The old adage that "time is money" comes to mind when thinking about the amount of time it takes for two parties to agree on something and actually sign a contract. For many parties, it seems to take an eternity.
The reason that most of the time spent preparing these contracts is a waste is because most of them are pretty standard documents. But time and again, salespeople return to the office to pull together all the paperwork that needs to be signed by a customer. Unfortunately, a lot of time goes by while those documents are prepared, which all too often creates a window of opportunity for the customer to change his or her mind.
What's needed is a simple way for customers to electronically sign a contract using a mobile computing device. That's pretty much what the folks at EchoSign have created in the form of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application that allows customers to digitally sign a contract. No special software needs to be embedded across the existing enterprise applications. Instead, EchoSign can be invoked from a mobile computing device and integrated with the rest of the organization's enterprise applications via a standard application programming interface. For example, EchoSign most recently embedded its service inside customer relationship management (CRM) software from Salesforce.com
EchoSign CEO Jason Lemkin is predicting that 2011 will not only see adoption of digital signatures go mainstream in business, but it will also be the year that business contracts will be embedded into social network applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. We already see thousands of businesses advertising their services on social networks. Lemkin says it's only a matter of time before businesses decide to close the self-service loop by allowing customers to sign contracts using their login credentials on social networks.
And while such a change may seem trivial, it's really the next major evolution of digital contracts that first started with fax technology that eventually evolved into digitally scanning signed contracts and e-mailing them as attachments. The next wave of digital contracts simply eliminates the need to actually print out the document.
In fact, by this time next year, the degree to which your business is able to support digitally signed contracts will say a lot more about how sophisticated your business operations are than just anything else. After all, printing contracts is not only environmentally unfriendly, it's also the first real business impression your company makes.