In the past few months, we've heard a lot of speculation why e-signature software has been so slow to gain traction — from legal and security issues to worker resistance and misunderstandings about how to use them.

But Sam Thorpe, director of product at San Francisco-based Nitro, a document productivity company, blames it on simple lack of education.

"A lot of people are unaware of the benefits or potential return on investment (ROI) of e-signatures,“ he said.

Essential Element

Thorpe described e-signatures as a key part of digital transactions and any other end-to-end digital process. And he’s not the only one who sees things that. We've heard similar comments from executives at Silanis Technology, Adobe and Kofax.

In recent weeks, Nitro has been researching the what's driving the e-signature market. What it found is somewhat surprising to anyone who believes in the digital experience: "Between 2005 and 2015, the way we all work with documents has not changed very much," Thorpe said.

About 60 percent of employees still print and sign documents, then scan them back in to their document management system. Even more — 64 percent —print, sign and file paperwork manually, Nitro found. But Nitro claims e-signature users:

  • Experience 80 percent faster turnaround time
  • Save $20 per document
  • Generate five times more customer loyalty
  • Ship 117 percent more proposals per rep and per month than non-users

In addition, 37 percent of e-signature users see ROI within six months, the company claims.

Education Needed

So what's the problem? "We’re finding there's a key failing in education and the way e-signatures are being talked about," Thorpe said. In conversations even with "fairly clued in and sophisticated executives," Thorpe said e-signatures are often the last things on their minds.

"That's surprising when you think of the benefits they can provide," he said. "The research shows the pain people are feeling around e-signatures is part of a broader landscape that includes issues like governance, visibility, simplicity and automation, among other things."

To drive adoption, Nitro is mapping e-signatures to business trends like speed and the ability to work across distributed landscapes. E-signatures can speed development of effective processes and advance collaboration, he noted.

Thorpe noted that e-signatures are especially important in an age of remote workers, noting that some experts predict 40 percent of the American workforce will be self employed by 2020.

2015 4 29 Nitro e-signature use infographic.jpgCreative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by jonathangarcia.