Why are Signatures Missing from the Average Office Computer Desktop?

Have you ever thought about the decision-making process for the purchase of office desktop software? I’ve never been involved in this activity so it is something I admit to knowing almost nothing about! However, there is one aspect that has intrigued me for a while. Let me explain.

The provision of office productivity software to all office-based employees is taken for granted these days. Certainly in the business sectors that I work, it is a given that every new employee will be given a computer (desktop or laptop, sometimes both) which has an office productivity suite pre-installed. This is more often than not Microsoft Office, which comprises a word processor (Word), a spreadsheet (Excel), a presentation package (Powerpoint) and electronic mail (Outlook) together with various related utilities. This is a significant cost to the employer; for a company employing 1,000 staff, they are spending around £5000,000 on desktop software. I see very little evidence of this purchase being justified…. what is the software being used for; are all components necessary; is the company getting value for money. Now, I’m taking a very simplistic view and I’m sure some of these discussions do go on but the fact is, it is taken as a given that everyone “needs” these products installed on their computer. And for the most part, I’d agree.

However, there is one significant component missing. We create documents electronically…. a report, a proposal, a letter. We create data files electronically….a budget, a costing proposal, an expenditure analysis. We create presentations electronically…. a conference lecture, a presentation to our department. And we use electronic mail to send all of these documents to our colleagues for input, information, review etc. The guys who have provided the tools to do all of this seem to have forgotten that a significant number of these documents then have to be signed once they have been reviewed and approved for use. Or at least, need some way of authenticating the origin and/or status of the document. So what do we do? Our desktop productivity suite does not include digital signatures so we have to print out the document and use a handwritten signature. Old-fashioned or what!!

I’m still struggling to understand why in the 21st century when we have legislation that supports digital signatures and we have technological solutions for digital signatures that have been tried and tested for years, we still don’t have the technology FULLY INTEGRATED into the desktop productivity suites we’re using and they’re pre-installed by our IT departments BY DEFAULT. So this is a plea to our IT colleagues. If you are spending upwards of £300+ on a desktop productivity suite for each of your staff, don’t miss one of the most vital components of the document life-cycle – review/approval. Let’s get the tools to keep our documents electronic across the whole of the life-cycle. When a large pharmaceutical company estimates the cost of obtaining one wet-ink signature from an external approver as $25 (printing, courier, processing, scanning), the cost of installing a digital signature solution pales into insignificance. Time for another paradigm shift??


About rammellel

Records management consultant to the life sciences / pharmaceutical industry
This entry was posted in e-records, Records management practice, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

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