90%reduction in paper
+1300%increase in envelopes being used by the council
Lambeth Council is a London borough serving more than 300,000 residents and providing a huge range of public services, including adult social care, parks and housing. Lambeth is incredibly diverse with more than a third of residents from Black, Asian and Multi-Ethnic communities and over 130 languages spoken. It also features world famous locations, including London’s South Bank, Brixton which is the heart of London’s Afro Caribbean communities and Waterloo which is the UK’s busiest train station.
Lambeth's Legal Services Practice Manager, Gerard Kamath identified the need to better manage the council’s contracts and had a strong desire to introduce electronic signing and sealing for a long time. This was accelerated by the pandemic, and e-signatures quickly became a necessity for the Council.
eSignature helps improve efficiency and reach environmental goals
The pandemic shed a new light on the need for tools like eSignature as the organisation began looking at digital ways of working, Gerard and the Legal Services team understood the impact that eSignature would have in facilitating working from home and business continuity. The team communicated with the entire Council, explaining how the solution was being used by legal and gauging interest from other parts of the organisation.
Since its deployment, eSignature has been incredibly well received and has now been implemented across the organisation, by different teams and for various contract types. It is also being used in HR for all employment agreements, by the homeownership team, the accounts receivable team, and neighbourhood housing teams. This Council-wide project is being managed by Malcolm de Vela, the Councils Procurement Category Manager, who notes that before eSignature; “getting contracts signed and sealed was challenging".
The huge benefits and return-on-investment being seen by the Council has caused a 1300% increase in the amount of envelopes purchased—from the original 500 for legal services, to now over 7,000 covering teams across the borough.
eSignature has not only ensured the safety of staff by enabling them to work from home, it has reduced contract turnaround times, improved efficiency, cut costs and created an altogether better user experience. Additionally, it is supporting the Council’s environmental objectives by vastly reducing the reliance on paper as well as cutting down on the environmental costs associated with posting, copying and couriering documents between parties.
“eSignatures creates a much more efficient end to end process” Gerard Kamath
Electronic signatures improve contract turnaround time and reduce costs
Before implementing DocuSign eSignature, the Council relied on paper and labour intensive processes in order to get contracts signed, with contracts for execution being managed in a combination of ways. Mostly, contracts were physically printed and sent via post to the signatories. When they were returned contracts were at risk of being misplaced by either Royal Mail or Lambeth’s internal mail system.
This was a complex workflow that involved many stakeholders and provided a poor user experience. On top of all this, the Council has a requirement that all contracts be retained on a central contract register which is kept digitally. This meant that regardless of how contracts were being completed and returned, each contract would need to be consolidated, sealed, scanned and uploaded to the contract register.
The Council was dealing with such a vast amount of paper documents that it had to leverage a third party supplier to scan the documents to the register. This system created additional challenges for contract management, as contracts were being scanned by external contractors, resulting in delays, lost documents and missing pages.
Electronic sealing and signing
The Council uses an official seal when it executes documents. Digitising the seal was a key component in ensuring the success of the partnership between Lambeth and DocuSign. It also played a crucial role in Lambeth choosing DocuSign eSignature over other electronic signature solutions. The DocuSign electronic seal feature is integrated into the signing process where it can simply be dragged and dropped into the area where it is required on the document.
“The electronic seal is much better than the physical seal that we use”
Malcolm describes the DocuSign electronic seal feature as ‘a sign of the times’ - moving away from a physical process where the seal was imprinted on the contract to now doing it digitally. The digitalisation of this process minimises the physical need to use the seal and allows for visibility of the seal when contracts are sealed. The old process relied on scanning all the documents and the embossed seal was not visible.
In order for a document to be sealed, a sealing memorandum would have to be completed alongside the agreement and brought to the legal team. Once the legal team approved and sealed the document, it would be added to a sealing register. In order to streamline this process, a Nintex form has been integrated into the Council’s system—this electronic form has replaced the need for the sealing memorandum and sealing register—drastically improving the ease and efficiency of completing the sealing process.
Local authority focused on improvement
Moving forward, the Council’s priority is to continue to offer the highest level of service to the local community. What they have discovered is that digital transformation drives this priority because it enables staff to work more efficiently and enhances the user experience.
An entire digital experience strategy is currently being undertaken by the council in order to improve the experience of customers and third party vendors. Going paperless and executing contracts electronically plays a key role in this experience. Lambeth Council will continue to scope processes that can be made more efficient using DocuSign eSignature. At the moment they are exploring its use for Pensions, Payroll, and Procurement reporting.