It’s never too late to plan a party. Tomorrow is National ESIGN Day, intended to commemorate, celebrate, and encourage the use of electronic signatures.

Why June 30? Because it’s the 15th anniversary of the U.S. National ESIGN Act, “which declared paper signatures and electronic signatures equal under federal law,” writes David Roe in CMSWire.

What makes support for electronic signatures so important? In many cases, a signature is the only requirement that keeps an organization from taking a particular procedure completely paperless.

Some research shows that requiring physical signatures can add, on average, 3.1 days to a workflow process, while in 22 percent of organizations, the signature requirement adds a full week. Research from Forrester found that 22 percent of organizations said that electronic or digital signatures were the single most important thing they needed to become a more digital business.

In fact, often the signature holding up the whole process doesn’t even need to be “wet,” or in ink. It’s simply a mistaken belief that an ink signature is required or is in some way more secure than an electronic signature.

“Relying on paper for the memorialization of transactions and upon manual signatures for verifying them are most likely to impede electronic transactions, adding to their costs,” writes the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. “And there is no benefit to any party to an electronic transaction, with very few exceptions, in requiring that they be memorialized on paper with signatures that are manual.”

E-signatures, Roe writes, paved the way for the digital transaction management (DTM) market, a sector that’s expected to grow to $30 billion by 2020, according to Jim Lundy of Aragon Research.

Sadly, e-signatures have not caught on the way one might hope, Roe writes. According to research, about 60 percent of employees still print and sign documents, then scan them back in to their document management system, while 64 percent print, sign, and file paperwork manually.

And this is all happening when employees are out of the office more than ever before, between business travel and working from home.

But e-signatures reportedly offer many benefits, Roe writes. For example, they allow users to:

  • Experience 80 percent faster turnaround time
  • Save $20 per document
  • Generate five times more customer loyalty
  • Ship 117 percent more proposals per rep and per month than non-users
  • See ROI within six months (37% of the time)

One of the things that’s held e-signatures back is the lack of a notary. But along with e-signatures, there are now e-notaries, at least in Virginia, writes the New York Times.

“As of 2012, Virginia became the first state to allow certified notaries to use technology to notarize documents remotely, with the signers being anywhere in the world,” the paper writes. “Signers must appear before the notary by means of a live, two-way video conference, and the notary must keep a recording of the meeting.”

Meanwhile, supporters of e-signatures still have to struggle sometimes. For example, in Kentucky,  Independent gubernatorial candidate Drew Curtis was recently told by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s chief election official, that online signatures wouldn’t count toward his petition because the office wouldn’t be able to compare signatures with voter identification cards.

So just how does someone celebrate ESIGN Day, anyway? By giving it a try, if you haven’t done it before. Then, look for times that signatures hold up a workflow, and research requirements in your location and industry for what it would take to allow e-signatures instead.

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