates that everything is in order. Each country has their own dedicated TSPs, they are often generated from public owned institutions e.g., the Post Office.
How Do E-signatures Work?
E-signatures use a standard, accepted format called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) – a technology you may have come across if you’ve ever looked into cryptocurrencies – to provide the highest level of security and universal acceptance.
PKI requires the provider (e.g., DocuSign, Adobe E-sign) to use a mathematical algorithm to generate two long numbers, called keys. One is the private key; the other is the public key.
When someone signs with an e-signature, the signature is created using the signer’s private key, always securely kept by the signer. The mathematical algorithm creates data matching that document, called a hash, and encrypts that data. The resulting encrypted data is the digital signature (this is the name for the specific technology implementation of e-signatures).
This process implements the time of the signing of the document into the data. Should the document be changed after the signing, the digital signature becomes invalidated.
As an example, Mary signs an agreement to sell her car using her private key. The buyer receives the document. The buyer who receives the document also receives a copy of Mary’s public key. If the public key can’t decrypt the signature it means the signature isn’t Mary’s or has been changed since it was signed. The signature is then considered invalid.
To protect the integrity of the signature, PKI requires that the keys be created, conducted, and saved in a secure manner, often requiring the services of a reliable Certificate Authority (CA). Digital signature providers meet PKI requirements for safe digital signing.