Contract Management Process: Definition, Features & Functions

Contract management is the process of keeping track of agreements from the time they are made to the time they are carried out by the chosen party to the time they are no longer valid. Contract management includes analyzing performance against the terms of a contract to improve operational and financial performance, as well as reducing financial and reputational risks that could come from not following through with contractual obligations.

Key activities in contract management include tracking deadlines and milestones, flagging potential risks, securely storing, organizing, and retrieving all contracts, and generating reports. The main features/functions of contract management software include creating, storing, and managing contracts; tracking who has access to each document; generating PDFs or XLS files for electronic signatures; exporting data into other formats; importing data from other sources; managing permissions levels; and more.

When choosing a contract management solution, it’s important to consider your needs and budget as well as features like ease of use, integration capabilities, security, scalability, etc. Some popular contract management solutions on the market today include Adobe Sign (formerly Acrobat Sign), DocuSign CLM (formerly Clarify Legal Documents), IBM EmptorisCLM (formerly Sterling Software Solutions), Oracle Contract Management Cloud Service (formerly SunGard Contract Management Suite), SAP ParaView (formerly Sybase Central Contracts).

What are the benefits of an effective contract management process?

Contract management can help improve operational and financial performance. By tracking and managing contract commitments, businesses can ensure that they are meeting their obligations and avoiding any potential financial or reputational risks.

Additionally, contract management can help to ensure that agreements are carried out as intended by ensuring communication between all parties involved is effective. Contract management can also help to streamline the process of making changes to an agreement – ensuring that all relevant information is readily available for both parties to review.

In summary, effective contract management can provide many benefits for businesses in terms of improved operational efficiency and risk mitigation.

A repeatable and standardized process for contract preparation, negotiation, and implementation

The benefits of a documented and formalized process to prepare, negotiate and implement contracts span through a variety of business areas, including:

  1. Improved efficiency and productivity – A formalized contract management process can help to improve the efficiency and productivity of an organization by providing a clear and standardized framework within which contract-related activities can be carried out. This can help to reduce the time and resources required to complete each stage of the contract management process, as well as helping to ensure that all relevant parties are aware of their responsibilities and deadlines.
  2. Eliminate ambiguity and confusion – Having a clear and concise contract management process can help to eliminate ambiguity and confusion surrounding the roles and responsibilities of each party involved in the contract. This can help to ensure that all parties are aware of their obligations under the agreement and can help to prevent any misunderstandings or disagreements from arising.
  3. Improved communication – A formalized contract management process can help to improve communication between all parties involved in the contract. This can help to ensure that all relevant information is shared in a timely and efficient manner and can help to prevent any misunderstandings or miscommunications from occurring.
  4. Improved decision-making – A formalized contract management process can help to improve decision-making by providing a clear and structured framework within which decisions can be made. This can help to ensure that decisions are made in a timely and efficient manner and can help to prevent any delays or costly mistakes from occurring.

Lower operating costs due to process optimization

When it comes to contract management, process optimization can be a huge help in keeping operating costs down. By streamlining the process and making sure that everything runs smoothly, you can avoid delays and mistakes that can end up costing your business money.

In addition, taking the time to optimize your contract management process can save you time and resources in the long run, making it well worth the effort.

Reduced risk with the use of contract management software

When it comes to risk management, one of the most important things that businesses can do is to have a good contract management process in place. This is where contract management software comes in, as it can help to automate and streamline the process, making it more efficient and effective.

There are a number of benefits that come with using contract management software, one of which is reduced risk. With all of your contracts in one centralized location, and with features such as alerts and reminders, you can be confident that nothing will slip through the cracks. You’ll always be aware of upcoming deadlines, and you’ll never have to worry about losing track of an important contract.

Faster execution of contract management-related tasks

As we’ve already seen, contract management software can help to automate and streamline the process, making it more efficient and effective. This can lead to faster execution of contract management-related tasks, as there will be no need for manual input or tracking.

This can free up your time so that you can focus on more important things, and it can also help to improve communication and collaboration between all parties involved.

