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Real World Information Management Use Case: Route and Sign Documents Electronically

This article is one of a four-part series presenting real world use cases of information management solutions like M-Files. Check out the other three here:

You might be surprised to learn that one of the most meaningful, long-term, positive changes that you can make to your business ties directly into something that a lot of us probably take for granted: electronic signatures.

According to one recent study, adopting eSignatures has allowed 92% of financial institutions in particular to cut scanning errors in their workflows. Another 66% of them were able to significantly reduce missing files, thus improving data quality.

Another recent study indicated that businesses in all industries save between 55% and 78%, on average, when moving to electronic signatures from paper — taking into consideration things like materials, administration and subscription costs.

But maybe the most important statistic of all is the following: obtaining a signed document the old-fashioned way — meaning via a hard copy — tends to take about five days on average. The time to obtain an electronic signature?

About 37 minutes. 

Obtaining signatures is an essential part of doing business — regardless of the industry you’re operating in. But still, a lot of people have difficulties in this seemingly simple process and they’re paying enormous costs because of it.

With the right information management system like M-Files, however, you’ll be able to make it all easy, simple, and efficient. You’ll be able to use technology to support and empower your workflows, thus allowing you to focus less on the administrative side of the equation and more on building a successful business, exactly as it should be.

The M-Files Approach to Routing and Signing Documents Electronically

Overall, M-Files is a tool designed to eliminate the hassles, the costs, and even the security risks inherent in paper-based and manual document approval processes.

Every business, regardless of its size, has documents that require signatures in order to be executed. This can include but is certainly not limited to things like contracts, purchase orders, agreements, and more. For far too many companies out there, this remains a manual process that takes place either via email — or worse, on printed pieces of paper that make their way from person to person in a process that is inefficient and exhausting.

Every single time that document changes hands is an opportunity for it to be lost. It’s an opportunity for a mistake to be made that will start the process all over again. It’s a chance for different versions to make their way out into the world at the same time, thus confusing the process significantly.

Regardless of whether an item is lost, damaged, or conflicts with another version, two things remain true: an enormous amount of time is wasted, and operational risk increases far beyond what you should have to deal with.

The right information management platform like M-Files, however, can apply a simple workflow to these documents and improve things dramatically after deployment. Using M-Files, you can manage the entire review, approval, and eSignature process from beginning to end — all on a single authoritative version.

All told, the process goes a bit like this:

  1. Create. Your users create a document — be it a contract, a purchase order, a shipping agreement, or something else entirely.
  2. Notify, review, approve. Then, they assign a workflow to it — notifying parties and making it available to potential reviewers and approvers. These can be other employees, organizational leaders or even external sources like clients depending on the situation.
  3. Sign. From there, M-Files integrates with all major eSignature software providers to execute on eSignatures.
  4. Store. Once all parties have signed, that single, accurate version of the document is available from within M-Files and work can continue unabated.

All of this, and you get to eliminate all of those frustrating manual processes and paper documents along the way.

According to that same study noted above, it costs literally 55% less to prepare a document and have people sign it electronically as opposed to doing so via paper. That may sound great, but never forget that there are a series of mistakes that you can make that will absolutely eat into that return on investment.

This is all a big part of the reason why an intelligent information management platform like M-Files is so powerful in the first place. Not only can M-Files help you build better workflows around routing and signing documents, but it also makes those efficiencies available in a way that flows freely across your enterprise as well. People who need access to that signed document to do their jobs will have it in a matter of moments.

All of this is in service of the most important goal of all: allowing your users to focus less and time-consuming administrative tasks so that they can focus more of their attention on your business, as it should be.