Most businesses and institutions once had a foundation made up entirely of paper processes that tied every memo, report, paycheck, and signature into an elegantly elaborate, if incomprehensibly Gordian knot of redundancy. Nothing could get done before the right document was, to use the insightful words from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, “...signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.”
Back on Earth, UMBC is one of many higher education institutions taking the proverbial sword to the knot of archaic business processes. The Campus Card and Mail Services department has made headway by converting to digital forms for the Departmental Campus Card (DCARD).
The DCARD allows certain staff and faculty to charge their department for work- related expenses such as small food purchases, copier use, pay-for-print services, postal goods and/or small UMBC Bookstore purchases. Assistant Director Drew Belcher says that since most people do not think in terms of back-end verification and auditing, they do not always grasp the financial power the DCARD gives an individual and the steps necessary to ensure it is authorized and utilized properly.
Despite the complex approval process required for DCARD forms, UMBC’s electronic signature and digital workflow vendor, DocuSign, provides a simple, automated solution. IT Support Assistant Kristen Hodges, B.A. ‘14, English Communication and Technology, can create a single template that can be used for many departments. The program’s interface allows her to easily create a signing order and designate each field on the form to a specific individual. Once it is sent, the form is automatically routed to each signer via secure email, eliminating the time once spent transporting forms by hand or mail.
One particularly useful feature of digital forms is the tracking data that the system automatically records. This includes timestamps created every time someone views, edits, or signs a document. This information is critical during an internal or state audit that checks the validity of DCARD expenses. Belcher says he can easily create a document with all of the important data for any particular form and easily share it with third-party overseers in Financial Services.
Moving forward, Campus Card and Mail Services is looking to convert more forms to DocuSign, especially those requiring signatures from off-campus partners. Doing so will, “increase our productivity and allow us to accomplish more during the work day,” says Hodges.
Robust, versatile, and easy to use, digital signature technology empowers administrators to challenge the status quo and use its foundation to build a new process that is faster, smarter, and immune to parody.