Reduced reliance on legal department oversight

As businesses move away from traditional models of centralized control, they are increasingly relying on contract management processes to help them govern their affairs. This shift has a number of benefits, chief among them being reduced reliance on the oversight of the legal department.

In a traditional business model, the legal department is responsible for reviewing and approving all contracts before they are executed. This process can be time-consuming and expensive, as attorneys must review each document for compliance with company policy and applicable law.

However, by using a contract management system, businesses can reduce their reliance on the legal department and instead have employees self-manage their contracts. This can save the company time and money, as well as improve employee productivity.

Improved supplier relationship management

The contract management process is a critical function for any organization that relies on outside suppliers. An effective contract management system can help you streamline your procurement process, improve communication with suppliers, and ensure compliance with contractual terms.

A well-managed contract management system will give you visibility into your organization’s spending, help you negotiate better deals with suppliers, and make it easier to track and manage supplier performance.

In short, an effective contract management system is an essential tool for any organization that wants to optimize its use of external suppliers.

The 5 steps of an effective contract management process

A well-defined contract management process allows for the successful and timely execution of contracts while ensuring compliance with all relevant legal requirements.

A formalized contract management process involves the following five steps:

Step 1:  Defining the contractual obligations of both parties

In any contract, it is essential to first identify the roles and responsibilities of each party involved. In other words, what each party agrees to do (or not do) under the terms of the contract. This helps to ensure that both parties are clear on their obligations and can avoid any misunderstandings or disputes down the road.

To do this, start by creating a list of all the deliverables that need to be met under the contract. These could be products, services, or outcomes.

Both parties should agree on this list of deliverables and sign off on it before work begins. This will help ensure that everyone is clear on what needs to be delivered, by when, and how.

If there are any specific requirements for each deliverable (e.g., quality standards), make sure to include these in the contract as well. This will help avoid any misunderstandings or disputes down the line.

Step 2: Negotiating the terms of the contract

In the second stage of the contract management process, the parties involved negotiate the terms of the contract. This usually happens after both sides have agreed on a basic framework for the agreement and are ready to discuss specific details.

The negotiation process can be complex, and it is often helpful to have a lawyer or other professional help with this step. During negotiations, each side will try to get the best possible deal for itself, so it is important to be prepared before starting talks.

There are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when negotiating the terms of a contract:

  1. Make sure both parties are happy with the agreement. It’s important that both sides are satisfied with the final outcome of negotiations. If one party is not content, it could lead to conflict down the road.
  2. Be clear about what each side is responsible for. Each party should know its roles and responsibilities within the contract. This will help avoid any confusion or misunderstanding later on.
  3. Put everything in writing. Once you’ve verbally agreed upon the terms of the contract with the other party, it’s important to get everything in writing. This will help to avoid any misunderstandings or discrepancies later on.

Step 3: Drafting the contract

After you’ve identified the key terms and conditions of your agreement, it’s time to start drafting the contract. This is where you’ll put all of your agreed-upon terms into a legally binding document.

If you’re working with an attorney or using a contract management software, this step will be fairly straightforward. However, if you’re drafting the contract yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, make sure that all of the essential elements of a contract are included in the document. These would include, but are not limited to:

  • The names of the parties involved in the contract
  • A description of the services being provided
  • The duration of the contract
  • The payment terms
  • Any other relevant details

Once you have all of this information, you can start drafting the actual document. If you’re not sure how to format a contract, there are plenty of templates and examples available online. Just make sure that all of the information that you have gathered in the previous steps is included.

Once you have everything drafted, it’s time to move on to the second last step in the contract management process: approving the contract.

Step 4: Approving the contract

The second last step in the contract management process is approving the contract. Once all of the negotiation and paperwork are complete, both parties will need to sign off on the agreement. This step is important to ensure that both parties are happy with the terms of the contract. After all, a contract is only binding if both parties agree to it!

Once the contract is signed, it’s time for the final step in the contract management process: implementing the agreement.

Step 5: Executing and monitoring the contract

After the contract is signed, it’s time to start executing it. This step involves putting all of the agreed-upon terms and conditions into action. It also includes monitoring the contract to ensure that both parties are upholding their end of the bargain.

