At some point in your life, you’ve probably had to digitally sign a document. When you did, you probably made use of eSignature software. But what is eSignature software, exactly? And how can you choose the best platform for your needs?
How eSignature Software Works
The main goal of any eSignature software is to make it easier for people to collect signatures on important pieces of paperwork, such as contracts and partnership agreements. Typically, this is done with a host of different features, which could include any or all of the following:
Document creation and collaboration tools.
Though not a universal feature, many eSignature platforms have built-in tools to make it easier to create documents, manage those documents, and even collaborate with other people.
You may have a collection of different templates to work with, which you can modify to suit your business’s needs, or you may have the opportunity to create and manage your own templates.
You may also have the option of sharing your document drafts, while in progress, with other members of your team or your clients so they can make reviews, make recommendations, or even make live changes. This makes it easy to create contracts that everyone agrees on – and saves you time in the process.
File storage and sharing.
By extension, most eSignature software tools also offer some combination of file storage and sharing. Using cloud computing, you’ll be able to store copies of all your contracts, from first draft to final signed copy, digitally.
You can also share those files with other people as needed and retrieve them when necessary. For example, when it’s time to collect signatures from specific parties, you can use your eSignature platform to send an email to each person from whom you need a signature.
Before you can collect a person’s signature, you’ll need to verify their identity in some way – and most eSignature platforms make this easy. You might be able to verify a person’s identity by sending them an email, providing them with a special code, or even asking them to log into a previously created account. You may even be able to verify a person’s identity by collecting a photo of their government-issued ID. Your signers can then create accounts for future access and future signing needs, using strong passwords and security questions to verify their identity later on.
Interactive signing tools.
After receiving a notification that there’s a document that needs to be signed, your recipients can make use of interactive signing tools to easily sign the document.
Oftentimes, the design of the eSignature platform will intuitively guide the recipient to the lines and sections that need to be completed; they won’t need to go through any complex tutorials or learn any new skills to complete these fields.
Depending on requirements and the capabilities of your platform, signers can either click to add a digital signature and/or draw their signature from scratch. They can use a mouse or a touchscreen for either of these processes.
Electronic record preservation.
One of the most important features of any eSignature platform is its ability to preserve electronic records of each signature collected. The platform should record a history of actions taken with the document, including any modifications and added signatures. It should collect the date and time each signature was provided, as well as the IP address and/or physical location of the signer.
eSignature platforms may also offer additional tampering protection, “sealing” the document once all parties have signed it and preventing further alterations. Because this electronic trail can be audited and reviewed, it’s possible for anyone disputing a signature to get more information.
Overall, this greatly increases the security of collected signatures – and may help businesses stay compliant.
Integrations with other platforms.
These days, most eSignature platforms also offer convenient integrations with other platforms. For example, you may be able to integrate directly with your CRM platform to gather customer details, or directly with a sales platform to make it easier for your salespeople to manage contracts with prospects and customers. If the platform has an open API, you should be able to easily integrate with other platforms and tools as you see fit.
Choosing the Best eSignature Software
Choosing the right eSignature software for your business can be tricky, especially since there are so many eSignature platforms to choose from on the market today. However, you can narrow down the list easily by identifying your biggest personal priorities and weeding out the candidates that can’t meet them.
Make sure you thoroughly review not only the tools and features available to you with each platform, but also the security and privacy assured to you by each.
Digital signatures are highly secure, even compared to traditional “wet” signatures, but nothing is completely foolproof. The more secure the eSignature platform, the better.