How to use the SharePoint Collect Signatures Workflow

The SharePoint Collect signatures Workflow allows you to insert signatures into Office documents, specifically Word, Excel and InfoPath and pass the document to a series of individuals so that more signatures can be collected and tasks completed.

Depending on the nature of your organisation, approximately half of your documents will require signatures. These can take a day or more to send, print, sign, scan and then send back. More than half of documents in most organisations are printed so they can be signed. Once they are signed, multiple parties have to collect and file these physical files for an indeterminate length of time. They also need to be managed and kept discoverable. Wouldn’t it be faster, cheaper and better if this whole process could be done virtually?

The SharePoint Collect Signature Workflow

SharePoint and Office offer a means to do this. The Collect Signature Workflow template in SharePoint allows you to build a workflow with your users and tasks in it. This is then associated with a document template as well as a document library, list or site collection to store it in.

By doing this electronically, you not only replace a tedious manual business process with a more efficient electronic form, but you also have a system for tracking and reporting on that process to make management and measurement more successful and accurate.

Getting started 

To access the Collect Signatures workflow in SharePoint, first check it is enabled while logged on as Administrator. Using SharePoint Online as an example, follow these steps:

1. Login to your SharePoint Online.

2. Click “Site Actions” drop-down box and select “Site Settings”.

3. Click “Site collection features” under “Site Collection Administration”.

4. Click “Activate” to activate the workflows you would like to use, in this case Collect Signatures.

An example case 

Next you can plan and configure your workflow in SharePoint and Office. Let’s use the example of a ‘New Promotion’ workflow where a member of staff has been promoted and so has to sign a new contract for their new position.

The first step is not electronic but practical: you have to know who will initiate the workflow and who has to participate and conclude it. Before we know how to set this up in SharePoint, we have to know the real-world business process. In this case, HR sends the new contract to the manager of the person with the new promotion. The manager reviews it and sends it to the promoted person to sign. That is then sent back to HR to file.

In SharePoint, the process will be to create a contract template which has the signature box inserted. Next, associate the contract template with a document library. Then in the settings of that library, create a workflow called New Promotion based on the Collect Signatures Template. Configure it so it includes the names of the HR person, the manager and the promotee. You can assign tasks to each person outlining what’s needed. In this example, the HR person may have to notify the legal department, the manager may have to review the contract and the promotee and manager will have to sign it before HR is notified.

collect-signatures-workflow

The tasks are stored in a SharePoint list when you create them. The users in the workflow are emailed a link which they can review and mark it as done or rejected. In this instance, the workflow would be triggered manually as individual names would have to be added. They can also be triggered by other events such as a change to file properties or creation of a new file.

This document requires your signature 

A signature on a document achieves a number of things. Firstly it verifies the identity of the persons who signed it. It verifies their agreement with the contract and because both parties have a copy, all parties can be assured it was not changed after it was signed. The SharePoint workflow achieves all these assurances. When a user signs the document, they can add just their name or upload an image of their signature, but the fact that SharePoint captures who was logged on and signed means you know it wasn’t someone impersonating another user. Since a signed Office document cannot be edited once signed, the people who sign it know it cannot be altered afterwards.

An alternative approach 

We provide another approach to digital signatures and ‘signing off’ work with DocRead. It has an internal focus and can be used to target key documents, (such as policies and procedures) to people in the organisation to ensure they have reviewed or ‘agree’ to them. Once a user acknowledges a document it is then tracked in reports and charts. This integrates seamlessly with SharePoint too which means the content is stored with other collaboration lists and libraries in team sites or your Intranet. It means you can leverage SharePoint search and the content management benefits of the platform. You can use the workflow to do more than just manage processes. It can provide statistics and graphs.

DocRead intelligently allows documents to be routed to AD Groups, SharePoint Groups or Global Audiences. The best bit is that if a new person enters the group then DocRead will automatically assign ‘required reading’ to them without any input needed from an administrator. This is ideal for new hires and new project team members.

DocRead also integrates tightly with DocSurvey allowing you to set pass marks for your users. This ensures that they also understand the documents.

There will always be pen and paper, and our intentions are not to remove these features from the workplace but improve how we do things on a day to day basis. If we can save time and create a more efficient process, more time can be spent focusing on new work or new clients. By creating a simplified digital signature workflow, you no longer need to worry about sending, scanning, printing, returning and filing documents and can look forward to focusing on actual tasks at hand, while saving money – which can only be a good thing, right?