If any problems or issues arise during the execution and monitoring stage of the contract, they will need to be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible. After all, a successful contract is one that is executed smoothly and efficiently with no hiccups along the way.

In order to ensure that the contract is executed successfully, it is important to have a system in place for addressing and resolving any issues that may arise. This system should include clear procedures for escalated communication and decision-making in order to resolve problems quickly and efficiently.

Conclusion

As we have seen, when a company takes the time to develop and implement a solid contract management process, it can reap many benefits. A well-managed contract portfolio can help a company save money, improve efficiency, and mitigate risks.

Furthermore, a good contract management system can provide visibility into performance and enable better decision-making.

The Beginner’s Guide to Procurement Contract Management Best Practices

Procurement contract management is the process of managing the procurement contracts between an organization and its suppliers. It includes all aspects of the contract lifecycle, from supplier selection to contract execution. By following the best practices in procurement management, you can ensure that your contracts are executed flawlessly.

Key Aspects of a Procurement Contract

The procurement management process is the set of activities and procedures that are followed to manage procurement contracts effectively. A procurement contract includes the following:

Statement of Work (SOW)

The SOW defines the scope of work to be performed by the supplier and sets forth the expectations for quality, quantity, delivery, and performance. A well-defined scope of work is essential to ensuring that both the buyer and supplier are clear on the expectations and deliverables of the contract.

Cost Estimators

A procurement contract’s pricing terms define the price you will pay for the goods or services being procured. Inaccurate cost estimates can lead to problems, such as cost overruns or unanticipated expenses. Use experienced cost estimators who are familiar with the particular procurement process and can provide accurate estimates.

Additionally, you must define the payment terms of a procurement contract and when and how you will make payments to the supplier throughout the contract duration.

Contract Lifecycle Management

The contract lifecycle includes all contract phases, from procurement to execution to close-out. Therefore, procurement management requires the contract lifecycle to be managed effectively to avoid problems or delays. This is done by defining clear roles and responsibilities for each contract stage and setting up milestones and deliverables.

Supplier Performance Management

Supplier performance management is the process of assessing supplier performance against the agreed-upon terms and conditions of the contract. This includes monitoring supplier performance, evaluating supplier compliance with the contract, and taking corrective action when necessary.

Supplier Risk Management

Supplier risk management is the process of identifying and mitigating risks associated with supplier contracts. This includes assessing supplier financial stability, analyzing supplier performance data, and conducting periodic audits of supplier facilities. The procurement department should have a supplier risk management plan to address supplier risks effectively.

Effective Communication

The purchasing department should establish clear lines of communication with the supplier and other stakeholders, such as the legal department, to avoid misunderstandings or miscommunication. This will ensure that all stakeholders are kept up-to-date on the status of the procurement process and any changes or updates that may occur.

Documentation

Documentation is a critical part of procurement management. For example, all correspondence between the buyer and supplier should be documented, and all changes or amendments to the contract. Detailed records will help to avoid disputes later on and will be useful if a contract needs to be terminated. In addition, all relevant documentation should be archived for future reference.

Contract Close-Out

Following up with the supplier after the contract has been executed is essential to ensure that all terms and conditions have been met. You should conduct a post-contract supplier performance review and resolve any outstanding issues. Once all deliverables have been received, and the supplier has fulfilled all contractual obligations, the contract can be closed.

The Procurement Contract Management Process

The procurement contract management process consists of four main stages: planning, contract negotiation, contract execution, and contract termination.

Contract planning

This stage of procurement involves identifying the organization’s needs, selecting the right suppliers, and drafting the contract. This process is important in order to ensure that the organization gets the best value for its products and services. By taking the time to carefully plan out the procurement process, organizations can save money and avoid potential problems down the road.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when planning for a procurement contract:

  1. Make sure you understand the organization’s needs. What products or services does the organization need? How many of each do they need? When do they need them? Answering these questions will help you create a request for proposal (RFP) that accurately reflects the organization’s needs.

  2. Once you have a good understanding of the organization’s needs, do your research to find the best possible vendors and contracts that will meet those needs. This may involve looking at multiple options and comparing prices, terms, and conditions. Once you’ve identified the best option, work with the vendor to finalize the details of the contract.

