DocuSign, Transforming Lives and Bringing Joy?
In his opening keynote address at DocuSign MOMENTUM, CEO Keith Krach said “DocuSign transforms lives” and a little later in the day, Noah Broadwater, the CTO for the Special Olympics, said, “My job is to bring joy.” I was initially skeptical about these statements. For sure DocuSign transforms businesses and the Special Olympics truly brings joy to the millions of participating athletes with intellectual disabilities and the people that deeply care about them. But to say the technology used to run the organization was responsible for changing lives, seemed like a stretch to me. Keith softened me up a bit by describing how DocuSign enabled Free the Children to cut administrative expenses by a third, allowing more money to go to schools, clean water, medical supplies, and other program services, and several similar stories.
Then Noah described how Special Olympics volunteers in Africa often have to drive for the better part of a day, as much as 150 kilometers over dirt roads, to pick up and bring the young atheletes to these events. The atheletes cannot compete without bringing a medical release form signed by a doctor saying it is OK for them to compete. But paper-based forms get lost or are forgotten. Competing in these events is so important to these kids, that it is truly heartbreaking when they are denied the opportunity, because of some paperwork problems. DocuSign can ensure that never happens again. I was convinced and so was the rest of the audience who gave Noah an enthusiastic standing ovation.
Actions, More Than Words
Keith also announced the formalization of the DocuSign Impact program, with several components. DocuSign employees will get three full-pay days to work on whatever cause they want. Charitable organizations can get deep discounts on DocuSign products. And they created the DocuSign Impact Foundation, as well as putting aside 1% of their equity to provide 1-to-1 match of any employee contributions. These kinds of actions speak to the character of an organization and its leadership.
Back in the 1980s, there was plenty of talk of the ‘paperless office.’1 If anything, the use of paper went up. We took another run at it in the 90s, but with cheap personal printers sprouting up everywhere, we printed more than ever. By the 2000s, many people gave up on predicting the end of paper. But not DocuSign. In fact, ending the use of paper seems to be an obsession of theirs. I think many of the right pieces are in place this time around. We have nearly universal access to light, small mobile devices, with increasingly readable screens and affordable and ubiquitous wireless services. Along comes DocuSign providing a very compelling approach and reason not to print out documents just to sign them. Esignatures are so much faster and easier.2 I believe DocuSign could be one of the key factors accelerating the decline in the use of paper in developed economies and slow or reverse its growth in emerging economies.3
Trust is Foundational
The theme of Trust was brought up again and again at the DocuSign conference. It is foundational to DocuSign’s business. There are a few different aspects to this:
- Trusting the platform to be there when you need it — for this DocuSign has developed what they describe as ‘carrier grade availability.’ At last year’s MOMENTUM they demonstrated how the platform gracefully failed over, with no visible impact to the users, in the face of bringing down one server after another. They are adding three new data centers in Europe by the end of this month, in addition to the three they already have in the U.S. Each of these has multiple independent clusters as well.
- Trusting that the platform will not be hacked — Bank Grade Security is how DocuSign describes it. I have not dug into what they do here, but many banks have deeply evaluated their security and proceeded to select and use DocuSign for critical documents and signatures. At the conference, one of DocuSign’s banking customers described the rigor of their evaluation and it was quite impressive.
- Trusting that the e-signed documents will be legally enforceable — DocuSign has put a lot of effort to ensure legality of the platform for 188 countries around the world, including compliance with numerous global legal e-signature standards and frameworks and court-admissible Certificate of Completion.
- Trusting that signers are who they say they are and not an imposter — DocuSign provides various levels of identiy verfication services, such as their ID Check (partnering with LexisNexis).
Trust Enables Speed of Team-building and Execution
One element of trust that is outside the responsibility of the DocuSign platform (at least today) is ensuring that the parties to an agreement are honest and reliable. That diligence should precede the signing of an agreement, rather than being a part of the actual signing process per se. To the extent that the due diligence process can be dramatically sped up, it helps enable the ultra rapid, multi-enterprise team development as described in Outsourcing and the Age of Rapid Startups and Hyper-specialization.
