The Paperless Journey: The Evolution and Future of Document Signing

The Paperless Journey, The Evolution and Future of Document Signing

As a kid, did you ever trade your entire lunch for your friend’s Pop-Tart? You probably didn’t know it then, but you were bartering. It wasn’t a fair barter but a barter nonetheless.
The barter system dates all the way back to 6000 BC, and it exists still. In fact, 30% of transactions occurring worldwide today are barter. If you think about it, perhaps the first form agreements being made could be seen in bartering.
Speaking of agreements, when was the last time you installed new software, a game or even an app and agreed to terms and conditions without reading them first? I’m guessing, recently.
We sign contracts every day without even realizing it. Did you know that contracts don’t even have to be physically signed to hold up. Ever heard of a verbal agreement or sealing a deal with a handshake? Well, those are just as binding.
In fact, in 1987, Texaco learned this the hard way when the verdict was reached that it had wrongly broken up a deal between Getty Oil and Pennzoil that was sealed by a handshake. That lesson cost Texaco $10 billion back in 1987, and if you’re in the habit of calculating inflation out of curiosity, that would be $21 billion today.
A lot has changed since 1987. Signing agreements can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. But before we can truly appreciate today’s revolutionary solutions to completing forms or signing contracts to save you from making a $21 billion mistake ultimately, it would be kind of interesting to go back in time and revisit how the verbal agreement and handshake has evolved through the generations.

The Curious Case of Contracts

The Phoenicians were influenced by the Mesopotamian tribes and adopted bartering and the Babylonians eventually improved the bartering system with the exchange of goods in return for spices, food, tea, and even weapons. Every time a barter took place, and there was an exchange of goods, a contract was made.
The origin of written agreements will make most people uncomfortable, but sadly, the first evidence of a written contract was discovered in a tablet showing the sale of a slave. More evidence of written contracts for the sale of a slave was found from 2300 BC during the Sumerian period.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating pieces of evidence that written contracts existed as far back as 2400 years ago is the recently discovered Egyptian manuscript. It is a little under 8 feet long and details the financial agreement of a couple engaged to be married. Yes, you’re reading it right. We’re talking about a 2400-year old prenuptial agreement.
At some point in history, perhaps in the absence or lack of opportunity to produce a written contract, the handshake became a natural way for two parties to agree on something. It makes sense that the verbal agreement complemented the handshake in sealing deals. While the handshake can be a way to lock in an agreement, most societies use them as greetings.
We know of the existence of handshakes as far back as the 5th century where a depiction of two soldiers can be seen shaking hands is engraved on a funeral stone. However, back then, the handshake was more of a gesture demonstrating peace, proving that they weren’t holding any weapons. Nonetheless, an agreement.
Fast forward to the Ancient Greeks and Romans and contracts have changed dramatically. Not only were signed contracts introduced, but also the classification of contracts based on the nature of the transaction.
Infact, Plato actually had this to say about contracts in “The Laws:
“If a man fails to fulfill an agreed contract – unless he had contracted to do something forbidden by law or decree, or gave his consent under some iniquitous pressure, or was involuntarily prevented from fulfilling his contract because of some unlooked-for accident – an action for such an unfulfilled agreement should be brought in the tribal courts, if the parties have not previously been able to reconcile their differences before arbitrators (their neighbors, that is).”
– Plato, The Laws, Book 11, §23, Contracts.

Sealing the Deal

Times changed. Transactions and people became more complex. Signing agreements moved towards another direction with the introduction of affixing a seal to a contract. There’s abstract reasoning behind how sealing a document with a wax seal by way of imprinting the warm, malleable wax with a ring or seal matrix to leave an impression unique to the owner or organization somehow makes it more valuable. If you received a document and noticed that the seal had been broken, this meant someone had just invaded your privacy. Today, seals are no longer used to close documents or as signatures but to authenticate documents particularly those that are legal in nature.
But despite the progression that agreements and contract signing have gone through, some things are still stuck in the past. If you thought that the 8-foot long Egyptian prenuptial agreement written on papyrus was overkill, let me remind you that legal documents just like that still exist today. We’re talking about a considerable amount of paper used to represent one legal agreement. We’re talking about so much paper that they often need to be kept in a binder and then stored in filing cabinets.
And for companies who had transactions with an international partner, this meant shipping a legal document to be physically signed all the way to another country. Depending on the reliability of shipping service, weather conditions, customs procedures, those documents could take days to months to reach the hands of the person whose signature sealed a deal. This meant that it could take a deal days to months before it became legally binding even if an agreement had already been made over a long-distance call.
Companies soon began to adopt the practice of emailing these documents as PDFs, and the receiving party would affix their signature on them by inserting an image of their scanned signature.

