Electronic signature: The benefits and how it works
What is an electronic signature?
An electronic signature is a cost-effective and secure way to get electronic documents signed quickly. E-signatures are legally binding in the vast majority of countries around the world and can carry the same weight and legal effect as an inked or handwritten signature.
Electronic signatures are generally legally binding, but it does depend on where you live. Find out all you need to know here.
E-signatures can also be different from digital signatures–If you want to know more about the difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures click here.
The different types of e-signatures
Oneflow offers both simple (SES) and advanced electronic signatures (AdES). The simple e-signature comes in many forms which include the following:
This is the most commonly used form of electronic signatures where you sign with a click of a button through a private, encrypted link.
SMS or text message
If you choose to sign with an SMS or text message, your signer will receive an SMS with a 6-digit code, and they will use it to confirm their identity when signing the contract.
Handwritten signature is also known as wet ink signature. and can be convenient when you want your signer to sign “on the same device”. This method enables you to draw or write your signature, and has the same legal effect as a standard electronic signature.
E-signature guide: Electronic identification
This method allows you and your counterparty to sign your contracts using electronic ID. To provide secure and reliable eIDs and advanced signatures in a wide range of countries, Oneflow partners with Signicat, the leading eID broker in EU/EEA and a Qualified Trust Service Provider.
Is an electronic signature secure and safe?
Here, we’ll focus on Europe. So, in short: yes. Electronic signatures are secure and safe.
A core part of eIDAS is the recognition of electronic signatures as a valid form of signatures. This means that no EU/EEA court can dismiss an electronic signature solely because it is in an electronic format.
However, not all signatures are created equal and the regulation defines three levels of electronic signatures: ‘simple’ electronic signature, advanced electronic signature and qualified electronic signature. The requirements of each level build on the requirements of the level below it, such that a qualified electronic signature meets the most requirements and a ‘simple’ electronic signature the least. Find out everything you need to know here.
If you’d like to know more about the legality of e-signatures, read our blog post here for more information.
What are the benefits of using electronic signatures?
Speed up time-to-sign
When negotiating contracts, the entire printing, signing, posting, etc. process can take days, if not weeks. Once the recipient receives the documents, they will repeat the same process of printing the document, signing it, and posting it to you. This back and forth process is frustrating and time-consuming. With a digital contract, you can close a deal within minutes using e-signatures. Some digital contract software, like Oneflow, also allows editing the contract after it’s been sent so that you don’t need to rewrite and reupload a contract every time you make a change.
Review and sign anywhere
The modern world loves the idea of on-the-go. Make it easy for your counterparty to review and sign your contract anywhere. Have them sign it from any device, from the mobile phone, laptop wherever they go as long as there is the Internet. E-signatures make it easy for anyone to sign from anywhere.
Stay secure and compliant
Move the entire contract signing process from a manual process to a digital workflow, reducing risks of costly errors and legal consequences. With some digital contract software like Oneflow, you can have customizable user permissions, BankID signing, and internal reminders to stay compliant and secure.
Creating and managing electronic signatures
Signing is just one part of the contract lifecycle and what gives Oneflow that extra special something over other e-signature products on the market today is its comprehensiveness across the process from pre-sign to post-sign.
- Creating contracts using templates
- Live collaborating before and after sending
- Storing contracts in an organized archive
- Set internal reminders for resigning periods
- Export processable data about the contents of your contracts
Which departments benefit from e-signatures?
E-signatures streamline the sales process by eliminating the need for physical paperwork and manual signing. Sales teams can send contracts, agreements, and proposals to clients electronically, allowing for faster turnaround times. E-signatures enhance the customer experience by reducing delays and simplifying the signing process, ultimately accelerating deal closure and revenue generation.
For more information about the specific features sales teams benefit from, read here.
HR departments deal with numerous documents that require signatures, such as employment contracts, offer letters, onboarding forms, and employee policies. E-signatures simplify the HR workflow by enabling digital document signing, eliminating printing, scanning, and physical storage. This improves efficiency, saves time, reduces errors, and enhances the overall employee onboarding experience.
If you want to learn about the specific features HR teams benefit most from, read here for more information.
IT & Ops
IT and operations teams often handle contracts, vendor agreements, service-level agreements, and other operational documents. E-signatures enable these departments to streamline processes by digitizing document signing. IT teams can also benefit from e-signatures when obtaining approval for system changes, software deployment, or access permissions. E-signatures reduce administrative overhead, improve compliance, and facilitate faster decision-making.
For more information about the specific features IT&Ops teams benefit most from, read here for more information.
Legal departments frequently handle contracts, nondisclosure agreements, legal notices, and other legal documents that require signatures. E-signatures provide several benefits to the legal team, including faster turnaround times, increased security, improved audit trails, and reduced costs associated with printing, shipping, and storage. E-signature solutions often include advanced authentication and encryption measures, ensuring the integrity and authenticity of the signed documents.
Finance departments handle various financial agreements, such as invoices, purchase orders, vendor contracts, and expense reports. Implementing e-signatures simplifies the financial processes by enabling digital signing, reducing paperwork, and improving efficiency. E-signatures also provide faster access to financial documents, enhance compliance, and offer an audit trail for tracking signatures and approvals.
To read more about the specific features finance teams benefit most from, click here for more.
Features to look at when picking the best electronic signature software for you
Browser-based vs PDF-based contract creation
Pick a software that allows you to create contracts in a dynamic browser based format, instead of only uploading static PDFs. This capability will benefit you in the short run by making live editing and collaborating easier, and it will also help you in the long run by allowing you to download the metadata from all your contracts to make data-driven decisions.
