Electronic signatures are a perfect way to digitize processes and completely rethink them to make them more efficient, eliminating the diseconomies that often characterize traditional processes.  

The legal value and the possibility of using them in multiple situations makes them a strong tool in support of digitalization.

What is an electronic signature?

The electronic signature is a technology that makes it possible to sign a document or contract without printing it and without affixing a handwritten signature on it. 

When signing a contract electronically, we associate a set of electronic data, which creates the electronic signature itself, to another set of electronic data, which forms the document or the contract we need to sign.  

This could simply be done by clicking on a button, for example.

Scrive, which is Doxee’s partner for electronic signatures, ensures the evidence of these key elements thanks to the Evidence Package, a set of information that describes all of the different events the document undergoes, and that is attached to the signed document itself.  The Scrive Evidence Package, which set the industry standard is attached to every signed document. It is a detailed and, most importantly, complete collection of high-quality evidence encompassing every event in the document signing process, from the moment the author finishes preparing the document for signing until the final signed document is digitally sealed.

Are electronic signatures legally binding?

Electronic Signatures are legally binding thanks to the three elements inside the Evidence Package that must always be present and clear, regardless of the format of the document – paper or digital, and they define the lifecycle of a signed document – from the moment it is shared with the counterpart, to when it is signed. 

The 3 elements that that ensure the legal value of a signed contract can be summarized as follows:

  • the evidence of intent,  i.e., the intention of the signatory to agree with the document and its content 
  • the identity of the signatory  
  • the integrity of the document itself, ensure it has not been tampered with.

Evidence collected in the Evidence Package consists of audit logs that show, for instance:

  • A screenshot of the agreement in the Scrive UI, to demonstrate intent   
  • Proof of the identification of the signer, which could be their email address, phone number, or other means of eID   
  • Time references that show the exact date and time of events, such as identification, opening of the document, and signing  
  • Finally, a digital signature (or digital seal) is affixed to the signed document: this will prevent it from being tampered with and ensure its integrity

When we talk about electronic signatures in any European Union country, we should always first consider the eIDAS Regulation, which regulates the different types of electronic signature and with different characteristics from both a technological and legal point of view. This is why using and implementing e-signature solutions offers a strong opportunity to create new services and generate greater efficiency in normal business and digital onboarding processes.

Why use an electronic signature to simplify your digital processes? 

Implementing an electronic signature helps speed up signing processes, as it makes it possible to sign a contract anytime, anywhere, and from any device, be it a personal computer or a smartphone.  Depending on the specific process and type of contract, you can choose the  electronic signature solution that best fits the requirements. These are just some examples of the benefits of the electronic signature, which makes it possible to reach the final goal: to simplify a digital process. 

Among the immediate benefits, there are: reduced management costs,  streamlined timing of processes, and the possibility of obtaining signatures with full legal value in just a few steps, even when there is more than one signatory.

Basic Electronic Signatures (BES) and Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES) are often the best option when it comes to digitalizing onboarding or signing processes: they combine the need for efficiency with the need to have legally binding documents. BES and AES are easy to use and are free of charge for the signers. Furthermore, users do not need to manage new personal credentials, passwords, or additional devices, such as smart cards or USB tokens. An email address, a mobile phone, and a means of identification are all that they need to access the document and sign it.

What you can do with electronic signatures

In recent years, nearly all purchasing processes have been transformed into online transactions, from the purchase of all types of products, to the signing of contracts, and from the supply of services and insurance contracts to the creation of a new bank account. 

Many of the transactions that have now been transformed into digital processes were once only possible in the presence of or with the essential support of an operator. 

This is exactly what we mean when we talk about digital onboarding. Digital onboarding consists of a process that digitizes all the steps that are necessary to allow a new customer to proceed with the purchase of a product or to activate a service.

You may wonder why we introduced this concept and what it has to do with electronic signatures.  

Every relationship with a customer, whether a new customer or an existing one, can be turned into a digital relationship, making it more efficient and satisfying on both sides.  But how?

To implement a digital onboarding process, we need to start by looking at each of the steps of the customer relationship and understand how we can best digitize them, ensuring that we always offer the necessary support and make up for the absence of the “human” component, i.e., contact with the operator.

That’s exactly when electronic signatures can be successfully integrated, as a tool that turns the moment of acquiring the signature into an efficient, frictionless, and time-saving process. If we take the Italian scenario as an example, research shows that:  

  • After the COVID-19 pandemic, 68% of Italians expect to be able to reach out to companies through digital channels (IlSole24Ore) 
  • Digital onboarding, including the electronic signing of contracts, is one of the top 10 investment priorities for the banking sector (ABILab report, 2022).

So, let’s dive into a couple examples and see how to use electronic signatures to unlock key digitalization opportunities.

A use case : the utility sector 

An activity that resulted in shorter queues at in-person counters in favor of digital is the purchase of new contracts for multi-utility supplies and the subsequent management of all phases and related activities. In this case, a Basic Electronic Signature solution can be used effectively, possibly in the form of a “robust” BES. The easiest way to increase the value of an SES is to use an OTP code (one time password) to be sent to the signer, via sms, app, or email. Sending the OTP code to a device owned by the signer is a form of authentication by them and allows the person to further confirm their willingness to sign that particular document.   

The necessary documents can easily be made available for signature by email or by uploading them on a dedicated web area, and it becomes possible to create an increasingly rich and personalized digital customer experience.  

In addition to the dematerialization of contracts and subscriptions, it is also possible to create processes where other interactions between the company and the customer no longer take place at the counter or over the phone, but digitally. With the right workflow in place and the necessary touchpoints and calls to action, you can offer customers the option to make an appointment with an operator or activate a new service with just a few clicks, thus creating cross-selling and upselling opportunities. All the documents can be made available for signature by email or through a dedicated web area, and it becomes possible to create an increasingly rich and personalized digital customer experience.

The electronic signature in HR documents 

A simple electronic signature can also be used to dematerialize and streamline certain HR reports and processes. For example, a simple electronic signature can be used when requesting vacation time, a leave of absence, requests for training, or expense claims. In this regard, it is worth mentioning a recent clarification from the Italian Revenue Agency, which is contained in response no. 740 of October 20, 2021, regarding the management of expense reports, a very common type of document in HR . The Italian Agency’s response clarified that digital expense reports do not require a qualified electronic signature or an advanced signature by the employee, thus making it perfectly plausible to employ a basic electronic signature.

The electronic signature for privacy notices  

Privacy policies can be signed through a simple electronic signature solution once the signer has the chance to properly view and read the document itself. This could also be implemented via email or the information can be made available on a special web area that the signer accesses with a pair of credentials. The call –to action for the signature, in the form of a point-and-click solution (e.g., a button that clearly expresses the willingness to sign the document) can be placed at the end of the disclosure so that the signatory can properly view it.

The electronic signature for the approval of quotes and purchase orders  

The acceptance of an estimate or a purchase order is another activity that can be done by affixing a Basic Electronic Signature, thus digitizing and bringing efficiency to these types of transactions. Also in this case, the basic electronic signature allows you to streamline processes that would otherwise require the exchange, printing, and scanning of various documents to acquire a handwritten signature. These steps are significantly reduced, if not eliminated, with the adoption of a digital approach.  Moreover, the legal value of a basic electronic signature is clearly defined in the European eIDAS Regulation, while the same cannot be said for scanned handwritten signatures.


Article co-written with Scrive.