Will Everyone Be Using 100% Web-Based Signatures in 4 Years?

Chris CrumIT Management

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Last month, Adobe announced that it had acquired EchoSign, a provider of electronic signatures. WebProNews recently discussed the evolution of e-signatures and cloud-contracting and the future of the technology with EchoSign's Founder and former CEO Jason Lemkin (now working for Adobe).

"Although electronic signatures were validated when Bill Clinton signed the Federal E-SIGN Act into law on October 1, 2000, some still question the legitimacy of e-signatures," the company said in an email. "Companies like Groupon, Aetna, Dell and Comcast are all early adopters of this technology and now Adobe EchoSign hopes to make this technology common practice for businesses everywhere. Paper agreements have always presented a frustrating, expensive, time-consuming process for businesses and Web-based contracts offer a sustainable IT practice that gets more deals signed in less time, with less hassle."

When asked about what specifically users of Adobe products can expect as a result of the acquisition, Lemkin said, "EchoSign is an important and central piece of Adobe's web-based Document Exchange Platform, which includes document and file collaboration at Acrobat.com; file sharing from SendNow; web forms from FormCentral; and the CreatePDF and related PDF web tools."
"Beyond the Acrobat web services, EchoSign during the next 90 days will be integrated inside of the 500,000,000 copies of Adobe Reader, followed by the enterprise-approved Adobe Acrobat," he added. "Anywhere you create, collaboration, or review a contact -- EchoSign will be there with Adobe."
On strides made in the digital signature space, he told us, "There have been two key accelerators. The first was the rise of modern, 100% web-based Web 2.0 business services like EchoSign that made it possible to sign contracts on the internet or any mobile device (e.g., iPhone, Android, iPad, etc.) without having to learn, install, or download anything."

He said it works "just like email and like the other great web products you use every day."

"The second key accelerator was the rise of the 'web worker', i.e. the company and office worker than spends much of their day on the web, using web tools," he added. "Once you've already adopted Salesforce or NetSuite or Adobe Connect in your business -- closing customers and contracts with EchoSign then just seems like another natural way to enhance your customer and sales processes using the web."

How are digital signatures changing business?
"First, they are accelerating business," Lemkin told WebProNews. He said their average customer signs contracts in 42 minutes, which is down from a week or longer otherwise.

"Second, and just as important, they are dramatically improving the customer acquisition and on-boarding experience," he said. "Forcing a customer to find a fax machine to do business with you just isn't acceptable in 2011.  Too much friction, too dated of a customer experience."

What does the future hold for e-signatures?
"Ubiquity," he says. "You'll see us in 500m desktops with Adobe Reader. You'll continue to see EchoSign integrated everywhere, from DropBox to Evernote to Salesforce to NetSuite to Xobni to wherever your documents and contracts live."
"Beyond that, in 4-5 years, we won't even really use the term e-signatures," he added. "Because everything will be signed on the web.  Just like we don't even really need to talk about 'digital photography' anymore, since hardly anyone uses analog film."

What will it take to make e-signatures more mainstream? More trusted? 
"We're there," he said. "We've crossed from the early adopted to the early mainstream phase. Now all it will take is a little time.  In 24 months, everyone you know will be using e-signatures. In 48 months, everyone will be using 100% web-based signatures, period.  A 'written' signature will feel as dated as a can of ISO400 Kodak film."

Will we get there 100% in 4 years? I'm not sure about that, but that is a long time in technology terms.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.