Forget flying cars and jetpack-powered individual travel. The great unmet technological need of our time is the paperless office.
From paper checks to business cards to receipts, the physical document obviously pervades the American workplace. Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of electronic signatures, or e-Signatures. So I reviewed Docusign, a sophisticated electronic signature service simple enough for any office manager.
Doing the scan scan
Almost every business needs some form of document signature, whether it’s a contract or a personnel tax form. When dealing with remote clients or workers, most businesses rely on the PSR method: Print, Scan and Return. All too often, this process breaks down at one of three points:
- If the digital doc doesn’t have form fields embedded, the end user has to hand write everything. In the PC (and post-PC) era, that results in returned documents that are impossible to read.
- Legibility is also determined by the scanner. If the signer doesn’t have a good quality scanner (or doesn’t know how to properly use it), even the best penmanship is reduced to pixillated mush.
- Finally, the signed and scanned document is returned to the sender. But will it be TIFF, JPG, PDF or an image embedded in a Word document? Document administrators can end up spending too much time converting documents to a common format.
Where DocuSign works
When investigating the different e-signature services, I thought the big problem would be creating the electronic document with form fields. This is actually one of the easiest parts of using DocuSign. You start with an existing document — any Microsoft Office document, PDF, or even image file will do. DocuSign even integrates into the most popular cloud-storage services, which is great news for Box, Dropbox, and Google Apps users. Docusign then gives you a drag-and-drop interface for creating all your form fields.
Once your fields are in place, you send it on to your recipient. They sign it electronically, and both of you receive a copy, watermarked with a Docusign unique ID.
My business uses contractors regularly. Before Docusign, I had to create a separate MS Word file for each contractor, and send it via email. What I’d get back might be legible, or it might be 60 dpi scanned hell. With Docusign, I create an envelope and attach my pre-built W-4, NDA, and Contractor’s Agreement. I get to fill out my part of the docs first, then it goes to the contractor. I usually have my 100 percent legible, wholly completed, and electronically signed docs within the day.
What Could Be Improved
Administrating a Docusign account can be quite cumbersome, especially when you are handling several user accounts for a single business. I found the process for sharing templates and documents among users to be especially problematic. For example, say you have 3 user logins for a single account, and then you add a fourth. You want this new user to have access to the templates and documents created by the other three. Well, you have to go into the sharing options for each of the other three and add the fourth as a share.
E-Sign on the Dotted Line
There are other services with similar offerings, most notably Adobe EchoSign. However, the very minor issues mentioned aside, the end-to-end process of transforming a regular ol’ office document into an e-signature goody bag is the bread-and-butter for Docusign. If your department or business needs to collect signatures on a regular basis, you will find the price (from $19.99 per month and up) to pay for itself from the first document you send out.