May 9, 2024
by Communications Team
Articles, Engineers

Creating Future-Proof Firms with Digital Signatures

"Man working on his project remotely, thanks to digital signatures

It’s no secret that in order to become more competitive, engineering firms must embrace the digital world and the advantages it can provide. When it comes to digitalizing engineering workflows, authenticating professional engineering documents is a great place to start. In fact, adopting professional digital signatures is a tried and tested step to going digital without disruptions. How tried and true exactly? 

When adopting professional digital signatures, firms see improvement in many areas, ranging from reducing legal risk to cutting costs, to easier recruitment. Find out how the most future-ready firms set themselves up for success using CertifiO professional digital signatures below.  

Managing Legal Risk

When signing and authenticating professional engineering documents, compliance is always a top-of-mind concern. But more than ticking a box to satisfy a regulatory body, proper authentication workflows are a fundamental piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing a firm’s exposure to legal risk. 

Digital signatures approved by Canadian engineering associations and exceeding US board requirements provide firms with a robust framework for ensuring regulatory compliance, maintaining quality assurance standards, and managing legal risk. Created with regulated professionals in mind, they have built-in legal reliability mechanisms and are designed to comply with professional standards. Professional associations across Canada not only recommend using them, but also issue them. In particular, CertifiO professional digital signatures are not repudiable, meaning that they verify the document signer’s identity in a legally reliable manner. They can also only be used by professionals in good standing, as access to a person’s professional digital signature can be removed by their professional association or employer if they no longer have the right to practice or work within their organization. 

Uniformity: a Tool to Reduce Points of Failure

In addition to these features, implementing professional digital signatures across the board can help firms ensure process uniformity when it comes to professional document authentication. Instead of having multi-step processes for signing and digitalizing documents, having different processes for paper and electronic documents, or a variety of situation-dependent procedures, firms can set one, simple process for digitally signing professional engineering documents that is used by everyone and in every situation.

Adopting uniform, streamlined workflows not only saves time, but it also removes many potential points of failure, reducing the risk of human errors occurring. Important elements such as the presence of all required authentication elements (signature, seal, date, etc.) and the quality of seal and signature images can be easily managed. Furthermore, streamlining workflows prevents any errors that do occur from slipping through the cracks, as checks can be done at each of the relatively few steps in the process. 

By adhering to industry-specific regulations and certification requirements, firms can mitigate legal risks, enhance data integrity, and instill trust among clients and stakeholders. 

Optimizing Workflows to Save Time and Money

Industrial engineer optimizing workflows

Streamlining workflows with professional digital signatures has a second important benefit for firms: it saves time and money. While traditional print-sign-scan processes can be time- and resource-consuming, digital signatures are quick to use and do not incur further costs each time they are used.

Quality control processes are similarly affected, as simpler, more effective processes will reduce the time and money spent on finding and correcting errors in two major ways. First, if there are no errors, no time is wasted trying to detect them, which is a process that requires significant time and money. Second, streamlined workflows have fewer steps that need to be reviewed during quality assurance and control processes, which can help speed up the overall workflow. 

Simple Sharing and Decentralized Work

Professional digital signatures can also help firms increase productivity by capitalizing on hybrid work options and digital productivity features. For example, allowing engineers to sign professional engineering documents while on site or from home while working remotely can reduce needless travel time or wait periods that would otherwise be needed to ensure that documents are signed in the office. One Canadian firm which is part of an international engineering network even managed to reduce the time required to sign engineering documents by 97%! CertifiO for Professionals also allows engineers to sign batched documents quickly and efficiently with its batch-signing feature.

By enabling secure document sharing, real-time tracking, and remote approvals, engineering firms can transcend geographical barriers and streamline communication channels. Whether it’s coordinating with clients, collaborating with subcontractors, or conducting internal reviews, digital signatures empower firms to maintain productivity and agility in a virtual environment.

Finally, digitally signed documents are considered originals even while in circulation, which allows firms to move toward a digital archiving system and significantly cut archiving costs immediately and in the future. 

Easy and Secure Document Conservation

CertifiO professional digital signatures protect documents from post-signature changes. This feature ensures that professional engineering documents maintain their integrity and authenticity over time. In addition, it ensures that the identity of the document signer can be confirmed and remains non-repudiable in the long term. Documents signed with CertifiO professional digital signatures are PAdES LTV (long-term validation) and ISO compliant. Furthermore, they can be formatted in PDF/A-3b format to ensure that plans or other documents in non-ISO formats (such as .docx, .dwg, .jpg, etc.) are protected and compliant with the highest archiving standards

Enhancing Market Competitiveness and Client Satisfaction

Internal benefits, such as time and money savings and improved legal risk management, are not the only gains firms can see from adopting professional digital signatures. In fact, many potential clients want – or sometimes even expect – fully digital processes. Whether it’s a selling point on an RFP or a requirement for a new job, being able to inform potential clients that your firm has gone entirely digital can be a significant boon.

The quick turnaround, ease of use, and legal reliability associated with the use of professional digital signatures are all value-added services that many clients highly value. They can also allow firms to bid for jobs for which they would otherwise not fulfill the requirements (timeline, digital-only operations, legal requirements, etc.). Not to mention that cutting operations costs can allow firms to become more competitive when it comes to pricing!

Overall, the adoption of association-approved digital professional signatures enhances client satisfaction and strengthens market competitiveness in a variety of ways. By offering secure and efficient document handling processes, engineering firms can deliver superior service experiences, improve project delivery timelines, and differentiate themselves from competitors. Moreover, compliance with industry standards and certification requirements positions firms as trusted partners, increasing their appeal to prospective clients and enhancing their market reputation.

Future-Proofing Operations and Driving Innovation

Embracing digital workflows through professional digital signatures represents an investment in the future of engineering firms, driving innovation and future-proofing operations. By staying ahead of regulatory trends, technological advancements, and industry standards, firms can adapt to evolving market dynamics and seize new opportunities for growth within many aspects of their business. 

Many firms use proprietary or even custom software to facilitate operations, which can pose a problem when evaluating new workflows and tools. However, when it comes to professional digital signatures, it doesn’t have to be a headache. CertifiO for Professionals, and its companion e-signature platform ConsignO Cloud, come with numerous APIs to integrate with your firm’s existing infrastructure and workflows as well as grow with your firm for years to come. 

Reducing Carbon Emissions and Facilitating Recruitment 

Going digital can also be a big step when it comes to a firm’s commitment to reducing waste and making their operations eco-friendly. Digital signing processes reduce paper waste and emissions related to travel and allow for digital archiving, which is more space and energy efficient than traditional paper archiving.

In the long term, providing employees with more flexible working conditions can be a significant driver for growth and efficiency. Implementing widespread use of professional digital signatures is a great way to facilitate both remote work and hybrid work models.

Finally, no discussion about future-proofing operations would be complete without mention of recruitment. It’s no secret that younger generations are more tech savvy and have higher expectations when it comes to how technology is used on a day-to-day basis. And that includes at work. In fact, 91% of Generation Z expect that the technologies offered in their workplace would influence where they decide to apply for a job. By implementing more digital workflows, such as using professional digital signatures, your firms can ensure that they attract the best candidates and curate the teams you need to build success. 

Looking Forward

Engineering firms looking to become more competitive and ensure a more productive and prosperous future simply must embrace digital solutions. With a focus on compliance, efficiency, innovation, and client satisfaction, these signatures pave the way for enhanced workflows and strengthened market competitiveness. The integration of digital signatures will not only drive innovation and sustainability for years to come, but it also aligns with the evolving expectations of the workforce.

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