Having different teams using different electronic signature providers can result in an auditing and legal nightmare. Make sure your software has the capability to meet all of your teams needs, and can host all of your different teams’ templates with user permissions so that employees only see the contracts relevant to them.
Live collaboration & editing
With remote work, it is more important than ever to be able to collaborate with your colleagues and counterparties directly in the contract software. With a service like Oneflow, you can edit live with your colleagues and leave internal or external comments.
Electronic signatures guide: Contract archive
Storing your contracts in a software that is different from your sending software adds an additional point of risk. Employees can forget to store the contracts, store it in the wrong place, or forget about it when it needs to be renewed. Pick a software like Oneflow that has automatic and searchable storage, and internal reminders for all contract lifecycle events.
Electronic signature FAQs
Which are the levels of e-signatures according to eIDAS?
Not all signatures are created equally and the regulation defines three levels of electronic signatures: ‘simple’ electronic signature, advanced electronic signature and qualified electronic signature. The requirements of each level build on the requirements of the level below it, such that a qualified electronic signature meets the most requirements and a ‘simple’ electronic signature the least. More information here.
Are electronic signatures legally binding in my country?
One of the most frequently asked questions by our users is whether electronic signatures are legally binding in the countries where they are operating in.
First of all, it’s important to understand that even though eIDAS regulation sets up a framework to help businesses perform safer transactions into all countries in “European Single Market” and cross-border within the EU/EEA, the local legislations in each country vary. In many cases, the local legislations take precedence over the eIDAS regulations and furthermore, legislations are continuously updated.
This means that unless you’re consulting a lawyer specializing in this field of law in the country you’re operating in, anything that you read on the Internet will have a “this is not a legal advice” disclaimer to avoid disputes.
Oneflow develops, sells and implements digital contract management and automation systems. We, being the provider of a SaaS contract automation platform, as well as many electronic signature providers in the industry, are not in any credible position to advise anyone or any business in legal matters.
The only thing we can do is inform you how Oneflow works, how the different levels of signatures are implemented and on which assumptions the system operates. It will always be up to you as the user to ensure that you use the appropriate kind of signature for your kind of document and circumstance.
How do electronic signatures in Oneflow comply with the signature levels in the eIDAS regulation?
Oneflow offers electronic signatures at simple (Simple Electronic Signature, SES) and advanced level (Advanced Electronic Signature, AdES).
The simple level has no requirements beyond “data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign” (eIDAS Article 3). All our simple signatures do this and much more. We also collect multiple points of data for each signature, making even the simple level in many cases more secure than a traditional handwritten signature.
The advanced level puts strict requirements on the identification of the signatory and its control over the means of signing. In Oneflow this is handled by the various eIDs that can be used for signing. We also include the actual signature, as given to us by the eID provider, into the signed contract so that it can be later checked and validated.
As described above, in the section on “How does the eIDAS regulation apply to the EU/EEA and beyond?”, Oneflow does not offer legal advice and cannot tell you which type of signature you need in your specific case (kind of document and circumstance).
What are the differences between electronic seals vs electronic signatures?
The legal framework as well as the technical implementation for seals are in most respects identical to signatures. The main difference between the two is that signatures implies legal intent on behalf of the of the signatory, which is not the case for seals.
The three levels of signatures, SES, AdES and QES, exist for seals as well and are somewhat confusingly named the same, namely Simple Electronic Seal (SES), Advanced Electronic Seal (AdES) and Qualified Electronic Seal (QES).
Which are the three types of electronic signatures?
There are different types or levels of electronic signatures according to the eIDAS Regulation: SES (Simple Electronic Signature), AdEs (Advanced Electronic Signature), and QES (Qualified Electronic Signature).
SES (Simple Electronic Signature)
The definition of an Electronic Signature under Swedish and EU law means that “means data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign” (eIDAS Regulaton article 3).
As there are no specific security requirements laid down by law, it is not possible to determine the legal value of such signature without evaluating the method and security applied in the specific case.
AdEs (Advanced Electronic Signature)
As the name suggests, it is an advanced form of signature that offers more security than a simple electronic signature. It can also identify the person who has signed the document.
This type of e-signature allows you to detect if someone has tampered with the signature after the signatory has put it on the document. These signatures are made secure with the help of cryptographic keys.
According to eIDAS Regulation, an advanced electronic signature means “an electronic signature which meets the following requirements:
- it is uniquely linked to the signatory;
- All parties are capable of identifying the signatory;
- it should be created using electronic signature creation data that the signatory can, with a high level of confidence, use under his sole control. And
- it is linked to the data signed therewith in a way that any subsequent change in the data is detectable.
QES (Qualified Electronic Signature)
The eIDAS Regulation defines qualified electronic signature as an advanced electronic signature that is created by a qualified electronic signature creation device. which is based on a qualified certificate for electronic signatures”.
These signatures are advanced e-signatures but must adhere to certain EU standards. (i.a. based on a so called qualified certificate), which means they offer additional protection controls over the advanced counterparts.
You create this signature with the help of a device that’s specifically designed to create e-signatures. A court must normally admit these certificates the same legal value as a handwritten signature.
What’s the difference between an e-signature and BankID?
Both e-signatures and Bank ID offer a secure way of digital signing and authentication. They serve as legally-binding signatures, providing integrity and authenticity to electronic documents. Both ways of signing also let you sign anytime, anywhere.