  3. Develop a clear and concise statement of work. The statement of work should be the foundation of the entire contract, so it’s important to get it right. Make sure you include all the necessary details and avoid ambiguity.

  4. Create a timeline for the project. Having a timeline in place will help ensure that both parties are on track and that deadlines are met. It will also help avoid potential disputes down the road. 

  5. It is important to clearly define roles and responsibilities for all team members involved in the procurement process. This will help ensure that everyone understands their role and how they contribute to the overall success of the project. Furthermore, clear roles and responsibilities will also help to avoid any potential conflict or duplication of effort.

Contract negotiation

In this stage, the organization and the supplier negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract. The negotiation process can be complex, and it is important to have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve before beginning negotiations. When it comes to negotiating a contract, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, there are some best practices that can help you ensure a successful outcome. Every organization is different, so it’s important to tailor your negotiation strategy to the specific needs of your company. Some general tips for successful contract negotiation include:

  1. Define your objectives and priorities upfront. What are you trying to achieve with this contract? Make sure everyone involved in the negotiation process is on the same page in terms of what you’re hoping to accomplish.

  2. Do your homework. Know as much as you can about the other party before entering into negotiations. The more information you have, the better equipped you’ll be to make smart decisions during the negotiation process.

  3. Be prepared to walk away from the table. If negotiations aren’t going well, don’t be afraid to walk away and reassess your options. Sometimes, breaking off negotiations can be the best way to get what you want in the end.

  4. Focus on creating a win-win situation. While it’s important to advocate for your own interests, try not to do so at the expense of the other party’s interests entirely. Ultimately, both sides should feel like they’ve gotten something out of the deal in order for it to be successful long-term.

Contract execution

At this stage, you will be responsible for executing the contract and monitoring the supplier’s performance. This includes ensuring that the supplier meets all their contractual obligations, as well as assessing their performance against agreed targets and milestones.

In order to ensure a smooth and successful contract execution, it is important to maintain close communication with your supplier. If any issues do arise during the process, you will need to work with the supplier to resolve them in a timely and efficient manner.

Contract termination

There are a few different ways that you can go about terminating a contract. If you want to cancel the contract entirely, you will need to follow the steps laid out in the termination clause. 

This usually involves giving written notice to the other party and following any specific procedures that are listed in the clause. If you only want to end part of the contract, you can do so by negotiating with the other party and coming to an agreement on which parts of the contract will be terminated. You will then need to draw up a new contract that outlines the changes that have been made.

Finally, if you are having difficulty working with the other party or they have breached the contract, you may be able to terminate the contract on those grounds.

The Anatomy of the Perfect Procurement Contract Management System

A procurement management system can help organizations effectively manage their procurement contracts. By automating the procurement process, these systems can improve accuracy and efficiency while reducing costs. The perfect procurement management system should include the following features:

Contract repository: A central repository for all procurement contracts, which allows easy access and searchability.

Contract drafting: A tool for drafting procurement contracts, including templates and clauses one can customize.

Cost estimator: A tool that allows users to generate accurate cost estimates for their procurement contracts.

Contract lifecycle management: A system for managing the contract lifecycle, from procurement to close-out. This includes contract monitoring, performance management, and risk management.

Communications: A communications tool that allows procurement teams to collaborate on contracts and share updates with stakeholders.

Reporting: A reporting tool that generates reports on procurement contract activity, including spending, supplier performance, and contract compliance.

Archiving: A system for archiving procurement contracts and associated documentation for easy retrieval and reference.

Procurement management systems can help organizations streamline their procurement process and improve contract management by including these features.

The Anatomy of the Perfect Procurement Contract Strategy

An effective procurement management strategy should consider the organization’s specific needs and the procurement process. It would be best if you designed the procurement contract strategy to achieve the following objectives:

Reduce procurement costs: The procurement contract strategy should aim to reduce costs by negotiating better terms with suppliers and using cost-effective procurement methods.

Improve accuracy and efficiency: The procurement contract strategy should improve accuracy and efficiency in the procurement process by automating repetitive tasks and using data-driven decision-making.

