Continuing our series of blogs looking at how electronic document management can help you in the workplace, we now turn our attention to one area that’s often painful across many sectors. The research has been done, the teams have collaborated and the work is ready to be shared with your client. Now comes the challenge of getting your customer’s feedback and approval on the final output that you’ve all been working on. How long does it normally take? Across many different industries, gaining stakeholder approval is often the final, yet most challenging step in completing a set project.

When there are deadlines at play, getting a physical signature on a hard copy document, can seem an unwieldy and almost archaic step in an otherwise fast-paced, ultra-responsive working culture. How many times have you had to print out a document that has been created and stored electronically, only to have it signed, then scanned back in as a soft copy for final submission or achiving? If every other part of the document lifecycle is digitised, why isn’t approval?

Obviously, there are certain legal and financial procedures, in which only the intended authoriser’s physical signature qualifies as verification. But across different geographies and in different sectors, the electronic signature is being recognised as a valid form of identity in an audit trail. eIDAS , the EU’s regulation on electronic identification and trust services became effective in July 2016 and is expected to fuel electronic signature growth even further. The objective is to increase confidence in digital transactions and to encourage more people to use them by demonstrating their reliability and security as well as their clear advantages over handwritten signatures.

The most obvious of those benefits is timeliness. In its broadest sense, EDM makes day-to-day business processes more efficient. For the approvals process in particular, a good EDM solution will automate the whole process for you: from sharing the necessary documents to hosting them in an intelligent portal, accessible to invited parties only, where documents can be electronic signed off and approved. This speeds up the whole process significantly, especially if there are several approvers who need to sign off a document and busy schedules don’t allow everyone to be in the same place at the same time.

Lastly, digitising these processes offers greater security. The risk of documents being intercepted or going missing as they’re sent to multiple approvers is removed completely. So where documents are highly sensitive or confidential, there is never a need for them to be removed from a secure environment in order to be accessed by an approving party. The signatories are given secure access to the portal and approve the necessary document without it ever needing to be downloaded or stored in a vulnerable location.

In summary, approvals are faster and more secure when they can be done electronically. It’s a pretty powerful argument and one that you might want to bear in mind before you print out that document to get it signed off.

Find out more by downloading our guide to electronic document management.