Technology is enabling ever more rapid formation of multi-entity project teams, distribution of finely-grained tasks, and a growing set of resources for rapidly starting new enterprises. The element of trust is critical to this pheonmena and to enabling the speed of business. There are some online communities that attempt to tackle this problem through rating systems and performance transparency. These could be used in conjunction with DocuSign. By creating a trusted platform, DocuSign is one of those key enablers of this new way of doing things.
Enabling Rapid Growth
One recurring theme at MOMENTUM was how many of DocuSign’s customers are growing rapidly and said essentially, “We couldn’t have done it without DocuSign.” Salesforce is a good example, with $3 billion in revenue growing 30% year over year. Linda Chuan, Salesforce’s Senior Director Of Global Source-to-Supply talked about how their procurement budget grew much more slowly than revenue, so they had to continually do more with less. By moving to an integration of Apttus, Salesforce, and DocuSign, she has been able to dramatically reduce the amount of time her staff spends manually assembling reports, freeing them up to spend much more valuable time with stakeholders on their demand needs and with suppliers on strategic sourcing. Their suppliers also comment on how easy Salesforce is to work with now; how they can just sign contracts with a click and are done.
T-Mobile has implemented DocuSign as part of their customer onboarding, eliminating many paper documents and signatures. A process that used to take on average 54 minutes now takes less than 10 minutes. The iPhone 6 created a surge of new customers — double what they had forecast. DocuSign played a critical role helping them capture all that new business, while keeping customers happy, with a better experience that delivered on the company’s “un-carrier” promise.
Solar City, with about 190,000 customers today, is doubling almost every year, and shooting to reach a million customers by mid 2018. Each new customer generates considerable paperwork and signatures — a long term contract with the user to buy the power, agreements with installers of these systems, and more paperwork with those buying the securitized debt. The speed and ease of DocuSigning also helps reduce abandonments of the process. Solar City’s co-founder, Peter Rive, said point-blank in blunt terms, “We would be screwed without DocuSign,” putting a hard-to-miss exclamation point on how important the platform was to enabling their rapid growth.
Butte County Sheriff uses DocuSign to accelerate the arrest process. During crime investigations, they are able to create an electronic search warrant and get it approved by a judge in as little as 30 minutes, often before key evidence is destroyed by criminals. Beyond these examples, we heard story after story of how companies were able to dramatically speed up processes, reduce elapsed time (often by an order of magnitude or more), and save time.
One thing I heard repeatedly was how easy DocuSign was to install and integrate with existing CRM, ERP, HRIS and other lines of business systems. Carlo Platania, Program Manager of DocuSign at Telstra said less than 100 days after signing an agreement with DocuSign, they had rolled out to 1,700 users and are now rolling out to 50,000 more employees. LinkedIn, one of DocuSign’s earliest customers, started in invoicing and billing and almost immediately reduced days sales outstanding by $1M (equivalent to $100M as an equivalent percent of today’s revenue).
Starting Small, Finding the Value, Engaging at the Top
One of the biggest advantages DocuSign has over many other enterprise systems is their ability to start small in an enterprise and grow virally from there. It is often the case that a single function (sometimes a single person) implements DocuSign first to solve a single problem (sometimes just a single document). They start seeing value right away, start thinking of all the other things they could do, and start exposing others in the organization to this new way of doing things (“Wait, how did you do that? Can I do that to this other document/process? How do I start?”) The solution grows virally until it gets the attention of top executives (often sooner rather than later) who then decide it makes good business sense to push it throughout the organization.
For example, AstraZeneca started using DocuSign last year in procurement. It was a grass roots effort, starting at the bottom.Then the EVP of drug discovery saw what was happening, got engaged and excited, and got the whole senior staff excited.
Prioritizing Quickest, Highest-Impact Use Cases
Potential use cases are almost endless (DocuSign has compiled a library of more than 1,500 unique cases). So, once a decision is made to make a company-wide push to implement, there is a need for a roadmap and prioritization of the sequence of adoption for all these potential use cases. DocuSign helps companies prioritize the use cases roadmap using a simple 2X2 matrix analysis — Implementation Speed vs. Magnitude of Benefit. The use cases in the upper right (fast implementations with high benefits) become the highest priority.
