Digital Signatures for Speedier Approvals

Information Technology

Many of Pepperdine University’s administrative offices are located on a campus that sits on a steep, picturesque hilltop in the Southern California beach town of Malibu. Perhaps because of the hike required to reach the offices, intracampus mail delivery is a challenge.

And because the offices rely heavily on intracampus couriers for circulation of university paperwork needing signatures—coupled with the possibility of these documents sitting untouched in an inbox—it is no surprise that gathering signatures could take weeks.

“It isn’t the most secure, reliable or fastest way to send such information,” says CIO Jonathan See.

Yet it was the primary means of shuttling everything from payroll forms to purchase orders to speaker contracts. First-class mail was used between domestic and international campuses. When the slow pace of paperwork delivery began causing increased costs, officials knew a better system was needed.

To design an improved process, See last year engaged the CIO Strategic Technology Alliance, a group he formed, comprised of representatives from Pepperdine’s campuses in Southern California, its facilities in Washington, D.C. and its international campuses in six countries. The Alliance was tasked with three major objectives: 1) improving turnaround time for signing documents, 2) handling and tracking documents more efficiently and 3) providing secure, remote access to documents needing signatures.

At the time, Pepperdine was already in the process of adopting Adobe Acrobat software enterprise-wide. See suggested the university explore other Adobe products that could help it achieve its three main objectives.

Adobe EchoSign was introduced to automate Pepperdine’s document workflow. After a pilot test with 18 users over two months—from which feedback was 100 percent positive—Pepperdine rolled EchoSign out throughout the university, See says.

A web-based program, Adobe EchoSign allows users to add digital signatures, or upload actual signatures, and then pass the document along to the next person for sign-off. Once the paperwork is fully signed, it is automatically filed.

The cost to license EchoSign is approximately $300 per user, per year, which is well worthwhile, says See. Just four months after implementing EchoSign, efficiency improvements were already evident. At that point, EchoSign users had sent more than 275 documents with an average turnaround time of 19 minutes. The long wait for responses had become a thing of the past.

EchoSign’s dramatic impact became evident last year when 90 signatures had to be gathered for Pepperdine’s computing code of ethics. Each Aug. 1, all 90 information technology employees are required to sign a code-of-ethics form. In the past, the form was emailed to all 90 staff members, who were instructed to print, sign and deliver the document to the IT administration office.

This process often took two to three weeks. In 2013, all 90 signatures were submitted in a single day, without additional follow-up required.

“EchoSign has helped Pepperdine cut costs and improve productivity,” See says, “giving faculty and staff more time to work on activities that directly benefit students.”


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