Manage approval and signature processes digitally

Digital work, without constant switching between online and offline, increases process efficiency, saves costs, and contributes to a more sustainable use of scarce resources. Good reasons for companies to introduce electronic signatures to avoid media disruptions.

Digital signature – a door opener for holistic process optimization and document governance

Process efficiency, cost savings, sustainability – many good reasons for introducing a digital signature. Companies that take a holistic approach to their internal approval and signing processes achieve a whole new level of process optimization, compliance, and legal certainty.

With the digital signature, business processes can be reduced by up to

40%

accelerate.*

Employees wait on average

5-7 days

for a release in the form
of a manual signature.**

* e-commerce-magazin
** d-velop

What is a digital signature?

As the name suggests, the digital signature is a signature that is no longer given by hand on the printed document, but digitally – i.e., online. The electronic signature, as it is called in the legal context, fulfills the same purpose as a handwritten signature on a paper document: it serves to make the signing person identifiable and the integrity of the signed – electronic – information verifiable. As a rule, electronic signatures fulfill this purpose better than their analog counterparts, since the integrity is easier to verify and the person signing the document is easier to identify.

Digital signatures: legally binding – yes, or no?

There is a lively debate as to whether, and if so in which cases, electronic signatures may be used instead of handwritten signatures on paper. You can read all about the current legal situation and recommendations for action for up-to-date and legally compliant use of electronic signatures in our whitepaper.

The three types of electronic signature and the electronic seal

In many cases, these are documents that establish legal relationships. For this reason, the eIDAS Regulation has been in force since 2014. The core of the EU directive is electronic identification and transactions within the European area. Contracts can be signed in a legally binding manner purely electronically without having to print them out first. The eIDAS defines different types of digital signatures with different security levels. Not every digital signature can be used for all contracts or documents in a legally secure manner.

Simple electronic Signature

The simple electronic signature consists of data in electronic form and is linked to other electronic data. It is considered the weakest form and can be generated, for example, by inserting a scanned signature or confirming it by e-mail. This type is mainly suitable for transactions with low legal risk. For companies, it can therefore be used mainly for internal documents, such as the booking of a business trip.

Advanced electronic Signature

The advanced electronic signature is created with a unique signature key. This is uniquely assigned to the signing person and thus enables electronic identification. The creation is based on the use of electronic signature creation data, which is used solely by the signing person and any change to the signed data is detected. The advanced signature is therefore suitable for business transactions with medium legal risk. In the B2B context, it provides an appropriate legal basis for offers and contracts.

Qualified  electronic Signature

The qualified electronic signature has the highest legal security and probative value. It is based on a qualified certificate, a secure signature creation device, and is suitable for transactions for which a handwritten signature is required by law – for example, employment contracts. For the signature to be recognized as qualified, the used certificate must be created by a qualified trust service. The qualified electronic signature is suitable for all documents and contracts for which the written form is required by law.

Electronic seal – a digital stamp

Electronic seals are used when legal entities, such as companies or public authorities, sign documents digitally. Instead of a natural person, such as an authorized signatory, the legal entity signs by issuing its electronic seal. This is like a digital company stamp that proves the integrity and origin of the document. Recipients can trust that the electronic document was issued by the corresponding organization and is genuine.

„With ESCRIBA and the digital Signature, we were able to reduce the process for creating employment contracts from 6,25 hours to just 45 minutes. Processes that previously tool several weeks can now be completed in one day. “
Anke Klöpper

Project Manager at ENERCON GmbH

What does the eIDAS-Regulation regulate?

Since June 2016, trust services can be offered in all 28 EU member states and in the EEA in accordance with the eIDAS regulation (“Electronic Identification, Authentication And Trust Services”). The core of the EU directive is electronic identification and transactions within the European area. On this basis, contracts can be signed in a legally binding manner across borders purely electronically. Accordingly, signature products that are approved in other EU countries can also be used in this country. Article 25 (2) of eIDAS states that a qualified electronic signature has the same legal effect as a handwritten signature. Only it is therefore legally equivalent to a handwritten signature and can digitally replace the written form on paper required by law. The burden of proof is reversed for the qualified electronic signature: Anyone who claims that the signature is forged must prove this to the signatory – making it the strongest form of evidence in court of the three forms of digital signature.

