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How e-sigs boost productivity

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Even though companies have saved millions by switching to digital processes, there are still many that rely on paper-based systems for transactions. AVI ROSE of DocuSign, believes that electronic signatures can help businesses save money and time.

Enterprises have already saved millions by switching their legacy processes to digital, but when it comes to actual transactions many still rely on old paper-based processes. The challenges and costs involved with paper-based transactional processes include volumes of printing, faxing, and overnighting costs; lack of transparency in document status; and delays caused by missing signatures. There is also an obvious limitation in that paper-based documents can only be filed in one place and accessed by one person at a time.

This inevitably leads to filing, archiving and document retrieval challenges due to multiple copies of critical documents made and stored in different locations, which makes it difficult to keep track of changes and authenticate the originals.  This inefficiency further causes compliance and security issues and the cost to organisation runs between R140 and R1300 per document, depending on whether the document can be found and whether it contains errors.

It makes sense, therefore, that businesses should consider a complete solution that utilises advanced electronic signatures to mitigate these costs and complications. This is particularly relevant in light of the fact that the rate at which we need to process, store and secure information is continually increasing. For example, organisations need to provide a faster way to sign and verify documents in order to improve customer satisfaction and meet service expectations. This would also enable them to eliminate direct bottom-line expenses that arise from printing, routing and replacing documents, as well as the indirect costs that arise from delays and other productivity obstructions.

Advanced electronic signatures are intended to replace paper-based processes where  legislation requires that documents are signed with a “wet” (pen and paper) signature.  The advanced electronic signature process means that a paper original with a wet signature will be replaced with a digitally signed file.  While the legislative and technological foundations for electronic signatures have been in place for many years, the only hurdle that remains is the need to implement an advanced electronic signature solution across an organisation in order to have a truly paperless process.

To make this transition easier, the process needs to be simplified and potential bottlenecks  identified; from authenticating authorised personnel through to maintaining the system. At an enterprise level hundreds of employees need to manage signature files so these files must be secure and accessible on demand. This requires that the management interface be integrated into the various applications that the organisation already uses – such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems – to deliver advanced electronic signatures in the context in which they’re needed. Without the right tools to deal with advanced electronic signatures, these benefits cannot be unlocked. By having the right system in place the vast majority of internal and external process relating to customers, suppliers and the like can be fully digitised, and there will no longer be a need for the organisation to stop the digital process to print a contract, sign each page, mail it off and then wait until it is returned.

A further important benefit of advanced electronic signatures, when compared to other signature methodologies, is that these signatures carry a high evidentiary weight, and the authenticity of the document to which they are attached can be guaranteed. This means that in a litigious situation, the burden of acquiring proof lies with the other party to disprove the authenticity of a signature. Just as important is the fact that advanced electronic signatures include a timestamp, which is useful when organisations need to know the exact time of signing.

In short, a solution for digitally signing documents that can be seamlessly integrated within an organisation’s existing management systems is not just crucial in overcoming productivity blockages; it is also necessary to ensure seamless compliance with the South African Electronic Communications and Transaction Act of 2002.

* Avi Rose, Regional Sales Manager Africa at DocuSign

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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