DocuSign’s Momentum, Towards the 100% Digital Enterprise


DocuSign’s user conference, Momentum, described the promise of getting to a 100% digital enterprise. What does that mean and is it possible?


What’s So Exciting about Signatures?

One gauge of a company’s success is the level of enthusiasm shown by its customers and employees. By this measure, DocuSign is way up there. This was in full display at their annual user conference last week in San Francisco (appropriately called DocuSign MOMENTUM). At first, during the opening keynote, I thought it might be just reflecting back the enthusiasm and energy of their CEO’s presentation (anyone who has met or seen Keith Krach in action knows what I mean). But even when more subdued speakers were on stage, the response from the audience to customer success stories and new capability announcements was more like a rock concert than a business conference. I found the same level of genuine enthusiasm in one-on-one conversations as well.

At first blush this may seem odd. I mean, what’s the big deal about something as seemingly prosaic as a signature? When you really start digging into it, the potential impact is substantial. Signatures pervade business processes. They provide fundamental control points for managing commitments by encouraging diligence at key decision points — compelling the signer to stop and think through the decision for which they will be held accountable. Signatures also provide an audit trail of those decisions. And as I learned, signatures are just the tip of the iceberg in the transformation to a 100% digital enterprise, the goal of DocuSign’s Digital Transaction Management platform.

Paper-based Signatures — Transactions’ Cumber

In the breakout group that I helped facilitate at the DocuSign conference, the number one priority for almost everyone in our group was speed of business. Companies have invested billions and tremendous effort to streamline and automate so many processes, yet many businesses’ signatures are still stuck in the dark ages, slowing things to a crawl as pieces of paper are mailed or faxed around. Besides the inherent delays of physical delivery, it is so easy for people to make mistakes causing further delays. (See sidebar “I Sure Could Have Used DocuSign Then — ”). What should be a quick and easy process ends up taking days or weeks.

DocuSign in a Nutshell

This description is based on a brief demo I saw, so is likely missing some pieces, but should give a good feel for what DocuSign’s DTM platform is all about. With DocuSign, it is very easy to automate any existing .PDF, or Word, or other format document to keep it in the digital realm from start to finish – including the easy integration of electronic signatures to indicate who must sign, any other required information, where on the document to enter information, initial, and sign, and in which sequence (if any). You can easily drag and drop in other elements such as approve/decline buttons, multiple-choice check boxes, radio buttons, drop-down menus, notes, and even formulas (useful, for example, in a Purchase Order (PO) to automatically multiply the quantity ordered times the unit price to get the line item price and then sum all the line item prices).

You can configure contingent actions. For example, if the PO is for an independent contractor, the system could require their résumé or a Statement of Work (SOW) to be attached. Based on what is entered, you could route the document to different people (such as a
requisition value greater than $100K going to VP) or kick off a new subsequent document and workflow. The content of the ‘cover letter’ in the email as well as specific notes/instructions within the document can all be customized based on each individual and their role.

The signing button does not appear until all of the required steps are completed, so you can be sure the process and all required fields have been completed properly. Altogether, these give you a Digital Transaction Management platform for document-centric workflow. The sender and any other authorized person have full visibility into the status, seeing who has signed or where things are held up.

If someone in the loop insists they must sign on paper, they can download and print the document along with a DocuSign-generated cover page, then sign and fax it. The cover page has a unique bar code, allowing the document to be automatically inserted right back into the fully digital DocuSign DTM workflow.

DocuSign supports templates for often-used documents and workflows. They have the concept of an envelope containing any number of documents, with a number of envelope settings to control things like when and how often to send a reminder, or whether control can be transferred or delegated. Envelopes are useful for complex transactions involving many documents, such as a real estate closing or a project bid.

DocuSign has a library of APIs to integrate with other systems, such as pulling in master data from your ERP system. And it is pre-integrated with many other (mostly cloud) systems, such as, Microsoft OneDrive, NetSuite, SugarCRM, and hundreds of others.

The Ease-of-Use Factor

The investments DocuSign has put into ease-of-use are immediately apparent. The document preparation process builds on familiar paradigms such as the yellow “sign herestickies that accountants and lawyers put on physical documents. The document preparer can drag and drop virtual versions of those onto the signature line within an existing Word or .PDF contract or form. Various other fields and controls can be placed on the document such as the signer’s name and today’s date, which will get auto-filled. (See above: “DocuSign in a Nutshell.”) That makes the signing process very simple and intuitive. This is critical, especially for consumer-facing applications, where the experience needs to proceed without a hitch or the need for intervention and external help.

