As you probably know, (we’ve shared this before), we here at QSA have a Digital Recordkeeping Transformation Program simmering away. In other words, we’ve not just been walking down the digital path but we’ve also been looking at what we can do in the recordkeeping space to help agencies do this too!
We looked at our processes and one thing we noticed, is that our forms are really quite old school. They’re clunky and sometimes difficult to fill out, not very user friendly, and usually need to be printed, signed and then scanned before you can submit them to us. Not very digital, right?
So, we took on the challenge to make them digital. We had a total of 12 forms to convert, and a rather long list of requirements.
What did we need the forms to do?
The main thing we really wanted to do was make the forms easier to use at both ends – for you and for us. We wanted to make sure the forms would:
- be flexible enough so people could fill them out completely electronically, or print and sign if they wanted to, as well as adjust based on the amount of information people wanted to add
- allow people to do more – so our delegation of authority form could let you add multiple delegates to the one form, or our transfer proposal and file issue forms could let you keep adding rows and rows of records until you had no more records to list.
- have different field types – tables, drop down lists, check boxes and free text fields to make it clearer what information we needed from you
- allow people to fill out a form in one go or in stages, have others do a bit, send it to someone else to add a bit more, and of course send to the boss to sign the form
- meet all the recordkeeping requirements (of course) – so we all needed to be able to save the completed forms in a readable, complete and usable format.
The signature factor
The other thing we needed to look at was how the forms are signed.
We’ve just started playing in the electronic signature space here at QSA and have processes in place now to manage this – so it’s full steam ahead here but what about with all of you?
We haven’t had a problem accepting electronic signatures in the past but we have never said yes you could. So, we checked with the boss boss about this and got a resounding yes to accept digital or electronic signatures on forms. But how do you do it?
There are a lot of options for signatures – a Digital ID type signature, an image version of a pen and paper signature, an electronic version of pen to paper signature using a touchscreen and stylus, or an actual pen and paper signature.
Whatever we decided to choose, it had to not only meet legal requirements, but it had to be easy to use by anyone, and meet recordkeeping requirements for us and for you. And there had to be some way to prevent further editing of the form afterwards.
The end result
To cut a long story short (oops, too late), we do have new forms.
They are still in Microsoft Word but they can do more than they did before – they are adaptable, flexible and can be completely digital.
So, yes, we are accepting electronic signatures using the scribble/inking function in Microsoft Word if you’re happy to do that, you can sign it electronically another way if you have another method, or you can print the form and sign it with a pen (or pencil).
If you are doing the electronic version though, you must have processes in place to ensure that an electronic signature is authentic, and forms must be saved as PDFs before sending to us so there are no accidental edits along the way after it’s been signed.
And some thank yous…
We talked to a lot of people about this project and they all deserve a resounding big thank you.
Thanks to our friends at CS Energy, Griffith University, Qld Health RTI team, Qld Urban Utilities and the Qld Audit Office for all your help and feedback, and for sharing your research with us.
Research and resources
If you’re looking at implementing electronic or digital signatures, you might find some of the following research and resources useful.
- Mythbusting signatures – wet, electronic or digital? QSA blog post
- Mythbuster on signatures, QSA resource
- Digital signatures, QSA web advice
- QGCIO’s Digital signatures guideline
- Electronic signatures: When are they effective?, Queensland Law Society
- Records and information management FAQs – Are signatures the final barrier to a truly digital business environment? Future Proof (NSW State Archives)
- Regulating the Use of Electronic Signatures Given the Changing Face of Contracts, Nazzal M. Kisswani and Anas A. Al-Bakri Macquarie Journal of Business Law Volume 7 (2010), pp53-65
- Electronic Signatures: When are they effective? Peter Bolam and Rachel Choi, Queensland Law Society,
- Electronic signatures: are we getting there? Rob Sumroy and Brett Sherrard of Slaughter and May, April 2012
If you’ve already implemented some form (see what I did there?) of digital or electronic signature, jump on to CORIM the forum and join the discussion to share your experience with other recordkeepers.