How to Select the Right Electronic Signature Provider

There are several criteria to evaluate before you choose the right vendor to meet your unique e-signature needs. The first step is determining what your needs are. Begin by asking yourself:

  • What are the documents, agreements and forms that you currently route manually or on paper that you want to manage electronically? Examples may include non-disclosure agreements, sales contracts, new hire documentation, invoice processing, purchase orders, expense reporting, vendor agreements, internal compliance and letters of intent.
  • How many of these documents do you create and route weekly or monthly? 
  • Do you want a solution that integrates with the software you already use, like Salesforce, Oracle Netsuite, SAP Ariba, Workday, Google Workspace, Microsoft, Slack and Quickbooks?
  • Do your recipients need to be able to access documents you send for signature on mobile or tablet devices? 
  • Would you like to be able to request payment at the time of signature? 
  • How many people at your organization send documents for signature? 
  • Would you be interested in a solution that offers an application programming interface (API), allowing you to build custom integrations for electronic signature, now or in the future? 

Criteria to consider when selecting electronic signature software

Product functionality: If you are seeking a basic e-signature solution, a number of vendors may potentially meet your needs. However, if you require advanced functionality, greater flexibility, and end to end agreement workflow, the choices are more limited. Forrester segments the market based on solution capabilities, with those vendors in the “digital trust services” and “digital transformation” platform segments offering several compelling advantages over those in the “e-signature specialist” and “PKI specialist” categories. Make sure you fully understand your current functionality needs, and consider how they may evolve in the future before selecting your e-signature partner.

Vendor size: Forrester also segmented the marketplace based on annual revenue, with the largest vendors falling within the $40 million-plus category. These vendors are well-established, maintain a global geographic presence, and typically offer deep functionality and expertise across a range of industry verticals.  

Geography: If your firm operates internationally or within multiple regional jurisdictions, you will want to choose a provider with a strong global footprint, as well as an expert understanding of local regulatory requirements such as eIDAS in the European Union.

Integration capabilities: To maximize your workflow efficiencies, the ability to integrate with leading digital platforms using application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) is paramount. According to Gartner, “the depth of integration and simplicity of use of electronic signatures within the chosen business process platform are often key factors in vendor selection.” 

Compliance risk: Firms in highly regulated industries such as healthcare or financial services may be subject to stringent data security and identity assurance requirements, dependent on the jurisdictions in which they operate. Such regulations include those addressing data privacy, know your customer (KYC) requirements, and authentication protocols (such as those prescribed under the European Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2)).

Data security: Incidents involving identity fraud, data breaches, and threats to data integrity have ballooned in recent years. Choose a vendor that offers sophisticated security features like audit trail preservation, support of advanced and qualified e-signatures, and certificate management.

Customer and employee experience: Now more than ever, convenience and ease of use are highly valued by both customers and employees. According to Forrester, “forty percent of surveyed global purchase influencers say that improving the experience of their customers is a high or critical priority over the next year.”

Selecting the best e-signature solution

Gartner recommends adhering to a deliberate path in evaluating and selecting the best e-signature solution provider to meet your organization’s unique needs. Some of these steps we’ve already covered, including:

  1. Understand your business requirements and evaluate all potential use cases across your enterprise. Think about where e-signature can have the most impact across your organization, and map out the process. Note that needed functionality and process requirements can vary widely depending on whether the use cases are business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), business to employee (B2E), or even employee to employee (E2E). 
  2. Assess your technology, compliance and security requirements. Once you’ve determined which use cases will provide the greatest value and impact, scope out the requirements in these key areas. Assess your platform integrations, account for whether you operate in a highly regulated industry, and determine the specific regulations, data security and privacy requirements of the geographic jurisdictions in which you operate.
  3. Consider which vendor licensing model will most fully and cost-effectively meet your needs. Some providers offer a range of licensing options and multiple versions of their most popular products to meet your organization’s budget and use case needs. According to Gartner, “most Gartner clients looking for a companywide solution across multiple use cases, platforms and departments find that the versions of the product that are best-suited for them are the enterprise versions.” This is due to the built-in compliance and security features these full-service solutions offer, along with the ability to integrate fully with the most common Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms.
  4. Select the vendor that checks all the boxes. After creating your short list, we recommend you take advantage of a free-trial period or developer sandbox account so that you can get a feel for which tools will work for your organization. If you are looking to integrate an electronic signature solution with existing software, you might want to speak to the vendor’s professional services team to learn about best practices and services packages that are available to you to get up and running quickly. Choose the provider that offers the best combination of attributes to meet your specific needs, with a focus on those that have developed specialized use case solutions for your industry sector.

As customer and employee expectations continue to evolve at an accelerated pace, the need for digital transformation has never been greater. E-signature solutions are an integral component of the digital ecosystem and selecting the right vendor to meet your organization’s unique needs is a crucial step.

Learn more about Docusign eSignature features and functionality.