The ease-of-use of the DTM platform allows a non-technical person to not just prepare documents for signing, but build out approval workflows and develop a variety of use cases. This enables the use of DocuSign within an organization to evolve quickly and virally. It also introduces the need to provide some governance over how these forms and workflows get developed, to ensure consistency and reduce the proliferation of redundant, uncoordinated workflows across an organization.

DocuSign’s Partner-centricity Helps Enable a 100% Digital Enterprise

DocuSign’s workflow capabilities can be used to provide true end-to-end automation, bridging the gaps between many different systems. Transactions that formerly involved printing out to paper can now be kept entirely within the digital realm from start to finish. To bolster their integrative function, DocuSign has more than 500 partners in their cloud partner program and 80 out-of-the-box integrations. During the conference, new and extended partnerships were announced: Xerox, who is integrating DocuSign into Xerox’ Content Management System; the latest version of DocuSign for Ariba will be unveiled at Ariba Live; LegalZoom; NetSuite; OpenTrust, a leader in digital certificates in Europe; and Microsoft who recently announced a strategic partnership with DocuSign to integrate into SharePoint and Office 365.

Many Sides to DocuSign

It is hard to pigeonhole DocuSign. In one sense, it is a personal productivity tool, extending authoring tools like Word and Acrobat, to allow anyone to prepare a document, send, sign, and track status. It also can be embedded right into sophisticated enterprise applications such as DocuSign’s tight integration with Novatus’ contract lifecycle management solutions which was demonstrated at Momentum. DocuSign is also a project collaboration tool with their Transaction Rooms. And it is also a workflow tool through which users can build document-centric workflows, such as the procurement workflow that a DocuSign employee built and which they use for all their in-house purchasing requisitions and approval. These workflows can be built by the average competent business user, without needing IT to do programming. Business users can thereby ‘fill in the holes,’ the missing pieces between the systems they use daily. I visualize it almost like pouring liquid DocuSign into the spaces between other systems.

A Plethora of Use Cases for Digital Transaction Management
Here are just some of the places and ways electronic signatures and digital transaction management can be used:

Engineering and Manufacturing:

Asset tracking
Project phase gate reviews
Design approvals
Production change authorization
Engineering change orders
Requirements signoff
Materials and service procurement

Regulatory compliance and audits
Expense reports
Policy signoffs
Asset transfers
Facilities Management:

Lease agreements
Service agreements
Front desk sign in
Work orders
Move requests
Parking permits
Human Resources:

New-hire processing
Non-disclosure agreements
Paid time off requests
Contractor agreements
Employee offboarding
We could go on and on, with similar lists in marketing, sales, support, manufacturing, legal, product management, supplier and partner relations, customer service, real estate, treasury, risk management, and so forth, not to mention countless consumer-facing and industry-specific applications. The use cases for e-signatures truly pervade the enterprise.

Many Industries, Many Use Cases

I was also struck by the diversity of industries, business functions, and use cases for DocuSign. It is especially compelling in ‘paperwork-intensive’ and highly regulated industry sectors with their requirements for numerous sign-offs and audit trails — such as in real estate, finance, insurance, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, airlines, higher education, and aerospace. We heard, for example, from AstraZeneca, a $25B pharmaceutical manufacturer whose MedImmune division wanted to find a way to accelerate their development pipeline. They decided to use DocuSign in the R&D and clinical trial phases. Their CDAs (Confidential Disclosure Agreements) used to take a week or two to get executed. With DocuSign, more than 75% of CDAs are done in less than 24 hours and more than 25% are done in less than an hour. The switch has already resulted in an estimated savings of $40 per document. Now they have a detailed audit trail, which is critical to comply with FDA standards for clinical trials. They are also launching DocuSign for use in supplier quality, which has some very detailed audits required for regulatory compliance. The speaker from MedImmune said they found value in giving pilot participants the freedom to explore the technology across multiple use cases and let them get creative and iterate, ultimately gravitating towards and standardizing on whichever approach works the best.

A speaker from McKesson Specialty Heath (a division of McKesson, the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributor) is using DocuSign in the contract approval process. Prior to this, they had to track down senior managers, send the contract by courier all over the world (anticipating where those senior managers would be next), and hope that everything was done right. With DocuSign, the contract goes to the executives’ mobile devices and is done correctly in just minutes, anytime and anywhere that it is convenient for the executive.

A consumer-facing example was presented by Dr. Bobbie Rimel of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (CSMC). They faced challenges recruiting participants for cancer trials. The average clinical trial participation nationally is very low, about 2%-4%, due in part to patients’ difficulty processing informed consent agreements. CSMC created an online registry, using DocuSign for the consent signing process, and saw an immediate increase in enrollment from 5.4/month to 26.3/month at a much lower cost per enrollment. They also experienced a marked shift in demographics to include more healthy controls, non-Caucasians, and younger patients.