Electronic & Digital Signatures

There have been innovative advancements that will help you with affixing your signature to a PDF document and save you the hassle of having to buy a digital pen tablet like the ones that digital artists use. Signority, allows you to sign your signature with just your finger via your smartphone or tablet. You can even upload an image of your signature with the click of a button.
There’s also been some much-needed progress in the way businesses share documents for signing. Perhaps it was the annoying stack of legal documents or that companies now have both a social and legal responsibility to go green, but soon, paper contracts may be a thing of the past with the introduction of eSignatures.
In 2002, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act) was signed into United States law that officially made the e-signature acceptable and binding. The ESIGN Act states that a contract or signature “may not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.”
For so many companies, it was the electronic signature that was their biggest blocker from going completely digital in their exchange of documents electronically. But with this law being passed and being accepted by the majority of international markets, companies are now able to progress to greener business practices and adopt a paperless platform — saving them tons of money in the long run.

The Future of Document Signing

I doubt that when ancient man first exchanged a human skull for tea and spices, they imagined a day would come when anything but blood sealed agreements would be the norm. Centuries have passed, and just a decade ago, our handwritten signatures were what signed deals and cemented contracts. Today, signatures can be affixed digitally, and contracts can be legally binding in a matter of clicks.
But with biometric technology that already unlocks our smartphones, laptops, doors, and cars; is it impossible for that day to come when we can “sign” a document by simply placing our hand or palm on the surface of a tablet or touch screen? How about “affixing your signature” with the scan of your retina?
If you think about it, it doesn’t really seem impossible or that far off — especially, since implantable technology is already predicted to be available to consumers in the next 5 years.
We’re talking about internables or implantables that are being developed to do everything from unlocking doors, control objects, and automatically sets your thermostat to your desired temperature when your home senses you are a few meters away. These ingestible pills or chips will be secured under your skin, and yes, they will even be used to authenticate transactions.
With the rapid technological advancements that we are currently experiencing, it’s hard not to believe that a complete digital future is just around the corner.
Looking to go Digital? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan.

How to Effectively Run Your Medical Marijuana Business: Paper vs. Electronic

Electronic Signature for Medical Marijuana Business

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis.
Shockingly, that was 20 years ago. That’s 20 excruciating years of back-and-forth between pro-marijuana supporters and opposing groups, all debating the effectiveness of marijuana — when used for medicinal purposes.
Today, we can thank the internet for providing us with a wealth of information on exactly why and how cannabis went from a drug associated with unemployed stoners — an image popularized by films like Cheech &  Chong’s “Up in Smoke” or the more recent, “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” — to what the Washington Post recently reported as a stunning reversal of that age-old stereotype — based on findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Currently, with 28 states — including, the District of Columbia – having legalized marijuana for medical use, it’s needless to say that there is no other industry creating more of a buzz than cannabis.

The Green Rush

Today’s “potpreneurs” are opening medical marijuana dispensaries all over North America, and they all have varying reasons for why they choose to do business in the industry.
There are those whose eyes instantly light up with dollar signs every time there is news that confirms the arrival of the “green rush”. On the other end of that spectrum are those who may have a personal connection to cannabis, benefit from the plant’s medicinal properties themselves and would naturally want to go into this line of business, not necessarily for the money but because they truly believe in their product — like the popular talk show host and entrepreneur-activist, Montel Williams.
Can you hear the sweet sound of a vintage cash register ring in your head every time you explain your medical marijuana business to anyone who asks? Or are you a champion for marijuana’s indisputable and evolving presence in the medical world? Whether you are one or both, there is one thing that all marijuana business owners have in common; they are all trailblazers.
Despite the fact that there are still limitations and strict regulations for marijuana business owners, they’ve pushed forward, hopeful that the rest of the country will catch up and embrace the future as they have.
And if medical marijuana business owners are innovators and disruptors, who are looking towards the future and welcoming the revelations of science and nature, it would only make sense for them to combine both technology and the environment — by going green and shifting to electronic business practices.
With medical marijuana now being legal, and although it’s being socially accepted by more people, your business still bears the burden of an entire generation who were raised to believe that marijuana was only for “pot-smoking hippies” and frequently associated with criminals, most of who still remain behind bars today.
Like we listed in our previous post — A Paperless Business And 5 Ways You Can Acheive It Now — going paperless has numerous advantages, for a business in the medical cannabis space, one primary benefit could be helping you soften your business’ image by proving that you are not just a “dealer”, but an organization dedicated to improving the lives of your customers.
If you’re going to sell green, your business should go green.
However, if you’re not entirely convinced, let’s explore the pros and cons of both sticking to paper and embracing technology.
[socialpug_tweet tweet=”If you’re going to sell green, your business should go green” style=”1″]