Of particular interest to the ChainLink audience will be the fact that many enterprises start using DocuSign first in Procurement as demonstrated by HP, Microsoft, AstraZeneca, Salesforce etc. Supplier contracts are confidential documents that must be routed to senior executives scattered around the globe. DocuSign’s strengths in secrurity, availability, mobility and workflow flexibility align perfectly with the needs of Procurement use cases.
Starting with the Customer
Another common approach is to start with the customer-facing use cases. Improvements to customer experience are powerful drivers of increased revenue and improved net promoter scores. Intuit started with customer contracts, then added talent acquisition and onboarding, and using DocuSign with accountants doing taxes for customers (another customer-facing use case). Similarly T-Mobile started by DocuSign-enabling their customer signon/onboarding processes, then implementing additional use case in internal functions such as procurement (including an Ariba integration), invoicing, onboarding vendors, B2B, HR/benefits, and legal department.
Keeping it Simple
I’m convinced that one of the top reasons for DocuSign’s success is the simplicity of their user interfaces. As a former software engineer, I know how hard it is to make something completely intuitive and easy for the user, so I really appreciate a well-designed user interface when I see one (like the DocuSign UI). DocuSign’s founder Tom Gonser echoed this when he said “Simplicity was really hard for us to create. We hid all the complexity.”
Partner-Centricity and Integration
DocuSign is an inherently integrative platform. It digitizes formerly paper-based transactions flowing between systems. In a previous piece I said, “[With DocuSign] users can ‘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.” As such, DocuSign has invested a lot of effort jointly (with partners) developing tight integrations with many of the most popular platforms and applications, including Salesforce, Microsoft, NetSuite, Intuit, Google, SAP (Ariba and SuccessFactors), Novatus, Apttus, and more than 100 other out-of-the-box integrations. Several of the demos we saw highlighted how seamless this integration can be in practice.
Business is global. Agreements and signatures are global. Hence DocuSign has always had to support a global footprint. But it is not so simple. The EU has their own regulations about maintaing the location and control of sensitive data, which DocuSign is addressing in their new European data centers, policies and architecture. There are significant cultural differences in how signatures happen, such as the use of seals in Asia. Futher, there are numerous legal frameworks and varying requirements that must be met. And it’s not enough that DocuSigned documents are legally enforceable and compliant around the world. DocuSign also is spending efforts to effectively communicate those nuances to legal departments around the world (including suppliers’ legal departments) who otherwise are reluctant to accept digital signatures. As one speaker said, Business is global, but trust is local.
Sitting on an Untapped Mountain of Gold
This final observation is my own, not something the folks from DocuSign said at the conference. DocuSign continues to rapidly expand their footprint to include more use cases, more transactions, and more companies. This includes capturing much data that was previously spread out in unreachable corners of the enterprise on paper, or locked up in Word documents, emails, faxes, etc. Now, each of the transactional flows implemented using DocuSign is captured and retained4 in the repository. I believe there is enormous potential value in being able to analyze all that transactional data, including the contextual information embodied in the full text of those contracts, agreements, and documents. Tools that would allow you to run queries, slice and dice, and drill down on all that data would be very powerful. Furthermore, real-time and predictive analytics could be used to alert relevant responsible parties when something of importance is happening. Perhaps that will be the next major phase of value creation by DocuSign.
A Bright Future
It will be fascinating to watch where DocuSign goes next, given their current momentum, assets, and trajectory. Keith started off the aptly named MOMENTUM conference showing a video of the ride he took in a fighter jet squadron traveling at Mach 3 and experiencing 6 G’s of force. That was a great analogy for the speed and excitement of DocuSign’s journey at this juncture. Stay tuned!
1 At the time, I was a software engineer at Wang, who had the first commercial word processing system, one of the earliest email systems, and ‘Wang Office.’ So it was natural that we used to talk of the ‘paperless office.’ — Return to article text above
2 Esignatures are just one component of Digital Transaction Management. There are many other capabilities within the DocuSign’s platform that enable an organization to go 100% digital. — Return to article text above
3 Packaging and cartons are another major use of paper, independent from the paperless office. Thankfully, there is movement to reduce these as well. — Return to article text above
4 Based on retention policies. — Return to article text above
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