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Editorials

eSignatures is Just the 1st Step

How transformation begins AFTER submission.

eSignatures is Just the First Step

eSignatures Today

Electronic signatures, or eSignatures, have become nearly ubiquitous in today’s world. From consumer banking to enterprise B2B, we’ve seen eSignatures quietly replace paper-based, wet signature processes. What previously required a printer or a fax machine now only requires access to the internet and a computer or mobile device.

eSignatures entered the largest vertical of them all, the government, with the passage of the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA) in 1999 and the United States Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) in 2000 respectively. Among immediate improvements were increased accessibility to citizen services and an average form sign time of 45 seconds. And while making electronic something as crucial as citizen signatures is a huge step forward, it is only the first step.

Beyond eSignatures

In government, rare is the form that is truly 1:1 between one citizen and one staff member, or “form processor”. Because of government’s complexity, one form often involves several backend processes, workflows, and the necessity to “route” a submission. While an eSignature can turn a blank form into a technical “submission”, it is only step #1 in the conversion process that turns a citizen request into citizen service. Forms from municipalities SeamlessDocs work with average 2.5 signatures to be “processed”.

That said, since the passage of UETA & ESIGN, technology has evolved faster than most governments can keep up with. The reality is that technology can now automate more than just signatures, including the processing & workflow related to forms. As a result, eSignatures are not outdated, but, as stated, have simply become the 1st step on the path to government efficiency.

Adapting to Government

Government is multi-layered and intricate, often for a reason - to ensure the protection of our information, the rights of others, and ultimately the tangible power of democracy. Those multiple layers demand solutions that are equivalently customizable. For true innovation and technological change to occur in government, solutions will need to mimic those complex processes in order to truly enhance efficiency and streamline government operations as we may know them.

Forward-thinking companies build their solutions to conform and configure to government processes; not go around them. Even an online form solution like SeamlessDocs is not used the same way by partners in Austin, TX as it is in Charlotte, NC. Unique use cases exist at the department level, the county level, the state level and beyond. With that in mind, while eSignatures are at the heart of most online form providers, many solutions fail to understand and build their features around what happens after a form is submitted.

Transforming Process in Golden, CO

A great example is the city of Golden, CO whose implementation of eSignatures with their Fire Permit form only ensured the legality of their process. The other 90% of the form involved requesting a government member to review the location in question, a collaborative decision on the safety of said location, and the input of several stakeholders. Those stakeholders came from the owners of the location in question, the approvers in the Golden fire department, and 3rd party vendors that needed to be kept in the loop.

The eSignature did incrementally improve a lengthy process that involved coming into City Hall to submit a paper form. But again, it was only the 1st step. By using a multi-faceted solution, like SeamlessDocs’ Government Relationship Manager™, Golden was able to dramatically decrease the time from form submission to form completion; allow citizens to send in pictures instead of requesting on-site inspections; and improved the process overall for both the citizen and the internal form processor. 

Ultimately, the eSignature initiated innovation for the Fire Permit process, but true transformation happened with the automation of the complex process that followed the first signer.

While “GovTech” is a fledgling industry, and government itself has a long way to go in regards to employing today’s technologies, the adoption of eSignatures is encouraging. Simply implementing eSignatures on your municipality’s forms will immediately improve citizen experience and reduce barriers to civic engagement. But that small gain can’t be mistaken for that real technological change that occurs with the adoption of end-to-end, customizable tech solutions for government.

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