When “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” hit the charts in 1970, Stevie Wonder was already a household name. However, this was his first self-produced single where he insisted on artistic integrity, and critics point to this album as a turning point both in his commercial success and his genre-crossing style.

I’ve needed a driving, anthemic song to get me through a week of impressively tedious database tasks (spring cleaning is starting early), while working on the next big project – namely, rolling out e-signature functionality at my job. As I tinkered with the properties of the e-signature tool that we selected, I can’t help but let my mind wander, incredulous at this technology that was likely unthinkable even 15 years ago.

Right now, my team downloads contracts one at a time, reviews them, signs them with pen and ink, scans them, emails them, and waits for a reply. This is a time and labor intensive process, however it’s still significantly more advanced than Ye Olde Days of mailing documents! Counting review and revisions, I can only imagine that those contracts could have taken weeks, if not months, to finalize! And yet the status quo is now unacceptably time consuming, and alternatives exist that can reduce the whole exercise to mere minutes. Do you have processes like this at your org?

The more we streamline in this arena, the more processes must be centralized and determined ahead of time – because one-off manual editing just isn’t an option. The biggest question for us is identifying who is authorized to be the signer of these documents. In the paper format, you could just hand it to the person at the next cubicle. With e-signature, it’s not quite that simple. Plus, we don’t want to offend anyone by not including them in the initial signature request. This creates a bit of a technology quandary, which we decided to solve by introducing custom code into our system which queries a list of contacts and ensures that each person is granted “viewing” or “signing” privileges according to the role they play in the administration of the contract. We could have decided to do this manually… but talk about tedious! How have you handled manual data entry like this?

Next, we have to revise our contracts, paying attention to things like page breaks, signature/initials, dates, special clauses, and anything that is manually revised before it is sent. This will take some time, but I know it will be worth it! I also have to face the music that our template wasn’t as good as I originally thought it was, and all of that clean up really takes a toll. If we can work our contract templates to a higher standard of excellence, then we will save time and earn more trust in our system. Do you have technical debt or systems that just don’t quite work?

Finally, we need to have clear parameters for compliance. Our e-signature platform can track data about people opening, signing, forwarding, and other actions related to the contract. We can track these activities using reports and dashboards. But… what do we really need to know? Prioritizing the right info for data driven decision making is not easy!

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Perhaps you can imagine my surprise when my dad contacted me this week about … guess what? … e-signature! He needed to submit a virtual form for one of his students, but it didn’t come with an intuitive way to affix his John Hancock.

Photo by Vazha Meladze on Pexels.com

No, not thaaaat kind of e-cig! Tsk tsk!

I was able to use this fancy “business suite” in Adobe that I pay for through my biz – it includes features like editing PDFs and e-signature. All I had to do was download his doc, put in a signature box, and send it back for him through the program. This allowed him to sign it with a verified datestamp, and immediately provided us each with a finalized, executed doc. The turnaround time (once I stopped procrastinating) was almost instant.

As we increasingly live in a virtual world, with e-meetings, e-signatures, e-baby namings, full e-lives (!!!)… and as our patience for processes that are anything less than instant dwindles… I wonder about what this does to us. At the same time, I worry that spending so much time shuttling documents around for paper signatures doesn’t make much sense, either.

Being able to offer my dad peace of mind, and being able to give my coworkers hours back in their day, motivates me to embrace this new technology. I hope that it opens us up for more genuine connection, full experience of our 5 senses, humor/joy, leisure time, and patience/generosity/grace when technology doesn’t go according to plan. But I’m still holding the big question: does using new tech save me time or cost me time?

Ah, well, I have been typing away at this lightup box for quite a while. I think it’s time for a shower and some knitting before the day is over. Perhaps the balance I desire has been here the whole time, baked into my beloved routines.

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