The Future Of Documents: Signing, Payment, And Automation

Mikita Mikado

Remember when closing an agreement meant that your team had to go through each page of a paper contract with a client, have them initial or sign by hand, then scan and email it back and forth? Thanks to the emergence of e-signature software, those days are gone.

E-signatures are already having a direct impact on the productivity of companies in a variety of ways. In fact, back in 2013, Ombud Research surveyed United Healthcare and found adopting a paperless e-signature process saved the company more than $1 million in administration costs. The provider-contract turnaround was also significantly reduced, going from an average of 32.5 days to only 2.

Others are seeing benefits, too. Salesforce declared in its annual 2014 report an average savings of $20 per document after implementing electronic signing.

As more businesses realize the benefits of document automation technology, adoption rates will grow, furthering development. Business leaders who don’t adopt this technology soon will be left behind with an outdated process that impedes growth.

To keep up, here’s what’s ahead in document automation:

1. E-signatures will become fully commoditized.

Since the passing of the Electronic Signatures In Global And National Commerce (ESIGN) Act in 2000, signing all agreements on paper is no longer necessary. Electronic signatures for e-commerce agreements are legally binding and protected by the same rights as ink on paper. E-signatures are already increasing in popularity because of their convenience, and in a few years, they will be widely accepted as a transactional commodity.

As adoption grows, the demands for functionality in e-sign tools will grow, too. Signing will move beyond even some of today’s e-signature software features, like uploading a saved image of your personal signature or converting your typed name to script. Eventually, signing won’t require any typing. You’ll be able to sign with a voice command.

2. The use of enterprise automation platforms will expand.

Research from Raab Associates predicted revenue from B2B marketing automation would grow 60 percent last year, reaching $1.2 billion. The adoption of enterprise automation platforms will continue to increase as more companies experience the benefits: faster sales cycles and streamlined collaboration.

In fact, 58 percent of top-performing companies — or those where marketing contributes more than half of the sales pipeline — have already adopted marketing automation, according to a 2014 Forrester report. As marketing automation grows, businesses will be able to process more documents quickly, enabling growth.

B2B growth affects the document landscape, too. Sales is most innovative and efficient when it comes to adopting new technology. In fact, high-performing sales teams are the first to embrace new tech tools to streamline the sales process, with 44 percent using offer management tools, according to Salesforce’s 2015 State of Sales Report.

The rate at which sales grows will serve as a predictor of overall growth.

3. Document assembly will be entirely cloud-based.

Today, most sales documents are created and stored locally, either in PDFs or word processing programs. Creating and storing content in the cloud is a relatively new practice for many companies, but with the increased need to be always connected we’ll see a shift to cloud-based content, which can be accessed from any computer or mobile device.

Cloud-based office suites like Google Docs will be standard, almost entirely replacing word processing software. Compatibility will no longer be an issue, as it was with different versions of word processing documents, which will completely alter the day-to-day experience of people who work with documents. The ability to share and edit documents instantly will support tight deadlines and increase expectations for productivity.

4. Integrations will make projects seamless.

Bringing together data from separate systems that don’t otherwise talk to one another results in one complete view of the entire process. Several CRM integrations have already been developed among various document creation and storage platforms to import and keep track of customer data seamlessly.

Open API will continue to provide a vehicle for people to access and share data regardless of where or how it is stored. Extra steps of printing, signing, and scanning will be completely eliminated.

5. Processing and payment will be instant.

With the increased demand for integrations, there will be no need to upload documents into any system for approvals, payment processing, and storage; cloud-based app integrations will take care of that. Not only will it enable instant credit card transactions, but management approval will be simplified through automated requests managers can view and approve anywhere via mobile device.

Payments will be processed instantly within the document itself through integration with tools like Square and PayPal. Eventually, with the rise of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, smart documents will be able to accept payments, completely cutting out the middleman.

Once documents are processed, they’ll be automatically saved and uploaded right into the integrated cloud storage system of your choice. With a few keywords in the search bar, anyone from the team will be able to pull transaction and approval records immediately.

Even if you’re already using a document automation platform, think about areas of opportunity you could be missing. Many of the features that will be the norm in a couple of years are already available; they’re just not yet widely used. Look at how making some simple changes now might give your organization a head start on better sales efficiency.

What are some other changes you expect to see coming from document automation and e-signature software in the next few years?

For more insight on our increasingly connected world, see How To Direct Your Digital Future: 4 Questions.


About Mikita Mikado

Mikita Mikado is the Co-Founder & CEO of PandaDoc, a platform helping sales teams create, deliver, and track intelligent sales content to close deals faster.