Mitigate risk: The procurement contract strategy should aim to mitigate risk throughout the procurement process by identifying and managing risks associated with each stage of the contract lifecycle.

Improve supplier performance: The procurement contract strategy should improve supplier performance by setting clear expectations and monitoring supplier performance against those expectations.

Increase transparency: The procurement contract strategy should aim to increase transparency in the procurement process by sharing information and updates with stakeholders regularly.

Increase compliance: The procurement contract strategy should aim to increase compliance with procurement regulations and policies by implementing controls and monitoring compliance on an ongoing basis.

By considering these objectives, organizations can develop a procurement management strategy that meets their specific needs.

Procurement Contract Management Best Practices

There are a few key procurement contract management best practices that every organization should consider when developing its strategy. These best practices include:

Engage Vendors

Engaging vendors early in the procurement process is important to get the best terms and conditions possible. This includes setting clear expectations, communicating regularly, and providing feedback on supplier performance. It also allows for better supplier performance management, as one can monitor supplier performance from the outset.

Integrate Procurement Processes

By integrating your procurement processes with your other business systems, such as finance and accounting, you can streamline and automate the entire process while reducing the risk of errors. This saves time and money while also improving efficiency and compliance. It also allows you to optimize your workflow.

Prioritize Transparency across the Organization

Transparency is key to maintaining trust between the organization and its stakeholders. It also allows for better communication and collaboration between different teams. To increase transparency, it is important to share information and updates regularly. This way, everyone is on the same page and knows what is happening with the procurement process.

Assigning Roles and Responsibilities

This process includes defining who will be responsible for each stage, from supplier selection to contract execution. By clearly defining roles and responsibilities, you can ensure that everyone knows their part in the process and that it runs smoothly. It also increases the accountability level within the organization.

Benefits of Contract Management in Procurement

There are many benefits of contract management in procurement. These benefits include:

Reduce Business Risk

Contract management can help reduce business risk by identifying and managing risks associated with the procurement process. This includes risks related to supplier performance, contract compliance, and the overall health of the supplier relationship. By reducing risk, organizations can save time and money while protecting their reputations.

Additionally, contract management can help improve supplier performance by setting clear expectations and monitoring supplier performance against those expectations. This allows organizations to identify issues early on and take corrective action if necessary.

Increased Compliance

Organizations can use contract management to increase compliance with procurement regulations and policies. They can do this by implementing controls and monitoring compliance on an ongoing basis. Organizations can avoid penalties and fines by improving compliance while protecting their reputations.

In addition, regular supplier performance reviews can help to identify areas where supplier compliance is lacking and take corrective action to improve supplier performance.

Faster contract review and execution

Organizations can save time and money by automating the contract review and approval process while reducing the risk of errors. Additionally, automating the contract execution process can help to ensure that contracts are executed accurately and on time. Finally, you can integrate your procurement system with your organization’s other business systems.

Conclusion

The procurement contract management best practices discussed above can help organizations save money, improve supplier relations, and increase compliance. Additionally, these best practices can help to streamline the procurement process and improve decision-making.

6 Highly Effective Vendor Management Best Practices To Adopt Right Now

Effective vendor management is critical to the success of any organization. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business environment, organizations must rely on multiple vendors to help them complete specific tasks and meet their goals.

However, managing vendors can be challenging, as several hurdles exist when working with vendors, including contractual disputes, performance evaluations, compliance policies, quality issues, payment terms, and delivery delays.

To help you navigate the challenges of vendor management, we’ve compiled a list of the top vendor management best practices that you should adopt right now.

What is Vendor Management?

At its core, vendor management involves finding vendors and managing the relationships between your organization and its suppliers (vendors).

The goal of vendor management is to establish a framework for payment, governance, and communication between both parties to ensure that vendors meet their contractual obligations.

Six Vendor Management Best Practices for Every Business

To effectively manage vendors, your business must clearly understand its goals and objectives. Regardless of the size of your business or the number of vendors you plan to partner with, we recommend following these six best practices for vendor management.

#1 – Establish a Vendor Management Policy

A vendor management policy is a critical strategic component for businesses that plan to outsource work to suppliers. The goal of a vendor management policy is to identify and establish a set of best practices when searching for and working with different vendors.

