PDF In-Depth

How e-signatures empower the Web 2.0 business

August 23, 2007

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Editor's Note: This article is part of Planet PDF's 'Sponsor Focus' series, which outlines various PDF implementations and the roles Planet PDF sponsors play in those solutions.

As the technology of e-signatures continues to grow and as the use expands, more and more companies are turning to this affordable signature automation application as a way to "virtually ink" all their business documents.

Not only does using this technology empower those who want companies to adopt a more green enviro-friendly stance and utilize less paper, but in terms of expediently closing business deals, e-signatures literally empower customers to sign on the virtual dotted-line in the blink of an eye.

In both the UK and U.S., legislation has been enabled for several years to permit the use of electronic signatures as a legal form of signature. However, the challenge has been how to accelerate the e-signature usage in every day business transactions and how to make the technology affordable for businesses of all sizes including small to mid-sized businesses.

One of the leading companies in terms of e-signature roll-out and continued development has been EchoSign. In 2005, EchoSign entered the market with a Web 2.0-focused contract signature automation service that manages the business process of getting contracts, signed, tracked and filed.

The application was targeted at making e-signatures as easy to use as written, paper-based signatures and does not require any additional IT resources for implementation. The Web-based service offers a fully secure, user-friendly way to sign, track and file all customer contracts. The application also supports written signatures, in case some customers aren’t comfortable with e-signatures.

Every transaction is recorded in the contract signature process and is saved as a detailed PDF audit trail, and all contracts are converted to PDF documents in the process.

EchoSign has "virtually inked" deals with customers including British Telecom and Cisco and is leading the way for a ubiquitous adoption of e-signatures across several business verticals.

The company also has tapped into the blogosphere and features an activeblog for users and virtual ink aficionados alike.

Gartner recently said of EchoSign in terms of its expanding the market usage for e-signatures, "EchoSign offers a contract management application that is noteworthy because of its innovative, e-mail-based electronic signature functionality and its architecture as a solution for mass-distribution contracts. This tool is all about simple functionality for consumer agreements and other contracts, such as HR notices and sales contracts that must be signed, returned and presented online..."

While analysts posit that e-signatures are still in the early adoption phase — at least in terms of e-commerce and B2B — it may come as a surprise to some that it was seven years ago when Clinton signed the e-signature bill into law in Philadelphia.

The Electronic Signatures Act gave online "electronic" signatures the same legal status as a formal signature signed on paper. Clinton was quoted at the time as saying, "Soon, vast warehouses of paper will be replaced by servers the size of VCRs."

So while vast warehouses of paper still exist, e-signatures and their growing usage portends a bright future for inkless agreements worldwide.

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