Onboarding your clients with a traditional paper system

As a medical marijuana business owner, you are likely to have clients walk in with a prescription that has been printed out. You will need a copy of their identification card — possibly, driver’s license or their passport. And if they have a medical marijuana card in lieu of a doctor’s recommendation, you’ll need a copy of that as well.
After gathering all that, you would need to take their prescription and identification, scan & print them or use the copier. You’ll then ask your new customers to fill out a membership registration form manually. If you’re lucky, they have excellent penmanship, and you can easily, yet monotonously encode all their information into your company’s own record keeping system which is probably a spreadsheet or most likely, the exact same document you just had the customer fill out.
Or if your company hasn’t begun the practice of keeping any electronic files at all, the form your client just filled out gets put in a folder and deposited in a filing cabinet in the back of the office.

Filing cabinets: Can’t live with them, can live without them

Those dreaded filing cabinets, they’re large, bulky and visually unpleasant.
If your medical marijuana business requires that you lease a large office area because you need more space for ugly, bulky filing cabinets to store all your paperwork, then you might need to think about getting on the paperless business bandwagon. For one — as you may already know — filing cabinets take up a lot of room and as your business grows, you’ll eventually need to buy more cabinets and potentially, rent a larger, more expensive business space.

Onboarding your clients electronically

Picture this: Your customers walk into your store, filled with a new hope and excitement — waiting to get their hands on your great product. And bam they’re handed a clipboard with a pen attached to it, with paperwork they need to fill out — reminding them of some of the worst days of their lives, that were spent in the hospital filling out health insurance, waivers, consent and release forms.
Making the switch to electronic business processes can have a strong, positive impact on the experience your patients have with your medical marijuana business — before they even walk through the door.
Electronic signatures and digital documents present members of the medical marijuana industry with a modern solution for delivering an improved way to help patients, while cutting costs, increasing operational efficiency, and adding an enhanced layer of security. Additionally, providing your customers with an electronic alternative, shows them that you’ve taken into account their needs by providing them quick and easy registration.
Embedding digital registration forms on your website – instead of requiring on-site completion – can save patients headache of waiting in line to fill out tedious paperwork. As you know, many of them are experiencing significant pain or other health related matters that make mobility difficult. Implementing processes that reduce the need to travel is more than just convenient, it’s considerate. It’s moral.
Not only does this result in an easier sign-up process for your patients, it shortens lines, so everyone is helped faster.

Security and Privacy

Choosing to run your business electronically reflects your determination to keep your customers’ privacy preserved. It means that they can trust that you’ve built a strong foundation of security that is tamper-proof.
Electronic signature and storage companies — like Signority — include tamper-proof electronic signatures and document tracking, all on a secure PCI DSS Compliant hosting platform. Your patients can rest easy knowing that their important health-related information is safe, and managed by a team with government level clearance.
What’s more, storing your files electronically also ensures your customer data is protected in the event of a fire, flood, or tornado, as the information is not located onsite, it will be accessible and safe even if your building has been damaged.

Ease of Access

Through electronic business practices, your clients will not have to wait as you walk to the back of the office so you can pull out their files. Storing them electronically means having the most control of their visibility and that their customer records can be located with the click of a button.
With digital onboarding and document storage — there are no more sorting errors, lost files, redundant copies or damaged paper documents — just up to date information you need, where and when you need it.
By removing the tedious tasks of managing and storing paper documents, along with the risk of exposing  sensitive employee and patient information, medical marijuana businesses can work faster, cut costs and increase efficiency.

It’s obvious that there are a lot of benefits for your customers when you present yourself as an environmentally-sensitive organization who has their best interest at heart. But choosing to go paperless also has benefits for you and your business. Sure, investing in electronic practices may cost you today. And, that’s why it is called an investment. Consider how much you will potentially save when you are no longer stocking paper or hiring the extra manpower to monitor and archive all that paperwork. Most importantly, it leaves you with more time to do what you love to do – building a great product.

Looking to streamline your customer onboarding? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan.