The accountancy profession is often cited as an example of how an industry sector can be effected by the introduction and adoption of new technology. These technological changes however, are not always driven by the actual profession, trade or industry but more often by a technology provider. They identify an inefficient process or workflow and begin to research and then developing a technology that replicates the process digitally and delivers business benefits and improved efficiency.
The rise of one such innovation that enhances and improves the transformation of a common business process is associated with the exchange and signature of business documents. Millions of transactions now take place every year electronically. Documents are exchanged and submitted, approved and electronically signed.
The adoption of this technology process by many governments has transformed the way many individuals and professional companies submit tax returns. In the USA alone, 91 percent of taxpayers filed their returns this way in 2016.
The reasons for the rise in the adoption of such technology are wide and many but the key motivations for the use and future adoption are simple.
- Time and Convenience
Time is a precious commodity. A simple task can sometimes take longer than it seems: A document from your lawyer needs approval! You are sent the document. You review the document. You ask for amendments. You may print it out. You may sign it. You send it back. Why waste time printing out and then sending back when it’s just as quick to approve using digital tools? Why spend time in your car travelling to your lawyer to sign a form when it’s just as convenient to sign it digitally on-line?
With a digital process or workflow, businesses can electronically send documents for exchange, approval and electronic signature. A customer can view, electronically sign and return documents remotely. There are no travel costs, no labour cost lost travelling, no postage costs, no printing costs.
As general data protection regulations are becoming more stringent and digital threats rise, it’s important that these new processes protect their users. Concerns about the security of on-line Document Exchange or e-filing processes may exist but these new solutions are generally more secure than other traditional methods of delivering, reviewing and approving documents.For example, advice is given that traditional email communication is not a secure method of sending and receiving documents, particularly emails that contain sensitive business or personal information, such as personal identification numbers, bank details, payroll numbers or financial records and documents. This is just one reasons why many professionals from the accounting, insurance and other financial industries prefer the use of secure portals offering the secure delivery, exchange and electronic approval and e-signature of documents.
Certain types of online approval, specifically electronic signatures, provide greater levels of security than a basic digital approval, so it’s important to be aware of what type of approval methods you use. Although e-signatures have been around for a number of years, the massive increase in the use of these types of electronic business approval processes is relatively new.
As the electronic signature continues to develop it’s worth keeping up to date with what’s happening; the UK government offer ongoing guidance on electronic signatures.