Electronic signature became a legally binding way to sign documents in the United States 12 years ago on June 30 via the ESIGN Act signed by President Bill Clinton. Today, people have used electronic signature to legally sign documents in nearly every country of the world, and businesses in virtually every industry use eSignature daily to finish business faster than ever before.

The leader in electronic signature solutions, DocuSign, reports that more than 15 million people have DocuSigned more than 120 million documents in 188 countries. These kinds of stats illustrate how widely eSignature is adopted around the world today.

How did the ESIGN Act come into being? In the late 1990s the Internet was spreading around the world at a breakneck pace. Technology leaders recognized the traditional way to formalize and commit to an agreement—using pen, ink and paper, as we’ve done for centuries—actually slowed the incredible speed of business the Internet makes possible.

At that time, a document was often created, reviewed, revised and even sent for signature electronically, but the all-important signature process still required paper—not to mention a printer, toner, and a fax machine or FedEx. The so-called “wet-ink signature” stood in the way of making that document live entirely electronically—and the document took weeks and even months to process and complete.

So why not just take an image of a signature, drag it onto a Word document and send it by email? ESIGN Act advocates recognized without guidelines that define a legally binding electronic signature, there was too much insecurity and too great a potential for fraud. The ESIGN Act was passed to help protect businesses and consumers. The guidelines are designed to provide assurance that a document was signed intentionally, by the correct person.

Since 2000, the adoption of electronic signature across businesses has increased at an exponential rate. Consumers’ comfort level with Internet technologies and the recent explosion of mobile use has led thousands of businesses to adopt electronic signature. According to DocuSign, the benefits include:

  • Accelerated transaction cycle times – Businesses using eSignature report increased close rates by 80% or more and accelerated document cycle time from weeks to just minutes which in turn increases speed to revenue.
  • Lowered costs – Costs for paper, printing, faxing, and overnighting are reduced significantly.
  • Increased productivity – Businesses may reduce man-hours in rekeying data by easily integrating with systems that automatically update customer-inputted information and store signed documents.
  • Enhanced client satisfaction – Through eSignatures, businesses provide convenience and superior service with anywhere, anytime signing.
  • Verification of signers’ identity – Third-party identity management and authentication ensures safety and security.
  • Increased compliance – Documents signed using the leading eSignature solution are returned in good order—complete and legally-binding—with a court admissible audit trail.

eSignature runs the gamut of industries and verticals: financial services, insurance, technology, healthcare, life sciences, media, communications, real estate, property management, staffing, and higher education. The opportunities to accelerate your business deals are now endless. Anywhere a signature is needed,  eSignature is possible.

Image: antisocialtory via Flickr