Creating a vendor management policy gives your business a roadmap that outlines how it should assess potential vendors, determine contractual terms, and manage relationships.

Some of the aspects your business should consider when defining a vendor management policy include the following components:

  1. Vendor liability in the event of a data breach
  2. Termination of contract
  3. Change management procedures
  4. The frequency of vendor performance reviews

A vendor management policy should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it aligns with the organization’s current goals and objectives.

#2 – Set up a Clear Vendor Contract Management Process

Managing vendor contracts is essential to ensuring suppliers execute their end of the contract. An effective vendor contact management process helps your business minimize delays and operational risks while maximizing performance.

The vendor contract management process involves creating service-level agreements, reviewing performance, and defining the terms of the contract. To set up an effective contract management process, your business should:

  1. Have a clear understanding of what it is trying to achieve with the contract
  2. Define the roles and responsibilities of each party in the contract
  3. Set clear expectations for both parties
  4. Continually monitor vendor performance

Contract termination and renewal are overlooked parts of the contract management process. Defining successful parameters in advance will help your business determine which contracts to extend and which contracts need to stop.

#3 – Develop Effective Vendor Contracts

An effective vendor contract protects your business from legal liabilities and costly mistakes, helping you mitigate risks when outsourcing work.

Developing an effective vendor contract lets your business define the scope of work, establish a dispute resolution process, and determine the budget, payment terms, and project timeline.

To ensure that businesses are creating and renewing effective vendor contracts with high-quality vendors, each contract should:

  1. Contain clear and concise terminology
  2. Include all the necessary details
  3. Define the roles and responsibilities of each party in the contract
  4. Outline KPIs and performance metrics

A well-planned vendor contract is worth its weight in gold and can save your business time, money, and headaches in the future.

#4 – Define and Monitor Vendor KPI Tracking

Vendor KPIs are performance metrics that your business can use to measure the success of its vendor relationships. By tracking vendor KPIs, your business can identify areas where vendors are excelling and areas where they need improvement.

To get started, you must identify and establish KPIs in each contract with vendors to streamline performance analysis, address issues, and prevent problems from escalating.

There are a few different things you should keep in mind when tracking vendor KPIs, such as:

  1. Defining what metrics to track
  2. Assigning a team member to track the KPIs
  3. Determining the frequency of reports

Creating a system for tracking vendor KPIs can help your business improve the overall performance of its vendors and ensure that all vendors perform up to the standard defined in the contract.

#5 – Assess Vendor Risks

Vendor risk assessment is a process used to identify, assess, and mitigate risks for your businesses as you work with different vendors. Vendor risk assessments can help your business limit liability and avoid unnecessary risks.

Assessing the risks associated with different vendors is a vital part of vendor management. When assessing vendor risk, businesses should consider the following criteria:

  1. The likelihood of a problem occurring
  2. The type of information security system that the vendor has in place
  3. The training and security knowledge of vendor’s employees
  4. The quality of the vendor’s incident response plan
  5. The storage and encryption of data
  6. The physical security of the vendor’s premises

By assessing the risks associated with different vendors, your business can make more informed decisions about which vendors to use and how to mitigate any risks.

#6 – Outline Vendor Payment Terms

Vendor payment terms are the conditions that define the payment structure for the contract. Vendor payment terms can include things like the method of payment, the due date, discounts, and late fees.

Your business needs to establish clear and concise payment terms with vendors to avoid misunderstandings and disputes down the road. If your business doesn’t pay its bills on time, vendors may feel like they are not a priority, leading to vendors cutting corners or terminating the contract entirely.

To avoid these problems, businesses should:

  1. Set up a process for submitting invoices
  2. Designate someone to be responsible for paying invoices
  3. Ensure that invoices payments occur on time
  4. Track payments and follow up with vendors if there are any issues

Ensure that your business establishes vendor payment procedures to avoid delays and maintain a happy relationship between your business and your vendors.

Final Thoughts

No matter the size of your business, vendor management is a critical process that needs your full attention. Effective vendor management helps you identify potential risks, assess vendor performance, and ensure that your business generates the most bang for its buck.

