In this article, we review the evolution of electronic signatures and discuss the advantages of implementing an integrated e-signature tool as part of your NetSuite set-up.
There is a lot of shared ground between the topic of electronic signatures and our previous article regarding document management for NetSuite, namely efficiency and accessibility. However, signatures introduce one further level of complexity by requiring an action on the document (often from someone outside of your organisation) as opposed to simply uploading or viewing it.
Without stating the obvious, a signature is usually the final stage of an important document being just a document. By their very nature, documents requiring a signature usually trigger a next activity (or a series of activities) upon completion – whether that be to update a project with a signed timesheet, schedule a deposit invoice for a signed sales order, or officially onboard a new employee with all relevant contracts and paperwork.
So, in addition to the efficiency and security of obtaining the signed document via e-signature (versus traditional wet signatures), it is in the pre- and post-signature part of the process where NetSuite users can really improve efficiency, visibility, accuracy, and user-experience (for both customers and colleagues) by utilising an integrated electronic signature tool.
With this in mind, we look at:
How people sign documents has changed with the evolution of technology.
In the very recent past (and probably still in a small number of businesses to this day) documents would be signed in person. PDFs sent, printed off, signed, scanned, and returned via email (unless, like the author, you’re old enough to remember fax and the excitement of eFax?).
This process was time-consuming and rather one-dimensional. Not only that, it relied on the recipient being able to follow all of these steps. This meant if the signatory was in a meeting, out visiting clients, travelling, or even just not sitting near a printer when they receive the document, it was unlikely you’d receive the document in the timely manner you had hoped for.
Today, documents can be signed online using electronic signature tools.
Using a secure unique link users can access, view and sign documents with a legally binding digital signature, all within a few clicks from their email inbox or dedicated app.
A further advantage of e-signatures over traditional wet signatures is that the process will usually have a full digital audit trail, including date and time sent, received, viewed, and signed, as well as providing all relevant dialogue and information leading up to the signature being delivered.
In our experience, businesses normally invest in NetSuite to improve efficiency and visibility of critical processes throughout their organisation by managing as many functions as possible in one unified solution.
So, the concept of e-signatures aligns perfectly with the core motivations to implement NetSuite.
Documents which require signatures (such as contracts, confirmations, and invoices) can be created in NetSuite based on information that has already been added to the system. This makes creating a document in NetSuite simple for users, ensures consistency throughout your business, and gives a clear roadmap of where it has come from and the actions that have taken place with that prospect, customer, vendor, or employee prior to the document being created.
However, at the final stage, without an integrated e-signature tool for NetSuite, the document is removed from NetSuite and sent for signature via another tool or process.
This means that, despite everything else being not only visible, but actually created and managed in NetSuite, there is no visibility of the process at the most important step – getting the document signed – within NetSuite.
At best, users will be required to export a PDF to a third-party tool and re-upload the completed document once signed. If there has been any delay, query, or discussion from the signatory during the process – it’s likely not visible in NetSuite.
The fact is, if a business uses NetSuite and a standalone e-signature tool, they are definitely better off than businesses not using those tools. But, in the real world this turns into emails, phone calls about emails, Slack messages to explain specifics within emails, and ultimately a delayed signature, if it doesn’t fall off the radar beforehand.
So, when considering an e-signature tool for NetSuite, our advice would be to investigate one which completely integrates to NetSuite (like ours, which we cover in more detail in the final section after we look at the types of documents you can manage and sign in NetSuite).
The short answer is essentially any document.
In terms of core functionality, an e-signature tool simply applies an additional layer to a pre-defined document template which allows administrators to define where actions and signatures are required on the document. So, as long as you can produce the document, it can be submitted for e-signature.
The questions then really become: what are you using NetSuite for? Where are there bottlenecks in your business around signatures? And can you produce and manage more documents from, and within, NetSuite?
The most common areas we see businesses utilising e-signatures in NetSuite are:
This is probably the most obvious and most straightforward application of e-signature technology. It is generally the point of a sales cycle to obtain a signed order. Once a sale is agreed, a sales order confirmation can be produced for signing by the prospect/customer, along with any necessary contracts and related paperwork.
Using the standard CRM functionality within NetSuite, users can easily build estimates and quotes which convert to orders to be sent via nicely branded, templated documents. And then, excitingly, once orders and contracts are signed, the finance team can be automatically notified to create and send the corresponding invoice, with minimal manual entry and complete visibility of the process to-date.
This ensures customers get what they are expecting, quickly, the business gets paid faster and nobody in the process has had to do more than they should need to, to get there.
Most businesses using NetSuite do so as a financial system first. The application of electronic signatures for finance in NetSuite has two perspectives.
Firstly, similarly to the above, there is the actual sending and completion of documents.
In our experience this is probably minimal from the finance side, as they are normally the ones within NetSuite who will enact the next step once a document is signed (e.g., invoicing).
That being said, it is not unusual for internal authorisations on transactions - such as purchase orders and vendor bills - to require a signature.
