In 1975, a Businessweek article titled The Office of the Future made a few bold predictions. Quoting George Pake, the then head of Xerox Corp.’s Palo Alto Research Center, the article claimed that paper usage in the office would be on the decline “soon”. While many other predictions in the article — about computer displays, interconnected terminals, and electronic mail — have seen light of day, the paperless office continues to elude the modern workplace.
Over the last few decades, organizations have spent much time & money in setting up IT hardware and systems — accounting, inventory, HR to name a few — that enable data flow in electronic form. Yet, this ability to process more information seems to have created the need for greater documentation and paper usage, especially at the point of interaction between the enterprise and the outside world. One factor that hinders organizations from going paper-free is approvals; a paper trail of interactions with other parties is often needed for statutory reasons:
Warehouses need their bill of lading documents to be physically signed off by the carrier before shipment
Sales teams insist on a physical signature on their quotation when they accept an order of products / services
Purchase departments insist on signed approvals from all relevant managers and approvals before initiating any form of purchase
Service delivery teams need a physically signed invoice from their vendors for audit reasons
This need for a paper-based audit trail comes with its own challenges. Managing paper-based approvals is inefficient at best and ineffective in general. Every organization has its own history of files that go missing and information that is unavailable to decision-makers in a timely manner. Managing paper thus becomes an exercise unto itself, not to mention the cost on the environment. Is there a way for the modern enterprise to break this jinx?
One hope lies in digital signature solutions. With the ESIGN act enacted way back in 2000, digital signatures started carrying the same legal weight as physical signatures. However, most implementations of digital signature solutions fall short in a crucial aspect. While these solutions are excellent for users to digitally sign standalone PDF documents, the solutions often fail to integrate with enterprise systems that organizations invested in over the last few decades.
Digital signature accelerators offer a way out: they help enterprises adopt digital signatures within their day-to-day workflows carried out on their ERP systems. Digital signature accelerators can help enterprises improve their audit trails, eliminate the effort in manually collating physical documents, and above all, enable last-mile digitization of their business processes.
With the adoption of digital signature accelerators, the environment-friendly paperless office is no longer a distant dream. It is well within the reach of most enterprises – the only barrier remaining is the willpower of the organization’s leaders.