When developing a vendor management policy, businesses should consider their business goals and objectives. Setting up vendor management guidelines lets you create a framework that outlines how to assess vendors, manage contracts, and track KPIs, which will help businesses select and work with high-quality vendors.

A well-executed vendor management policy is a critical strategic component for businesses planning their future. By following the best practices outlined in this article, your business can set itself up for success when working with different vendors.

Clarifying The Differences Between Digital Signature and Electronic Signature

As businesses embrace the paperless trend and shift towards virtual documents, the need for an effective electronic signature process continues to rise. The two most common types of signatures are electronic signatures and digital signatures.

Although both types of signatures help verify the signing parties, there are some noteworthy distinctions found in the characteristics and security of each.

 

Characteristics of Electronic Signatures

Electronic signatures are a quick and cost-effective way to sign documents remotely. As the use of electronic signatures rises, so do the characteristics and the number of features they provide.

Simple electronic signature software allows users to input their names electronically using a touchpad, stylus, or mouse. The software will then transform the writing into an electronic signature and attach it to the document file.

More advanced electronic signature software will, in addition, trace user interaction and create a signing log of the signature process including e.g. the email address, name, date and signature, IP address during signing, time and date of the signature as well as the hash code of the signed document to improve traceability and security.

As a result of the ESign act of 2000, all electronic signatures are legally binding in many countries and can even act as evidence in court.

Electronic signatures streamline the process of finalizing administrative changes, authorizing invoices, and accepting deliveries. Electronic signatures work for any document, including PDFs, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets.

 

Characteristics of Digital Signatures

Digital signatures are a type of signature built through an RSA algorithm that creates unique components, Public Key Infrastructure, and a Certificate Authority to verify the signer. 

Unlike an electronic signature which is a simple image, there are multiple components of a digital signature. First and foremost are the public and private keys. The private key is unique and is distributed only to the signer. The public key can be given to anyone and is used to verify that the signature was created using the corresponding private key.

A hash algorithm is another main component of a digital signature, as it produces a unique code or fingerprint called a digest that corresponds to the digital document. After creation, the digest is encrypted with the private key to create the digital signature.

Once encrypted, the digital signature is then appended to the document and can be verified using the public key. The detailed verification process and multiple components ensure that the original document has not been tampered with and that the signature belongs to the signer.

Another essential characteristic of all digital signatures is the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). The Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is a system that issues, validates, and revokes digital certificates.

The final characteristic to be aware of is a Certificate Authority (CA). A Certificate Authority is a third-party organization that validates the signer’s identity and distributes the public key, private key, and digital document used to create the digital signature.

 

Differences Between an Electronic Signature and a Digital Signature

Overall, both signature types have the same purpose: to provide a secure and legal way to sign documents remotely. However, the two main differences come in their uses and infrastructure.

Uses Cases

Electronic signatures are used for documents that require a lower level of security. While the signature is legally binding, there should be a level of trust established between the two parties.

Digital signatures instantly create verifiable relationships between two parties anywhere in the world and provide an even higher level of security.

Infrastructure

The other main difference is how each signature works. Electronic signatures are rudimentary and only scan an image of your physical or digital signature before placing it on the document. While this method is quick, it is vulnerable to forgery.

Digital signatures, on the other hand, rely on complex mathematical algorithms to create a unique code that corresponds to the document.

 

Which is More Secure – an Electronic Signature or a Digital Signature?

Digital signatures use public key cryptography, also known as asymmetric cryptography. With asymmetric cryptography, two keys are involved in the signature process – a private key known only to the signer and a public key made available to anyone.

The private key is combined with a document and hash algorithm to generate the digital signature, and the public key is used to access and verify it. Asymmetric cryptography provides a higher level of security, as it would be challenging for someone to forge a digital signature without access to the signer’s private key.

In contrast, electronic signatures don’t use cryptography and certificates. Electronic signatures are a substitute for handwritten signatures and primarily serve as a demonstration of intent to create a legally binding relationship during an electronic transaction instead of functioning as a method to secure a document’s integrity and prevent its tampering.