Secondly, as covered in our NetSuite Document Management article, regardless of what documents pass through your business, they probably have some relevance or impact on the finance team.
So, when discussing the application of e-signatures in NetSuite, it is worth looking beyond the task of signing to understand the efficiencies (both internal and external) gained by having complete visibility of a document’s history against the corresponding transaction.
For example, if a client has signed an order confirmation and contract but at the point of signing has specified a unique request in relation to their deposit invoice which was agreed by a sales rep, without an integrated e-signature solution the sales rep would have to alert the finance team of this requirement outside of NetSuite (i.e., via email, or slack, or worse – both!).
More likely, the finance team may send the incorrect invoice to the annoyance of the customer, followed by the frustration of having to credit the invoice, re-issue the correct invoice and apologise to your brand-new client about a bit of a rocky start.
The above could be avoided by having a single source from quote, through to signed order including all relevant communications and discussions within both the customer and order records within NetSuite.
One of the most document and signature-heavy functions of a business. From the aforementioned sales order confirmation and contracts, through to full statements of work, right down to daily timesheets, almost everything in a project is required to be documented and verified.
Given a large proportion of NetSuite’s global customer base sits within professional services, technology and SaaS, there is a large requirement for documents to be easily accessible from within projects. Again, this applies both to the team delivering the projects who require things to be signed off, and the finance team who invoice based on time delivered, or milestones reached.
Similar to projects, HR is a document-heavy business function. From employee contracts to training, appraisals, and development plans there is an ever-increasing number of documents required to be produced, shared, signed, and securely stored for each employee.
Whether you use NetSuite to proactively manage your HR, or you’re just utilising employee records as a centralised repository, if you have a document that needs a signature, and to be stored securely, an integrated e-signature tool could both reduce the time taken to obtain a signature whilst also removing the risk of documents accidentally being exposed to external threats.
Click to read our case study of Socitm’s NetSuite HR e-signature project and learn how they utilised signature templates to guarantee consistency in processing whilst significantly streamlining their onboarding process for new employees.
As standard, NetSuite does not offer electronic signature functionality.
This gives NetSuite users two options to manage electronic signatures: either outside of NetSuite which, as we’ve discussed creates a break in the process which can lead to a lack of visibility and frustration for staff and customers alike. Or by using an integrated SuiteApp, such as Workiro, which can manage the process whilst ensuring complete visibility within the corresponding NetSuite records.
Workiro is a work management tool built for NetSuite that helps your employees work more effectively. Workiro provides a cloud-based repository that integrates with NetSuite to allow users to manage documents, contracts, emails and more, directly within NetSuite. One of the key features of the Workiro app is electronic signatures.
The Workiro SuiteApp gives NetSuite users the ability to create one-click and digital wet signature requests.
These documents can be easily created from NetSuite templates (order confirmations etc.), or alternatively and perhaps more excitingly, from Microsoft Word Documents and PDFs which can be easily linked to NetSuite transactions via a simple interface from within the document.
At the point of applying the signature request, all you have to do is also select the NetSuite records you want to associate with the document,- Workiro does the rest and sends a secure link to the recipients to complete.
As soon as the link is sent to your customer or vendor, the document’s journey is fully visible within the Workiro tab in NetSuite, with read receipts, automatic reminders, and the ability to nudge signers as standard.
Workiro also provides a secure messaging thread involving all the relevant parties, meaning everyone within your organisation can stay up to date on the progress of the document and any communication between the signer and people within your business.
Unlike other e-Signature tools, there is no limit or additional cost incurred on the number of signatures that you can request and store in Workiro. So, regardless of whether your team send out quotes every day or once a month, Workiro provides a perfect solution at a fixed price to manage electronic signatures in NetSuite.
On top of that, Workiro can also give secure access to view and process signatures for employees within your organisation, or customers, vendors, and partners that may not have a NetSuite license. This means that they can be kept in the loop and even participate in the progress of getting important documents signed, both accelerating the process and improving visibility whilst ensuring nothing slips through the net.
Once the document is signed, users can tag and store the document within the Workiro tab in NetSuite meaning it is accessible to everyone. To hear more about storing documents, you can read our previous blog on Document Management in NetSuite here.
In short, electronic signatures are just one part of the document journey. Whilst using any e-signature solution will improve efficiency, managing it outside of NetSuite can create frustration for the people in your business.
Workiro solves the key challenges of electronic signatures for NetSuite by giving your team the ability to easily create one-off or templated signature requests directly from NetSuite, or from Word with an in-built option to attach the document to NetSuite records with a single click.
Wherever your team are working, they can quickly provide approved, branded documents to your signatories and track the progress of getting the document signed every step of the way. Workiro then stores these documents securely, meaning all the right people can access them when needed.
As well as electronic signatures, our solution provides document management, Outlook integration, a native chat feature, and approvals as standard. To find out more, book a full demo of Workiro and we will be in touch.