[Column] Andy Papastefanou: eSignatures- A modern system of agreement
In the digital age, the world is innovating at an exponential rate. As 4IR drives digital transformation, electronic signatures are becoming ever more prevalent. Now the question arises; how does one prove consent?
With many varying mediums being used to manage contractual agreements, a modern system of agreement becomes imperative. Thanks to ongoing digital transformation, eSignatures offer a reliable, trackable guarantee that an electronic document is authentic. Soon, one will even be able to use WhatsApp to finalise agreements.
The key is to opt for an eSignature that relies on an innovative consent engine to ensure identity, consent and context are verifiable. According to Andy Papastefanou, founder of Impression Signatures, there are four key components to a reliable eSignature: engagement, agreement, trust and management.
Engagement relates to how the document is presented to the parties for signature, be it via WhatsApp, USSD/SMS, email, push notification, etc. With a unique, omnichannel engagement platform, users are empowered to enjoy communication and seamless channel shift across several digital channels. As a result, agreements are always available, regardless of the device being used.
“Taking a unique approach to WhatsApp contracts, Impression Signatures also holds the patent for USSD message acceptance as a form of electronic signature,” he adds. “Considering WhatsApp in the view of the overall consent engine, this feature – which is unique to Impression Signatures – will offer far more than more than a Chatbot experience.”
Agreement relates to the process the document goes through from its generation to signature, and storage. From designing, generating documents and prefilling them with data from trusted sources, to sending signature requests to all relevant parties, and returning it to the storage service of choice, every step ensures compliance and full agreement.
Trust is essential, and an advanced eSignature offers this in abundance with a unique Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model driving onboarding, digital identities, and managing Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). This ensures that the agreement process remains compliant and that the integrity of the transaction is maintained.
The Management of these documents and digital signatures ensures a fully transparent chain of custody. This allows parties to track who signed the document when, and where. Users of Impression Signature software can also track documents throughout their journey via dashboards, noting when and where requests are opened, how the document is paged through, signed and ultimately returned.
In practice, what sets the home-grown Impression eSignature apart is its ability to allow parties to engage – even when they do not have a smart phone. “The focus for all technological development should be on true digital transformation, touching every part of the country, not just people with a fancy phone,” adds Papastefanou.
At ABSA, for example, the Impression team used this technology to enhance Merchant Onboarding, specifically with regards to applications for speed point machines. “We essentially built a SaaS model, whereby the ABSA consultant would visit the merchant with an iPad and capture their details. The process was handled 100% digitally, with the merchant receiving a USSD message on their phone to accept the details of the contract, and once clicking ‘Accept’ the eSignature was applied, and the speed point could be handed over immediately.”
This drastically decreased turn-around times for the delivery of the speed points, as well as the paperwork and amount of communication required between the parties before an agreement is reached. With this reduction in laborious admin, the consultants could see more clients in a day, significantly increasing productivity.
In the medical field, USSD and WhatsApp are also being used internally at a large hospital group to ease the administrative burden on doctors. Using a USSD model, doctors receive a message that requires them to authenticate that they have the authority to view a document – in this case, financials that require approval. Once authenticated, the doctor can open the financials on his/her phone and approve the documents immediately.
“Through this modern system of agreement, a legally binding process has been completed in minutes rather than hours, all with a reliable chain of custody underpinning the handling of the documents,” concludes Papastefanou.