 

Benefits of Digital Signatures

Digital signatures offer several great benefits, including:

Data Integrity

Digital signatures verify a signer’s identity and origin. Verifying data integrity makes digital signatures much more secure than electronic signatures, as they are linked to an authorized digital certificate.

Authentication

Digital signatures use authentication protocols to verify the identity of the signer. Each digital signature contains keys distributed by PKI and CA’s that authorize the signer and creates the digital signature.

Non-Repudiation

Non-repudiation is another benefit of digital signatures. With non-repudiation, signers cannot later deny having signed the document. Non-repudiation acts as proof because the private key used to generate the signature is traceable back to the signer.

 

Drawbacks of Digital Signatures

The primary drawback of digital signatures is that they are limited to a single digital document. Each digital signature binds to a unique online document, hash algorithm, private key, and public key. 

Another drawback of digital signatures is that they are significantly more complex and can take longer to create than electronic signatures. There are multiple steps in creating a digital signature and waiting on a Certificate Authority to verify the signature can be a slow process.

 

Benefits of Electronic Signatures

Electronic signatures offer several great benefits, including:

Convenience

Electronic signatures are very convenient, making them a suitable choice for busy individuals. They require no extra steps on the singer’s part, and the signer can complete the document using any device they choose.

Legally Binding

All electronic signatures are legally binding, making them ideal when you are drawing up a contract and need a quick and legally binding way to sign the document.

Better Work Experience

Electronic signatures make it easy to sign documents and track the status of signings, which can save a lot of time and hassle for businesses that do a lot of electronic filing.

 

What are the Biggest Problems with Electronic Signatures?

While electronic signatures are convenient and legally binding, they have some drawbacks.

Hard to Verify

Verifying the signer’s identity can be challenging when using an electronic signature. Electronic signatures do not always contain hash algorithms, public & private keys, and other authentication methods, which makes electronic signatures harder to verify.

Risk of Unauthorized Signing

Not only are electronic signatures harder to verify, but they are also susceptible to unauthorized signing. Fraudsters can use a photo of your signature or even forge it by hand to sign documents without your permission.

 

Final Thoughts

Businesses continue to leverage online applications to streamline administrative workflow and improve customer experience. As the prevalence of e-commerce grows, the importance of electronic signatures and digital signatures will also continue to increase.

Be mindful of the differences. In short, digital signatures offer a higher level of security than electronic signatures. With the Public Key Infrastructure and a Certificate Authority, digital signatures bind the signer’s identity to the document.

Electronic signatures do not typically provide this level of assurance, but they are a far more convenient solution that is still secure and legally binding. We suggest using electronic signatures and digital signatures, with the optimal choice depending on the document. If it requires a quick signature, use electronic. If it is a high-value transaction where identity verification is essential, use a digital signature.

New PDF Viewer, Mandatory Attachments, Global Contract Expiry Notification, Mandatory 2FA and new possibilities to send to Contract Inbox

Over the last couple of weeks, we have added a lot of new exciting features and we would like to give you a quick roundup of what is new.


New PDF Viewer:

Our new PDF viewer has a lot of additional features that were previously not available, such as e.g. search, select/copy, rotate and more.

 
Mandatory Attachments:
You can now choose to make contract attachments mandatory. If enabled, a file or link needs to be added to the contract before it can be saved. By default, this is a global setting for the account but you can also choose to make attachments only mandatory for certain Business Units and / or Statuses.


Global Contract Expiry Notification:

In addition to individual event reminders, you can now also activate and configure a global expiry notification. When activated, a notification email will be sent a certain time prior to a contact’s expiry (end date) to predefined recipients.



Enforced Two-Factor Authentication and new possibilities to send to Contract Inbox:

As an account administrator you can now choose to enforce two-factor authentication for all users. When enabled all users, will be required to set up two-factor authentication and a sign-in with only password will no longer be possible.

Another new security feature is related to the Contract Inbox. For security reasons, only registered users can send messages to the Contract Inbox by default. But you can whitelist additional email-addresses (e.g. firstname.lastname@emailprovider.com) or domains (e.g. emailprovider.com) to allow receiving messages from additional senders.