10 steps to implementing a Cross-Enterprise Platform for e-signatures and digital records

Electronic signatures and digital records are the way that business gets done. As organizations around the world continue to digitize their business processes, they are rarely done in a straightfowrad manner. Technology selection, compliance, implementation schedules, and line of business priorities often compete for attention and aren’t always managed by the same groups. Companies struggle mightily as they grapple with enterprise-wide rollouts of e-signatures and digital records, particularly when various parts of their organization have adopted multiple solutions.

ESRA gathered two industry leaders – Michael Laurie of eSign Live and Jacob Williams of Wells Fargo – to discuss best practices for these complex issues.

Laurie states that electronic signatures and digital transactions are where consumers are moving. The problem, though, is that companies need to be consistent in how they roll out those kinds of solutions so that legal and other issues are handled appropriately, especially as new lines of business come on board.

“It’s so much more than picking out a piece of technology to do that,” Laurie said.

Williams notes that there are four major areas to consider: people (customers, employees, and vendors), process (design state, depending on your specific needs), capabilities (how you define things and avoid technical debt), and data and documents (where is the exchange in the process and how will it be handled, including retention).

From these four areas, he described 10 ways that organizations can address them.

10. When you step back and look at where you want to go, think about how long you want to take to get there. That will help you figure out the potential pitfalls and obstacles. Williams used the infamous “dead man’s curve” as his metaphor for that.

“Having a vision for what it is now and what you want it to be is paramount for the journey,” he said. “First, know your customers’ driving attitudes, including their demographics, so you know how to interact with them. And understand how often you’ll interact with them.

Then figure out the emotion of the experience from the customer’s point-of-view. They try to learn and absorb early on, and then they have to deal with many ups and downs. That will help you know where the solution set should target.

Know your products and services. There are many different capabilities you should consider, along with the use cases for them. Williams recalled: “When Wells Fargo started the journey, we didn’t think just about mortgage products – we thought about all the consumer products that would eventually be affected by this.”

Know the actors involved, such as agents and processors that customers will interact with. Understand who interacts with your customers at various points so you can tie it all together.

Know the key insights too. How does your customer want to work? Will they be virtual? Local? Will they want to pick up the phone? Are there restrictions or limitations that could affect those interactions because of legal issues?

Once you have your key consideration set, you can build a layer of how the aforementioned paradigms work together and put together a journey map.

9. Key drivers: Understand what you want to know in your process. Williams said: “At Wells Fargo, we understand what we want to know before we start doing it. What are the goals? They’re also known as business cases, but it’s not so much about ROI as what defines the theory behind the process. You need your leaders to understand it.”

When you think about adoption, you can think about it in terms of, “Did a customer use it? How many used it? How long did the interaction last? Which documents did they use?”

8. You need to lead collaboratively across a vertical project. You’ll possibly have dozens of projects going on, so you’ll need horizontal government. Figure out the common themes that allow you to manage standards, such as architecture, requirements, customer experience design, and so forth. When you document all of that, you’ll have everyone acting under one government structure.

Invest in a core set of people who understand the capabilities and can onboard subject matter experts for different areas of the project. You want people who understand your business’s fundamentals but who can also step back and see the forest for the trees.

Take your people along for the journey so they’re part of the process and giving you feedback along the way. Make sure you have shared goals too so everyone is being evaluated on the same things. People have a sense of purpose when they go to work and know they have a shared goal.

Also, this is a long-term project, so make sure you celebrate the short wins and find ways of stacking the projects so people have enough energy.

7. It’s more than flipping a switch. Get how you do delivery out of the way up front because it can be disruptive down the line. Otherwise, you may have to revisit parts of the project. Assess the various delivery methods that are available.

And know that you won’t have one system that will do everything. It’s bad for the customer if one system operates at a tier five level and another is at tier one, so know how the different systems are supported. That will help you minimize unneeded middle architecture too.

