Build or Buy a Digital eSignature Platform?
The days of printing, signing, and scanning documents are fast becoming a thing of the past. Today’s more user-friendly applications make it easy to review and sign contracts, waivers, and other forms by incorporating eSignature technology into their core functionality. For many software developers, eSignature capabilities are becoming an essential feature rather than a “nice to have.”
When it comes to implementing signature tools, however, they are faced with the difficult choice of whether to build them in-house or buy them from a third-party provider. Increasingly, developers are choosing to incorporate existing solutions for a number of compelling reasons.
Build vs Buy eSignature Capabilities
Development teams are frequently tempted to build an eSignature solution for their applications from scratch. After all, creating customized signature capabilities that meet the exact use case needs of software sounds like a great way to provide a better user experience and minimize the complications that sometimes come with using external solutions. The team would be able to maintain control over the code involved and ensure that the integration with other systems remains as clean as possible.
Unfortunately, this isn’t how developing those features usually works in practice. Designing a robust eSignature solution requires specialized expertise. When creating a new application, most of the engineering team’s focus is understandably directed toward ways to deliver innovative new features and provide a compelling user experience. Since eSignature capabilities are largely a “solved” solution, the design team rarely has much experience with these requirements and are better suited to solving a different set of challenges rather than reinventing the proverbial wheel.
With that in mind, here are a few reasons why building an eSignature solution from the ground up can be more of a headache than it’s worth.
Time is precious on any software development project. Teams must make hard decisions about where to focus their limited resources to avoid falling behind schedule. This is challenging enough when developers are trying to design, test, and refine new features. Building a unique eSignature solution from scratch can take months, or even years, to get right if a development team isn’t already well-versed in the technical aspects of electronic and digital signatures. Even if they do have that experience, every moment spent working on features that could be easily implemented through a third-party solution is time away from developing the core features that will help an application stand out in a crowded and competitive market. Not to mention the associated costs, which can quickly add tens of thousands of dollars to the project’s budget.
One of the reasons why an eSignature API is so difficult to build from the ground up is the amount of security features they require to protect the integrity of signatures. In order to be legally binding and admissible in court, eSignatures must have an audit trail that allows them to be time-stamped and tracked. They must be able to provide defensible proof that they could be accessed, reviewed, and signed by all parties involved in the process. Personally identifiable information needs to be protected by SSL encryption and stored on a system using highly secure servers. Implementing the technical aspects of an eSignature is one thing, but building out the expertise and infrastructure to keep documents private and secure is a whole different ball game.
As part of creating a secure eSignature platform, developers also need to make sure they’re meeting a variety of compliance standards governing the way data is handled. At the very minimum, that means undergoing audits to ensure compliance with recognized standards like SOC 2, CCPA, HIPAA, and FERPA, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Even preparing for those audits is a major challenge that requires organizations to develop and implement an array of security standards and practices. For many startups and small software development companies, hiring a dedicated team to manage all the legal issues surrounding compliance is simply not in the budget.
Security and compliance aren’t simply “set it and forget it” considerations. People and processes must be put in place to manage them over time to ensure that applications remain in compliance with the most recent security requirements. This may also extend to the eSignature technology itself if there are changes to the way it’s handled under the law. The last thing an application needs is for its eSignature capabilities to suddenly become outdated or no longer legally binding. Without a dedicated team to manage those features and navigate evolving regulatory standards, applications could be putting customer data at risk. Building an in-house eSignature API solution means also bringing along an ongoing commitment to maintain the infrastructure to support it, which can quickly translate into sizable long-term costs.
Benefits of Integrating an eSignature API
Given the challenges associated with creating an eSignature solution from scratch, it’s hardly surprising that many development teams instead choose to buy an existing API integration from a third-party provider. Integrating an API-based solution allows them to add reliable, proven functionality into an application that often provides a great deal more flexibility than an in-house solution can deliver. Even better, an eSign API provides a seamless integration into their existing platforms that has already been tested and optimized.
Most of the benefits of buying a ready-made solution from a third-party provider can be boiled down to a few key factors.
While there are initial and ongoing costs to implementing an eSignature API, those costs are frequently much smaller than the expenses associated with building eSignature capabilities from the ground up. There’s no need to hire specialized engineers, invest in complex compliance processes, or set up expensive security audits. Valuable and limited resources can instead be directed toward developing more innovative application features to meet the evolving needs of customers. In order to maximize the cost benefits of an eSignature API, however, it’s important to find a provider that offers transparent pricing and contracts. Beware of promotional contracts that give way to complicated and obscure pricing structures after the first year or so of use.
Faster Time to Market
Since eSignature APIs are built upon proven technology and provide an easy path to integration, they allow developers to add signature features to their applications much faster than it would take to build them in-house. While the timeline for building those capabilities from scratch could take months or more, an API-based solution can be implemented in a matter of hours. That means teams can quickly add eSignature features to their applications without compromising their development schedule. Fewer delays and unexpected problems mean more time for testing and refinement prior to launch, ensuring that software not only gets to market faster, but will be more robust and stable when it gets there.
Buying an API-based solution for eSignature functionality effectively outsources not only the development of those features, but also the ongoing management of them. Rather than keeping pace with the latest developments in eSignature compliance or technology, companies can instead leave that maintenance to a third-party provider with the expertise and resources to handle them. There’s also the benefit of having experienced support available to troubleshoot any eSignature-related challenges, rather than languishing in a backlog of IT tickets. As new features become available, they can also quickly implement them without having to perform any complex development work. This ensures that the solution’s eSignature capabilities will remain just as cutting edge as its other features.
While sending out eSignature forms and gathering signatures is an important component of an eSignature platform, people frequently overlook the next step involved in the process. All electronic signatures need to be automatically routed somewhere for review or storage in a system of record once they’re completed. That typically involves structuring them within some form of workflow that operates on conditional logic to determine where signatures need to be sent at every stage of the process. By implementing a versatile API platform that can bridge the gap between systems to route signatures wherever they’re needed, development teams can build a more flexible application with an overall better user experience for customers.
Enhance Your Applications with OnTask eSign API
OnTask eSign API allows developers to fill the gaps in their applications in minutes thanks to our detailed documentation, extensive code samples, customizable workflows, and robust engineering support. By leveraging the power of the OnTask platform, you can quickly integrate secure, compliant eSignature capabilities that allow your software to gather and route signatures throughout a conditional workflow for review or archival.
Rather than spending time and money solving a challenge that’s already been solved, development teams can instead integrate a solution that is fully HIPAA and SOC 2 compliant and has an entire team in place that’s dedicated to maintaining the highest levels of security and developing innovative new signature and workflow features. To learn more about how OnTask eSign API can help you cut development costs and accelerate your application’s time to market, talk to one of our API experts today or schedule a free demo.