Or: an old-fashioned odyssey marked by long waiting times, inefficiency, costly communication loops, legal risks, and ugly smudges of ink
Sometimes I wonder if my fellow document buddies who already enjoy the privilege of living the dream of the “electronic signature” are aware of my poor existence. They can’t imagine how much it hurts me when they make fun of the cumbersome journey through the realms of “handwritten signature” that I have to go through.
In this blog entry, I want to dare them, and you dear reader—yes, you—to try ‘walking in my shoes’ (which also happens to be the title of a Depeche Mode song, of which I’m a fan). Come with me as I take you on my old-fashioned odyssey to get seen… and signed. My hope is that you will sympathise with my situation and realise that perhaps there is a better way to treat me.
What my life looks like in 2023
In the beginning, there is always this strange thing happening inside a glowing screen. Individual letters gradually form into words, and before I realise it and without being asked, I become a document, with a clear and human-given goal in mind: to be signed by the right parties in a minimum of time and in the most efficient way.
Alright, now I’m created, alive and ready in terms of content. It’s at this point that I always wonder why I am taken out of the screen, only for someone to scribble on me with a blotchy pen and then squeeze me back into that screen through a degrading scanning process—yes, I’m traumatised.
Wouldn’t it be much easier to leave me in this safe environment instead? That way all the relevant persons could immortalise themselves effortlessly, simultaneously and—above all—cleanly! But no, instead the printer is my first stop. You can’t fathom how much I dislike that sound of rattling and hissing. Why do they do this to me? That’s the question that haunts me the most.
What follows next is the humiliating, and for me still the most incomprehensible, thing: the waiting time. By this point, I’ve been lying in the printer’s ejector for over 20 minutes. I’ve already been touched by everyone, almost dumped three times, and still no one has pulled me out.
I’m holding back the tears in my eyes (granted, I don’t really have a pair of them, but let’s ignore that fact for dramatic purposes). Sigh! I think of my buddies who have already been sent on their comfortable and electronic journey—clean and efficient—to these lucky digital people. Am I not important enough?
I wish people would realise that every minute I’m waiting here, all alone, abandoned and unsigned, is a huge risk. It’s baffling to me why these “Stone Age” processes are still in place. I can’t understand why companies still accept to live with this legal uncertainty and stick to their inefficient and time-consuming old processes.
How can it be that these processes still dominate the business world today? We are in 2023 for goodness’ sake! As if risk, costs, and time were no economic criteria at all. Yes, I’m also outraged and wondering who’s going to pay for my therapy.
Finally, I’m in the hands of the first—is it?—signing person. And alas, the so-called “signature hunt” begins.
I’m passed around from one desk to another—I’m once more printed, touched, stapled together, torn apart again, bent, folded, left lying around, squeezed into envelopes or pipe mail, sent by post (imagine the pain when someone stamps on your head), and sometimes I’m even scanned again, emailed to the other side of the world, and printed out another time.
Minutes turn into hours, hours into days, weeks into months, and I’m still not signed and thus not legally valid. It’s humiliating and degrading as I slowly start to doubt whether I will ever be granted to be finalised and turned into a legally valid document. I’m officially in a bit of a panic.
But then, one day, unexpectedly, after travelling through the vast expanses of the real and virtual worlds, my digital journey finally seems to come to an end.
And I couldn’t be more thrilled. The feeling is indescribable—at least for a moment.
The time for change has come
The truth is that my soul has been badly affected by the pain and humiliation of this adventure. I’ve been sent, forgotten, printed, folded, soiled, forwarded, passed around, and now I will have to disappear into the depths of a mail folder or, in the best case scenario, somewhere in the company’s (cloud) storage. Archived for eternity—or at least until the next data migration.
As I now have the headspace to reflect on my old-fashioned journey, I seriously wonder if it’s me that’s the problem. I’m looking to find the fault on my side, but I’m having a hard time with that, especially since I absolutely can’t imagine modern companies voluntarily sticking to those work processes in an era of maximising efficiencies, and where there’s immense pressure for cost saving and a need to decrease legal risk exposure. Sure, I would understand if there were no alternatives, but there are technical solutions and these are very easy to implement and cost-effective to use.
No, it doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps there are still companies out there that are unaware of the huge potential of electronic signature processes. But how is that possible? Companies aren’t like that—they are always well informed, aren’t they? It has to be me!
So, what are my options? I could proactively contact friendly and competent consultants. We would work together to make companies aware of this huge opportunity, so that I would finally join the ranks of the “digital signatures”. Yes, that’s what I will do!
After these thoughts, for the first time in a very long time, I feel I can allow myself to start dreaming of a world where I can live my professional daily life much faster, more efficiently and certainly less crumpled. There’s hope.
Editor’s note: the name of the document has been deliberately anonymised. We are convinced that our readers have heard of such documents and companies, and that they can classify the described facts accordingly.
Starting the eSignature journey
Think of all the potential. In the name of your documents—and yourself—help us make them happy again.
At PwC Luxembourg, we have a cross-competency team that covers all types of industries and considers all relevant business, technical and regulatory aspects.
Whether you are at the very beginning of your reflections and intend to start the full eSignature journey, or are already well-advanced in your selection process and are now looking for implementation support, they can provide you with a customised assistance, based on your particular situation, goals and needs.
Check out the article ‘eSignatures – a big run on the solution’s potential beyond pandemic’ to learn more. Alternatively, visit the Financial Services Consulting page and reach out to our specialists: Jörg Ackermann, Khaled Lachiheb, Moritz Rohloff, and Robert Limpach.
What we think
Thanks to the current initiatives on both EU and local levels to set up a pragmatic and robust regulatory framework, electronic signatures are about to become an integral part of the daily working lives of many businesses and institutions.Jörg Ackermann, Partner, Financial Service Consulting at PwC Luxembourg