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eSignature is not enough: the rise of pre- and post-signature automation

At Every Turn TakeTurns Blog
|  by
Christophe Barriolade
Christophe Barriolade
Co-founder & CEO
eSignature is not enough: the rise of pre- and post-signature automation

Lots of organizations, including TakeTurns and many of our customers, make use of electronic signature solutions (e-signatures) such as those from DocuSign (the market leader), Adobe Sign, SignNow, PandaDoc, GetAccept, and  HelloSign (now DropBox Sign) [1] 

Nearly everyone agrees that using these solutions is way more efficient than running down wet signatures[2] or sending faxes (faxes? here’s an explanation for our Gen Z readers).  And the reason isn’t because of some special technology inside eSignature; it’s because these solutions have eliminated much of the manual effort involved with requesting, tracking, and receiving the signatures and executed agreements. Or the value of these platforms is that they removed many of the low-value tasks associated with signing. 

That said, when we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, we can see that the “signatures” step is actually a small step in the middle of a much bigger process. And when we look at the steps that precede and follow signatures, they’re filled with the same kinds of administrative, coordination, and manual tasks (and crazy amounts of back-and-forth email)  that used to plague the signature step before e-signature came along. eSignature solutions themselves don’t address these problems because they’re entirely focused on making the final execution of the contract more efficient, not simplifying that complex process of contracting, which usually involves multiple rounds of back-and-forth revisions and redlines. 

To be crystal clear, here we’re talking only of things that happen between the parties involved in contract negotiation, not what happens internally within each party (e.g., contract lifecycle management, drafting, analysis, internal approvals, etc.).  All that said, we think the process might look a bit like this:

The three steps of contract negotiation and execution

Consider the pre-signature step 

The evaluation, strategizing, countering–or negotiating–around the other party’s proposals is the hard, high-value work we want our people to focus on. So when we look at ways to improve productivity in pre-signature, we should be focused on removing all the overhead tasks and emails that are used to coordinate and administer the collaboration. As we discussed before, email creates a huge burden for both parties. And another problem is that you and your counterparties use your own tools and processes to edit and review documents. It’s important to agree on the way to collaborate without forcing parties to change their workflow and learn new tech. [3]

Now consider what happens in post-signature 

Wrapping up properly is important for maintaining good record-keeping hygiene. Not just the executed agreement but the entire history of the negotiation, including preceding drafts, and chats and messages between parties. However, these wrap-up tasks themselves are tedious, tiresome, and time-consuming. As described in our post about how “email is not an archive”, this leads to situations where lots of organizations don’t really wrap up. They hope (i.e., pray) that their email system will meet the mark when required.  The solution here is to adopt capabilities that can automate the wrap-up process, so the tedium is not inflicted on your personnel. 

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Improving pre-and-post signature is what TakeTurns is focused on. 

We’re focused on removing all the low-value work and back-and-forth email that distracts from the real work of the collaboration–working with the other party and coming to an agreement. In fact, some of our users have taken to describing TakeTurns as DocuSign for pre and post-signature. We take that as a compliment 😏

TakeTurns is your one place to share, collect, and collaborate on business-critical documents and files with your clients, vendors, partners—or any external organization. It turns that clutter of emails, attachments, shared folders, and messages into a structured, secure, and transparent TakeTurns Flow.  Ready to improve how you collaborate externally? Try TakeTurns for free.

[1] If you’re in the market for an e-signature solution, one source worth looking at is Gartner Peer Insights (the reviews are pretty informative).  That said, it’s pretty clear that DocuSign has the most market share in the eSignature space. Publicly available reporting estimates DocuSign’s share between 75% (undated article Deloitte) to 52% (2023, Slintel).   Also, if you are more generally interested in e-signature, the aforementioned Deloitte article is a good read. They point out that eSignature solutions only streamline the process of obtaining a binding electronic signature. They don’t get you out of the requirement to verify the identities of the people you’re seeking signatures from.  It’s similar to the comments our users from the legal profession have made about inadvertent data disclosures. 
[2]  It’s worth pointing out that the wet signature process isn’t only signing a physical paper document, form, or contract with pen and ink. It can include additional security measures such as notarization, where the signatures are witnessed by a third party, i.e., a notary public, who has verified that the person or persons signing are authorized or required to sign the document. And medallion signature guarantees (MSGs), where a bank officer (or other financial institution) has verified the identity, signature, and legal authority of a person transferring securities and investments. The main way that an MSG differs from notarization is that the financial institution that provides the guarantee assumes liability for any forged or unauthorized signatures.
[3] We bring up the use of different tools and workflows because of something we’ve noticed in the marketing of contract lifecycle management solutions (CLM). CLM tools have traditionally been focused on automating and streamlining an organization’s internal contract processes. Lately, these solutions seem to have been pushing the idea that things would be perfect if (and only if) everyone adopted the same solution. While that’s a terrific idea in theory, in reality, everyone has different tools and processes.  Or, most users of these CLM tools don’t compel their counterparties to adopt their tech. Instead, they act as a “manual interface” between the CLM and their counterparty. They download, email, and upload docs between their counterparty and CLM–basically doubling up on all the administrivia.

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