Have a production mirror environment for training. If people don’t know what it looks like and can’t practice how their job will change, you’ll have a longer pull. Getting employees up to speed requires a dedicated environment that’s up as often as the production one. It also helps for demo purposes because it’s many times more valuable than a screenshot when you’re trying to show your boss how something works.

Readiness: Check in with your field and your customers to see if they can deal with this kind of change. Trying to get everyone internally ready is a lot, so have upfront conversations about the roll-out plan.

Communication is more than talking about the plan. How you market internally and externally is important. How you choose change leaders. You need to invest in people and ensure you get feedback and get the vision out there. A key strategic change leader can rally everyone around a message.

6. It’s about educating, engaging, and empowering your customers. Williams said: “I wanted a process at Wells Fargo that really benefited our customers beyond just wanting to get rid of paper. For example, accessibility was important to me. People who are differently abled have just as much a right to your solution as anyone else.”

And consider where you will get data from. Will you ask the customer to provide things when you can get them elsewhere? Or will you ask them to provide information they’ve already given you through another product? That can be tiring for them.

Signature strategy: A lot of paperwork is often presented in English, but you should consider that many people don’t have English as a first language. And make sure you don’t ask them to sign over and over again if they don’t have to.

Structured dynamic forms and storage are important. Documents on the screen don’t have to be the equivalent of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. They should accommodate different screen sizes. Storage is something where you always expected people to print out paper copies of forms and keep them. Today, though, you need to consider how and where you’ll store those documents for later use.

5. Mobile. It’s important to design for mobile and consider the activity. Williams observed: “I think of it as ‘lean forward and lean back.’ For example, look at people on planes. They’ll pull out a tablet to work and they’ll pull out a keyboard and lean over their work. When they want to watch a movie, they’ll lean back.”

It becomes a decision point of where you put your focus regarding how your customers use their devices with your products. For example, will they want to look at mortgage documents on a smartphone? Maybe not.

When people talk about mobile adoption, it’s often in addition to desktop, not in replacement of it.

4. Having the right governance process in place, with good guidelines that are well-established, is important. Let your legal team be part of the process from the beginning.

Stop talking about things like, “That’s how we do it in the paper process.” Electronic processes should be better than paper.

If you’re not aggregating your data, you’re in trouble. Be ready to act on your facts. Educate your customer on why it’s important to them.

Due diligence on fraud: Take it seriously and do the right checks.

3. Leverage the human. It’s more than flipping the switch. It’s not just customers serving themselves. They still want to engage with a human being. There’s nothing worse than doing a lot of marketing and your main sales agent tells a customer, “Don’t use that.”

2. How you start will determine how you finish. Have a good idea generation process where you can vet out what you’re trying to do. Your business architecture model takes the journey map and beefs it up with the customer journey, the business process, and so forth, with use cases of how everything interacts. It helps everyone be engaged too.

Think through the borderlines of what certain things will do. Have the rules of the road regarding what the capabilities are and who’s in charge of the evolution of what.

Re-usable services: Think about how what you put in place will work for multiple lines of business.

Williams also noted: “Have a charter. We require that we put together everything we’re going to do on one sheet of paper. Then they have to draw it out on another sheet. Then the rest of the team thinks through the rest of the idea: Quick bullets that talk about the concepts. What customer and non-customer data are you using. What are the main features and how they stack rank? What are the headlines you crave and dread? What’s the minimum level of product? Why now?”

1. Be transformational. Words matter in how you define something. It’s more than a renewal or even a revolution. It’s about doing something holistically differently.

Williams concluded by referencing Harry Selfridge, a retail magnate born in 1858. He was one of the biggest retail leaders in the world. His retail outlets were all over the UK. He thought differently about the shopping experience and turned it into an enjoyable activity for customers. He was responsible for many of the concepts that are used in retail today, such as “The customer is always right” and putting out things that customers could touch. He was even one of the first people to put public restrooms in stores.

That’s the way a company should approach their cross-enterprise platform.