Sign contracts digitally? Thanks to eIDAS and digital contract management, this is no longer a dream of the future

The management of contracts is a business critical process and poses a lot of challenges. The blog article wants to explain the advantages of digital contract management in the context of enterprise content management and show how the "eIDAS“Now finally ensures that the entire contract process, including signing (!), Can be completely free of media breaks. What that means? That you will sign your contracts digitally in the future.

Contract management - a complex matter!

Even before the actual term of a contract begins, various departments have to be involved in the contract process. Information is compiled, contracts and other applicable documents must be drawn up and adapted to the specific subject matter of the contract. Internal coordination and negotiations with the external contractual partner take place. Different departments with different tasks need to be organized along the entire contract life cycle. Approval and signature processes initiate the transition to the active contract term.

Quite a mammoth task!

Without digital contract management, Excel lists are often the means of choice for tracking activities and deadlines for a contract. It is not uncommon for these lists, like the filing of contracts, to be organized on a departmental basis, if not redundantly. The consequences are time-consuming research, outdated information and an unsuitable database for company-wide analyzes of the contract portfolio. Individual departments often act on the basis of different levels of knowledge. Conflicts and problems are inevitable. The risk of missing deadlines is high, the chances of saving time and money at this point are low.

Transparency is therefore the decisive success factor for simple and efficient contract management. Core information such as the subject of the contract, terms and costs must be reliably available to all those responsible. This can already be achieved today with the use of digital contract management.

Benefits of digital contract management with a ECM-Software at a glance

The heart of digital contract management with a DMS- Or ECMSolution provides the archiving of the contract documents and the associated documents in the digital archive. This includes the automatic inclusion of this in a digital contract file. Contract management thus benefits from a number of important advantages:

Overview at any time

As a central hub for contract-related activities, every authorized department now has fast and transparent access to existing contracts in the digital file anywhere and anytime. Comprehensive overviews with convenient evaluation functions highlight the relevant information from the contract portfolio and allow reliable deadline management.

Flexibly standardized

Integrated process management enables processes to be standardized across the company with the help of phase models from the initiation to the termination and archiving of contracts. At best, links to upstream or downstream sub-processes such as tendering procedures or project files can also be implemented. Within the defined contract phases, digital task templates support the user in the effective organization of his activities. Whether pre-structured processes or rather flexibly designed checklists and ad-hoc tasks - the degree of flexibility should be decided independently. If necessary, depending on the status or type of a contract.

Collaborative and understandable

Internal conversations (chat) as well as external conversations (e-mail) are displayed directly within the contract process and thus offer the possibility of being able to understand the reason for certain decisions even years later. Last but not least, every activity within the contract process is documented in detail in a progress log.

What is missing? The most important thing of all: the signature. Only this makes a contract effective. Up until now, contracts that were supposed to be in writing had to be signed by hand. A media break is inevitable. But now comes eIDAS comes into play and makes contract management fully digital.

The digital signature makes digital contract management (with a ECMSystem) only completely

A manual signature is required after eIDAS Article 25 (2) a qualified signature. And thanks to the new legislation, a qualified signature can now be carried out using remote signature services. In most cases, contracts are signed by at least two or more contract parties, so that each contractual partner needs a signature certificate which can be provided by a wide variety of signature creation units. With the remote signature, the certificate is provided by a so-called trust service provider (VDA) made available. With this type of provision of the certificate, the signature can be triggered on any device (desktop, iPad, iPhone, etc.). This also offers the advantage that the authentication and provision of the certificate can take place within a few minutes if the participants do not yet have a certificate.

ECMIn this scenario, systems offer the great advantage that the complete signature process, including registration, can be integrated into the existing solutions for contract management or workflow systems. Safe, user-friendly and completely without media breaks.

This is how the signature process can look in your digital contract management in the future

Below is a possible process flow with a ECM-System, a signature middleware and a trust service provider mapped and described:

Exemplary sequence of the process:

  • The user selects the required contract and makes the selection for signing the document.
  • It is checked whether the user already has a certificate or whether he still has to register.
  • If the user has a certificate, the document is displayed for signature.
  • The user can now mark a signature field in the respective document (if the signature field is not already predefined).
  • The user then has to enter his password for the signature. The user name is transferred automatically.
  • The signature midware calculates the hash value of the document and transfers it to the respective trust service provider.
  • The trust service provider sends an mTAN to the user's smartphone.
  • The user enters the mTAN in the provider's browser window.
  • The hash value is signed and passed to the middleware.
  • The middleware integrates the signature into the PDF possibly including a signature graphic, if the user has not previously created this with a pen or finger.
  • The document is presented to the user including the signature information and then archived.

Curious to see how this can be done live in the d.velop AG looks like? Then now the demo video here !

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Author: Jürgen Prummer

Product Manager, d.velop AG