The use of electronic signatures in the company represents a gain in efficiency, as contracts can be signed by multiple parties in the blink of an eye. There is great potential for savings here, as not only time but also costs for paper, printing and mailing are eliminated.

Companies that are considering the introduction of digital signatures should take a closer look at the entire issue of authorization and competencies. A company-wide analysis of signature processes makes it clear that much more is signed than is required. Although digital signatures are significantly less expensive per unit, they also generate costs. Internal processes do not necessarily require a signature. A simple approval, for example in the form of a checkbox, is often sufficient. Nowadays, this process can be represented in a technically very simple and comprehensible way.

Transparency and process control with the digital signature directory

It must be ensured that the person signing is authorized for the signature process and has the appropriate competencies. This clarity about the company’s internal authorizations must be given for all processes – even more so when signing a contract.

That is why we recommend that companies create a competence and signature database as a first step. Along the organizational structure, it is defined who may release and sign which documents and what form is required for this. If this signature directory is now mapped digitally, multi-level processes and approval instances can also be automated with workflows.

ESCRIBA Document Signing and Approval Manager

Document Signing and Approval Manager (DSAM) lets you document authorization-driven approvals and manage digital signature processes for all documents and contracts.

  • • Mapping of signature directories and authorizations
  • • Digitally mapping multi-stage processes and approvals
  • Optimize approval and signing processes
  • Integration of any number of systems and clients with access to active directories possible
  • Connectors for all common signature providers available
  • Support of classic signature processes with original signature and subsequent scan

The ESCRIBA Document Signing and Approval Manager provides you with exactly these functions. In addition, our No-/ Low-Coding App ensures that all data relating to the signature status – for example, the type of release or signature used, the authorization in place, the person signing, etc. – can be clearly displayed, permanently documented, and specifically evaluated

How can companies proceed with the introduction of digital signature processes?

In general, all types of contracts are free of formal requirements. Exceptions, such as employment contracts, are regulated by law and must be signed with a qualified electronic signature under German law. In terms of legal certainty, however, this is always recommended if there is to be incontestable traceability to the signatory or if a handwritten signature is used analogously.

Companies must ultimately decide for themselves whether and which form of electronic seal or electronic signature they want to use for legitimation and authentication. Digital signatures – regardless of their form – should not be implemented merely for the sake of technology. The positive effect on the efficiency of everyday work processes and the possibility of significantly simplifying and accelerating them should be at the forefront of the decision-making process.

Document classification
Analyze all your existing document types and define for each of them the security level related to the signing process.
01
Signature directory
Determine along your organizational structures and the roles they contain, which persons (groups) are allowed to create and edit as well as release or sign which document types
02
Document governance
Define an authorization concept for document creation based on the signature directory and set up digital workflows that ensure the implementation of this with corresponding logging functions.
03
Approval and electronic signatures
Our analysis shows that a simple, technically documented approval is sufficient for the majority of around 70 percent of HR documents. Set up a system-supported approval function with log data for identified processes. For the remaining processes, integrate one of the standard signature providers. For qualified electronic signatures, look for providers that use a certified trust center.
04

Just one step away from secure digital signatures

We advise you comprehensively on all steps and analyses in the context of digital signatures, signature and authorization directories, and the implementation of document governance. In addition, you can implement a comprehensive technical solution for your company with our ESCRIBA Document Signing and Approval Manager (DSAM).

DSAM runs on our no/low code platform. This means that the app can be quickly adapted or extended to your needs at any time. Our platform is fully integration-ready, and we can easily connect existing systems or signature providers via our interfaces. This means that you not only benefit from a fast go-live but can also react immediately to changes and feedback. Document templates, processes and system integrations can be adapted and improved in near real-time.

If desired, we maintain and operate your applications in our cloud and optimize your processes according to your requirements. This creates better business software in an agile process that remains permanently up to date.

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ESCRIBA - No-/Low-Code Technology for digitizing data- and document-intensive processes
ESCRIBA is your digitisation expert! As a provider of software solutions and IT projects based on no- and low-code technology, we work with our customers to develop agile and sustainable digitalisation solutions for more quality, efficiency and lasting competitive advantages.

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