Transaction Rooms — DocuSign as a Collaboration Platform

We saw a brief demo of Transaction Rooms,1 DocuSign’s cloud-based document-sharing solution for real estate professionals. Transaction Rooms provides a place for organizing the dozens of documents associated with a real estate transaction, such as floor plans, plot surveys, home inspection reports, property disclosure, sales contract, and so forth. In addition, the different parties involved with the transaction (buyer, seller, agent, loan officer, etc.) have access to the room, each with their own view of the transaction from their perspective and the documents they are authorized to access. There are checklists to ensure nothing is forgotten as the transaction proceeds. In addition, a higher level executive, such as a regional manager, can view a dashboard across all the rooms under their domain to see aggregate views of transactions under review, approved, expired, pending, lost, new listings, trends, progress against goals, and so forth. DocuSign said that they plan to expand these same multi-party collaboration capabilities to other industries and use cases beyond real estate.


Availability and security are paramount concerns, considering that companies trust DocuSign to store some of their most confidential documents and conduct some of their most high-value transactions (like closing deals) and therefore rely on the continuous availability of DocuSign’s platform in order to be able to continue to conduct business. To bolster their strength in these areas, DocuSign announced the DocuSign Trust Foundation, which they described as “bank-class security” and “carrier-class availability.” On the security front, DocuSign is xDTM2 compliant and ISO 270013 and SSAE 16 certified.

On the high availability front, DocuSign said they’re moving toward delivering five 9’s availability (99.999% uptime) with zero planned maintenance, zero data loss, and 30-minute recovery time. To show off their high availability, DocuSign’s CTO, Grant Peterson, did a demo running on three different simulated data centers, each with three servers. While conducting live transactions, they took down all three demo environment servers at one data center, two servers at another, and one server at the third data center. The transactions continued with no noticeable degradation in performance. It was unclear how the simulated load compares to the real-world load. Demonstrating true non-stop capabilities in front of a large live audience (including the press) demonstrates a pretty strong level of confidence in their failover capabilities.

Becoming The De Facto Network of Trusted Identities?

The anonymity of the Internet has had tremendous benefits for freedom of expression and privacy. But there are times and places when you need to know with confidence who you are dealing with on the other side. Ultimately, DocuSign could become the de facto network for trusted authenticated identities — the go-to place when you need to know who you are dealing with on the other end of that electronic pipe. DocuSign has more than 40 million users today and, at its current growth rate of 40,000 new unique users per day, should surpass 100 million users in about three years; sooner if growth accelerates. As this network grows and matures, it could inherently give users an added level of identity assurance beyond the initial validation done by DocuSign. If you see an individual has DocuSigned 100 contracts with no issues, then the reliability of their identity should be very high. That level of identity confidence is missing from today’s popular social networks, and could prove to be an extremely valuable asset for DocuSign long term.

Here for the Long Run

DocuSign is growing rapidly. They are used by almost 100,000 companies in 188 countries, supporting 43 languages. They just raised $85M from institutional investors, giving DocuSign an estimated $1.6B valuation.4 Keith Krach was asked why DocuSign is not doing an IPO now while the market is so favorable. Keith said, “Our objective is to create a long-term sustainable company that provides tremendous value for our customers, partners, employees, and investors for many years to come.” He said staying private allows DocuSign to think long-term and gives them the freedom to invest in their business. Then he added, “What is really whipping the wind for us is the tremendous return on investment companies are achieving with DocuSign.”

Since signatures occur so incredibly often in the normal course of business, and the old paper-based approach slows things down so much, making signatures electronic and keeping transaction flows 100% digital end-to-end can be really transformational. DocuSign is well-positioned to serve as the catalyst for this digital transformation. Looks like DocuSign is truly here to stay and in it for the long run.


1 Transaction Rooms came with DocuSign’s acquisition of Cartavi last year. — Return to article text above
2 xDTM is an emerging standard for securing digital transactions. DocuSign was instrumental in creating the xDTM board of governors, which includes a DocuSign representative but is intended to be an independent organization. It is intended to complement and leverage existing security standards. — Return to article text above
3 ISO 27001 is a quite comprehensive security management standard that encompasses policies, governance, asset management, HR, physical security, communications security, access control, systems acquisition, development, and maintenance, incident management, business continuity, and compliance. — Return to article text above
4 WSJ estimated this valuation. See “DocuSign Raises $85 Million at $1.6 Billion Valuation” — Return to article text above

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