It was in the 1990’s that we first talked about signing electronically. The electronic signature enters the French law on March 13th, 2000 after the European directive of December 13th, 1999. Until now, handwritten and electronic signatures coexisted. However, the unprecedented context caused by the covid-19 health crisis forces us to rethink our ways of doing things.

If ordinarily, we could be satisfied with a gradual evolution towards the digitalization of processes, today urgency is synonymous with an immediate change in behavior. Signing electronically is a response to the immediate need to guarantee the sustainability of business continuity plans. (BCP)

The signature in companies

The goal of the signature is to identify identifying the author of a document but in the Work environment, it also has other purposes. Many processes related to companies activity require one or more validations at different hierarchical levels. Validating documents internally, giving approval and committing a person or the entire company are all part of the signature’s remit. For example, in the case of a company with a chain of stores, an operation using the signature as a way of validation makes the progress of projects and the daily flow of information extremely slow. Moreover, despite the relative speed with which the paper signature is carried out, it is easy to imagine that a large number of tasks take up a significant amount of working time.  If we add the occasional obligation to send the signed documents by mail or courier, we multiply the related time and costs to these manual tasks. If the disadvantages of the paper signature are well anchored in people’s minds, we nevertheless note that the transition to a different method of operation is part of a real approach to modernizing global processes. The digital transformation of companies requires a deep willingness of stakeholders to invest in these changes, in order to ensure the economic sustainability of organizations.

Electronic signatures in business continuity plans

The limits of paper signatures are obvious when it comes to dealing with a crisis situation that prevents a company’s employees from going to their workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic, with the result of population lockdown, makes the traditional corporate signature irrelevant. Since no more paper can be used for signing, the change is mandatory. We cannot afford to postpone indefinitely the signature of a document in an economy where reaction time is a real criterion of differentiation and performance. The purpose of a business continuity plan is to ensure the company’s survival in the event of a disaster. It is composed of a risk and impact analysis as well as preventive and curative measures defined beforehand. The electronic signature has, in this crisis, a role which can be double. On one hand, it allows the fluidity of the activity requiring written agreements and it can, on the other hand, unblock companies, in particular in the legal field which cannot work without signed agreement.The electronic signature is, in any case, synonymous with digitalization and modernization, allowing companies to move forward in the validation processes without the use of paper.

To sign electronically, it is necessary to equip yourself with a signature tool. It is also necessary, in the case of signatures that need to be more secure, that the signatory obtains an electronic certificate from a trusted third party, a certification authority. In concrete terms, this is a digital identity card that identifies and authenticates a signatory.  With these elements, a person in charge of signing documents digitally can give his agreement and commit himself. However, it is possible to have a signature tool without using a certificate.

Free from the limitations of paper signatures, validations can still take place even if the signatory in question is not present on the company premises.

Signing electronically : advantages in times of crisis as well as in everyday life

Save time

The most significant advantage of implementing an electronic signature solution is certainly the speed with which repetitive signature tasks are carried out. Initialing a 30-page document no longer has the same implication because the time dedicated to this dematerialized activity is very short, in the range of a few minutes. Moreover, in case of long term telecommuting, it is no longer necessary to wait for the signatory to be physically in the company’s premises for the validation to take place. During a period of mandatory lockdown, it is no longer a matter of saving or wasting time for some companies, but rather of unblocking emergency situations that could not be resolved without paperless intervention.

Reducing costs

If it is obvious that by adopting an electronic signature solution, the use of paper is less regular, the savings do not stop there. Indeed, if there is no longer any need to send or receive paper to sign, the reduction of operating costs becomes even more significant. In a large company with stores spread across the country, this change can easily generate additional funds to be spent on other cost centers.

Ensuring confidentiality of information

In the case of an agreement between two companies, or between two executives, the signature of both parties is required. The paper signature implies having to pass the document through the hands of several people. Not only is paper, by its volatile nature, in no way and can easily be the cause of information leakage, but its content is also accessible to intermediaries between the two signatories. The digitalization of the decision-making process gives a secure framework to the document signature. As we have seen above, the ability to sign electronically with a high level of security requires the creation of a digital identity via a digital certificate. It ensures the integrity of the document and authenticates both parties. From its full name, the electronic signature certificate is, for high security levels, in the form of a usb key (also called cryptographic key) on different levels. In France, they are determined by the RGS (General Security Regulations) from the elementary level : RGS * (without key), qualified (RGS **) to reinforced (RGS ***). The legal framework, at the European level, encompassing both the creation of certificates and the authorities likely to issue electronic identities was born via the eIDAS regulation. (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services). It is intended to oversee electronic identification and establish trust in electronic transactions within the European Union. If you would like to know more about the level of security attributed to oodrive’s solutions, do not hesitate to consult our dedicated thematic page : Our qualifications and certifications.

In a period of relative disorganization due to lockdown, the confidential data of companies must not suffer from the brutal change in the way work is organized. The dematerialization of processes must be a permanent part of company policies, even once the crisis is over.

Signing electronically means adopting a modern position

While the paperless objective has long since become an angle of attack to address the issue of environmental protection, the digital signature is one of the effective solutions to achieve it. Moreover, switching to this new mode of process validation for its employees and customers is a step towards modernity. To ensure that this change occurs smoothly, it is necessary to provide a good framework and explain it, so that this new way of moving forward is implemented in a fluid manner. Assuring customers that the organizational consequences of a health crisis do not impact business continuity through the dematerialization of services strengthens their confidence for the future.

Electronic signature is one of the building blocks of the business activity dematerialization that must be done urgently. The recent events related to the covid-19 crisis make us realize that the production of added value is of course still possible. The digital signature has a lot to do with this, as it literally unblocks the situation of companies that depend on it. Now, they are not only allowed to keep working, but to do it better