Overcoming The Final Frontier Of Digitization
Over the last two decades digitization in India has transformed core industries, citizen services, invented new business models and changed the way we access services. Mobile phones replaced landlines. Online payment methods replaced the need to carry physical currency. Tech based apps enabled easy mobility at the click of a button.
COVID-19 and lockdowns have accelerated the pace of tech driven change. People who shied away from adopting technology now jumped onto the digital bandwagon without a second thought. This was especially true for businesses. Organisations moved critical business functions to the digital realm to enable business continuity and continue operations uninterrupted.
One key aspect of digitization that was neglected till now - but picked up pace in 2020 was the digitization of documentation.
Paperwork The Final Frontier Of Digitization
Contracts, forms and other documentation power commercial relationships between organizations and their customers, business partners, agents, investors and employees. But, while most of this documentation is drafted, negotiated and even finalized electronically this journey breaks down and becomes physical when it comes to the most important part signing the paperwork.
This is a big problem.
Let’s take the lifecycle of a single document. To get it signed – there are many steps:
1.Obtaining the right stationery
2.purchasing stamp papers,
3.printing and collating the paperwork,
5.Verifying that the information filled in is correct
6.Scanning the document to signatories OR getting it delivered via courier or staff
7.Each signatory will need to sign in multiple loca¬tions, on multiple pages
8.Each signatory will need to verify that they have, in¬deed signed everywhere they were supposed to
9.Follow up with signatories to sign
10.Signatories will need to ensure document reaches back to the originator
11.Storing the signed document safely
12.The document may, years later, need to be retrieved for a regulatory audit or enforcement
Now imagine that this process needs to be repeated at scale the total annual volume of documents for an Indian business can run into hundreds, thousands and, for large enterprises, lakhs of documents per year!
Fortunately, moving to a completely digital document paradigm is closer than you think.
Moving To A Digital Document Paradigm
The key to moving to making documentation digital relies on 3 key planks:
1.Digitizing the signature through electronic signatures
2.Digitizing stamp duty journeys
3.Enhancement of document workflows through digitization. Due to inertia people won’t shift from their existing physical journeys to digital ones unless digital provides a 10x better experience
Conventionally, digital signatures in India were confined to unwieldy USB token style devices. But these were expensive and hard to use. This changed in 2015, when Aadhaar eSign was notified as an electronic signature under Schedule II of the Information Technology Act. Aadhaar eSign did for signatures, what UPI did for payments. Now any Indian citizen could sign a document electronically with just their Aadhaar number and a working mobile internet connection!
Digitizing Stamping And Enhancing Document Workflows
Aadhaar eSign acted as a gateway into digital documentation. Indian startups, using the eSign infrastructure, built a whole layer of tools over and above to provide solutions like:
1.Digital ways to pay stamp duty
2.Digital contracting compliance
3.Fast, automated workflows
The above innovations helped ensure total compliance of digital flows and also superlative experiences that physical flows just couldn’t match!
The Critical Benefits Of Digital Documentation
A digital document paradigm offers several key benefits to businesses:
•Speed:With digital flows processes that took days and weeks could be completed in minutes. Commercial relationships with customers, business partners, employees, agents and investors can begin faster.
•Security:Electronically signed documents are inherently tamper proof. Further, electronic documents can be stored safely with multiple backups available safe from physical hazards like fire, water and other disasters. Finally the law itself creates evidentiary presumptions in favour of electronic documents over physical documents.
•Enhanced customer experience:A safer transaction for customers during the lockdown, and a more pleasant experience overall.
•Operational Efficiency:Merely processing the journey of physical agreements(ensuring documents are prepared with 0 mistakes, tracking delivery status, following up with customer to sign, storing and inventorying the document safely) is a big load on teams within organizations. With digital paperwork these touchpoints either get eliminated or become completely automated. This liberates teams from spending time on paperwork and allows them to do more productive, meaningful work.
The World Economic Forum has alluded to the Covid-19 pandemic as the turning point for optimizing of digitisation worldwide. Given the numerous benefits above, the time is certainly ripe for digitization of documentation.