When it comes to contracting with a platform like DocuSign, there is no question of the value it brings to both senders and signers in terms of experience, speed and assurance; that much is evidenced by the fact that “DocuSign” has become a verb in the geography where it originated.

When looking beyond its origins, and into Continental Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle-East, the concept of e-Signature in the Cloud is still relatively new. Whilst many organisations invest in internal training to ensure DocuSign is adopted as the accepted way of doing business, the adoption by end-users cannot be overlooked.

For end-users, or the “signers” of DocuSign documents, the platform is intuitive, free to use and no subscription is required. And there is no question it’s pretty cool, too.

Then why is the signing experience sometimes met with a degree of circumspection? 

Anthropologists warn against a natural human tendency to be “ethnocentric”, which they define as:

“Evaluating other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture.”

When driving adoption of a platform like DocuSign, we need to recognise that there are some countries and cultures that are traditionally more reserved and conservative. In practice, this means that society applauds a more prudent perspective on what others might perceive as ‘cool’, and the very act displaying cautious consideration is, in those places, ‘more cool’.

For those driving our customers’ success, we need to stand in the metaphorical shoes of those who are given the opportunity to experience our product. We need to view every end user as an island, with its own cultural inclination and a unique level of awareness and appreciation. We need to take a holistic approach to the change journey and view the adoption landscape as an archipelago of islands.

An essential part of this journey is education, and there are two questions we need to address to avoid an ethnocentric approach when engaging more conservative cultures.

1) Is it legal?

Where common law countries like the UK and the US rely on case law (in the form of published judicial opinions), civil law systems rely on codified statutes that don’t change with the same pace and regularity. Whether or not this ‘new Cloud-based e-Signature’ product is legal and enforceable, is a very legitimate question for signers to ask.

  • Signers need to feel confident that signing electronically with a platform like DocuSign is legitimate, legal and secure. In the EU, they can now be assured by the new 2016 eIDAS legislation that states that an electronic signature cannot be denied admissibility in any court of law.
  • Moreover, it sets out the standards that need to be met for more sophisticated signatures, known as digital signatures. Not only does DocuSign offer the full suite of electronic and digital signatures that meet these standards (within their Standards-based Signatures offering), but there is flexibility to mix and match the capability available for our customers. This includes having digital certificates issued ‘on the fly’, for an instant in time, or opting to leverage persistent digital identities through integrations with certificate authorities that have their own local platforms and devices. The DocuSign Signature Appliance also allows our customers and their signers to do this in the cloud, locally on-premise, or using a hybrid model.

Whilst DocuSign cannot provide legal advice on which signature type to employ, we do have the entire kit bag of options that meet any locally-specified legal requirement in the EU. As the market leader, we also intimately understand the typical preferences of specific industries or use cases and can bring that knowledge and experience to bear when mapping the journey to becoming digital.

2) Why change how it’s always been done?

Many signers will feel that the quill and parchment, and latterly the pen and paper, have worked perfectly fine throughout the ages. And although replaced by postal systems, one cannot deny that a wax seal can still assure the identity of a sender and proof that the document has not been tampered with. Moreover, in many cultures, there remains a very real connection to the handwritten way of doing things and there is an element of art attached to it. In Japan, the drawing of a Hanko is the artistic depiction of one’s identity, and there is a very personal attachment to it.

And finally, there is the concern of replacing human interactions with technology:

“What do you mean I no longer need to meet and have a coffee to get the contract signed? That’s how we retain our relationship and I hear about the next deal!?”.

  • Signers need to know that DocuSign doesn’t replace the in-person espresso or glass of grappa. It doesn’t negate the appreciation for artistic approaches to the written form, that have transcended the ages and will continue to do so. No amount of automation, robotics or artificial intelligence will ever do that.
  • That said, we need to explain how DocuSign can complement these customs. So having agreed a deal in principle over a coffee, wouldn’t it be great to formally execute it in a secure and paperless fashion, avoiding errors and incompletion, to then have it automatically archived, alongside a robust audit trail that’s admissible as evidence should either party ever call the contract or the process into question? No question.

DocuSign as a product is not just pure-play technology. Instead, it complements and improves existing cultural ways of contracting by design; this is done through user-centered design principles and the recently released New DocuSign Experience has been driven by the insights and experiences of our users from across the globe.

How to support your ‘DocuSigners’

Those users sending contracts with DocuSign need scripts and FAQ documents to talk through with those who will be signing their contracts. They need to be able to handle objections and explain how DocuSign is legally acceptable, safe and secure.

Most importantly, they will need to be able to articulate the value to their signers, in the way that their signers perceive the value; so speed might be less important than assurance to a lawyer and a busy exec might value being able to sign securely on a mobile device whilst on the move. Like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder. It’s a case of being closely connected enough to understand what’s of value to your signers.

Growth through localisation

There is a lesson for all Disruptors born out of the world of ‘the fast and the furious’, to make a deliberate and meaningful investment in localisation. There is no question that Silicon Valley is producing the greatest technologies of all time, but just because it’s easily accepted and assimilated there, doesn’t mean it that the de facto design should be the default for everyone.

For those procuring these disruptive technologies, they need to think beyond the internal change and be mindful of the archipelago of end users, who are essential participants in the end-to-end process. The assets and tools we use to drive Signer Adoption are available here in the DocuSign Knowledge Market.

At DocuSign, we will make our customers genuinely successful in our emerging markets if we continue to demonstrate how we can meet the requirements of local legal constructs and show how we complement traditional approaches to doing business, whilst respecting cultural customs.

DocuSign’s Customer Success Architects support the delivery of genuine and sustainable digital transformation, helping customers adopt the platform and realise the full value of their investment. 

Sarah Hartley, DocuSign Customer Success Architect