Perhaps the most significant example of this is in contract work, where shippers and other logistics professionals are learning that digital documents and signatures improve business processes. Electronic signatures reduce the hassle associated with paper contracting, reduce contract completion time, and allow logistics professionals to provide customers with better service.
The difficult, traditional, manual business process of getting a contract signed can cost a company millions of dollars in lost revenue. For busy firms, ink-and-paper agreements present a frustrating, expensive, time-consuming barrier to expansion. To ease the difficulty of closing deals, many leading companies in the logistics industry are moving their contract work to the Web by implementing e-signatures. Freed from the burden of chasing down physical signatures and shipping paper documents, businesses are able to serve customers better and attract new clients. Contracting in the cloud and adopting other paperless processes makes sense for many industries, but it is a game-changer for logistics companies who sell themselves on promptness and efficiency. By bringing the contract process to the cloud, logistics professionals live up to customers' expectations - specifically, that they get the job done quickly.
The first thing enterprises generally want to know before moving contract work to the cloud is the risk to their operations. Lack of familiarity with Web contracting can make some customers apprehensive. However, there is little risk and big reward. Since the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) was signed in 2000, businesses have been able to close customer contracts electronically while remaining certain that such deals are as legally binding as those signed on paper. Furthermore, electronic documents introduce additional safety measures, since they provide for an easily accessible electronic trail parties can use to confirm transactions.
There are additional benefits to bringing the contracting process to the cloud. For contract-intensive industries such as logistics, e-signatures and e-contracts can shrink the sales cycle by as much as 400 percent. When firms can move rate requests and pricing contract work to the cloud, they gain efficiencies that support business growth and gain turnaround times that are 10 times higher than those of paper, which benefits customers as well as supply chain executives. The features embedded within many e-signature services make it easier for parties to do business with companies that rely on cloud-based contracts. For example, automated reminders can forewarn signers of impending deadlines, reducing the risk that the contract will not be signed by the necessary date. Such solutions prompt signers to complete all critical fields of a contract, decreasing or eliminating the multiple cycles and inefficiencies that often exist in completing a traditional paper contract.
E-contracts also enable the collaborative, integrated nature of today's deals. Unlike static paper documents, Web-based agreements allow all parties involved in a deal to negotiate within the contract itself and make edits without opening an application. The result is an on-the-go contract process without dependency on paper, faxing or shipping of physical documents.
Logistics companies need to transport more than just products. They also need to deliver convenience, choice and speed in order to ensure that their customers return. Web-based contracts bring those elements to a deal in a way paper-based documents cannot, giving logistics firms the means to improve customer experiences and attract more business. But how do partners and customers react when these processes are first introduced? More and more companies in logistics and other industries are completing contracts via the Web, but e-signature processes are still new enough that initiating parties should give their partners and customers adequate education up front. When document owners let recipients know beforehand that expected documents will arrive electronically - and can be managed, negotiated and signed electronically - the process goes more smoothly. Overall, though, the process is so easy to use, that few parties are opposed to the change. With no software or hardware investments required and virtually no learning curve, firms can quickly take advantage of cloud-based contracts, making it easier for others to do business with them.
There are many ways shippers and logistics businesses can meet customer demands for better, faster service. Technology facilitates many of those options, and it has transformed what a contract can do and how it can be executed. Organizations can now harness the benefits of cloud-based contracts to close deals faster and focus more resources on moving goods safely and efficiently for their growing customer bases.
Source: Adobe Systems Inc.
Keywords: Business Strategy Alignment, Legal, Govt. & Regulatory Issues, Supply Chain Analysis & Consulting, Global Supply Chain Management, Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), digital documents, esignatures
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