Ho-Chunk Inc. Shows How Tribal Organizations Can Embrace E-Signature

As part of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Ho-Chunk Inc. (HCI) improves the economic conditions of the tribe through building homes in the community, starting small businesses that provide employment opportunities and channeling a portion of the profits to the Tribal Government to help fund operations.  

As the largest company under the HCI umbrella, the All Native Group (ANG) serves as the overall government contracting division. Their biggest customers are within the Department of Defenses and Department of State, as well as several other Federal Government organizations. With a high volume of government proposals and contracts to manage, ANG was spending an inordinate amount of time routing, signing and sending out these documents. As the business continued to grow, it needed a solution like e-signature to streamline and track the status of contract processes across its multiple ANG offices. 

This prompted HCI to implement DocuSign eSignature on an enterprise-wide scale to connect the constant flow of agreements between all departments, including finance, human resources, accounting and government contracting. 

With 11 different operating companies, the mission of HCI’s IT department is to support the ongoing operations of those companies, and enable business growth with secure and scalable technology solutions. I recently sat down with Jerry Beavers, senior director of IT at HCI, to gain his perspective on building a business case for electronic signature, how to achieve enterprise-wide adoption, and the benefits received from the solution. 

Below are some highlights and commentary from our discussion. 

How did you approach building a business case for an e-signature solution?

Whenever HCI introduces a new technology, there is a process for building a business case that needs to be presented and approved by a corporate-level IT steering committee. 

“All of our business cases are brought to the IT steering committee at the corporate level,” said Beavers. “The steering committee is composed of representatives from all divisions who drive overall awareness of new efforts and ensure that redundant solutions are not being purchased.”

All Native Group created their business case based on a template that HCI’s IT department provided, which Beavers often reviews with the team to help them prepare for making their case to the steering committee. 

“Overall, the outcomes are all about being able to support more business in the most efficient manner, and being able to respond to customers’ needs more quickly,” added Beavers.

How did you roll out DocuSign eSignature, and what structure did you put in place to drive adoption and usage?

Embracing eSignature on an enterprise level was key to driving overall adoption and usage, and reinforcing how multiple departments can improve operations by using the solution.

“I realized that there are many departments that sign documents, so instead of buying individual licenses for just the ANG business unit, we made it available across the entire organization,” said Beavers. “We positioned it out of the gate as something for the entire enterprise.”

The value of the solution was immediately obvious, as well as the overall ease of use. It became immediately obvious that eSignature was a more viable offering for handling high-levels of paperwork with multiple signers. 

“It was really easy to explain to somebody why it’s better to not have to handle actual paper,” added Beavers. “And if five of us need to sign a document, you don’t need to worry about tracking what others are doing. It’s also easy to share documents with outside parties, who don’t need any special software to access and sign the documents. You can send the document and whomever receives it, can easily electronically sign it and send it right back.”

To get started, each division also chose “power users” to be internal evangelists. This was a group of around 20 professionals where all participants were comfortable with technology, but not necessarily IT people. From there, HCI IT  hosted instructor-led training through multi-day workshops, which paved the way for organic growth.

“It was a soft rollout, and we never required people to use the solution–we just let them know that it was available,” said Beavers. “We just started with this group of 20 individuals. Three years later, we now have more than 160 users.”

Overall, in addition to the over 160 employees who create and sign documents, the organization has “hundreds if not a few thousand” users who sign and receive documents. All of these users are also highly self-sufficient.

“We tend not to try to be the absolute application masters,” said Beavers. “We want to empower the people and then we buy the support resources. Overall, we don’t run into many problems.”

What are some of the biggest improvements you’ve seen since introducing eSignature?

From enhancing efficiencies and speed to market, to being able to get proposals out the door more quickly, to getting contracts signed and being more responsive to customers, HCI experienced tremendous operational improvements. 

“Now most of my customers, vendors and suppliers that I work with have all gotten on board with using DocuSign eSignature,” said Beavers. “DocuSign is also very well known across multiple industries. I’ve never had someone say ‘DocuSign, what’s that?’”

The solution has also helped support the shift to remote work and advanced mobility. 

“We are now in a hybrid work situation, where around 60 percent of our employees are working remotely on any given day,” added Beavers. “I don’t know how we would have done the signature on all these documents and contracts without DocuSign. Now, it’s seamless.”

Another benefit is being able to perform an audit trail, track documents and easily search for contract and document details. 

“I could dig in my other files or emails, or I could go straight to DocuSign to find an order or contract details very quickly,” said Beavers. “To be able to find things, and pull up vendor quotes and other documents to see who has signed or not signed them has been tremendously helpful.” 

What advice do you have for other IT leaders who are thinking about implementing an eSignature solution? 

Beavers' primary piece of advice for IT leaders looking to adopt this solution is to not be intimidated by the implementation. 

“DocuSign has made it so much easier to gather signatures and stay organized,” said Beavers. “We used the DocuSign SaaS-based solution and it was not difficult to get started. I would say jump in, and get started. You don't need a giant rollout plan. All you need to do is pick your biggest users and get them started. It’s that easy.”

Finally, Beavers noted the value of the solution for enabling remote signatures.

“If you’re dealing with issues of getting signatures from people working remotely, this is your solution,” added Beavers.

Learn more about DocuSign’s Agreement Cloud for Government.

Shonte Eldridge
Sr. Director, State and Local Government Strategy