Interview to Antonio Pinedo, expert in electronic signature.
- What should an SME that wants to start a digital transformation process take into account?
First of all, what every SME must bear in mind is that a digital transformation challenge involves cultural changes and changes in the organisation's work methodology and strategy. Any transformation has to be aligned with the company's objectives because it not only involves a technological change, but also a change in the way of working of the people involved. Any digital transformation process has to be fully planned and well designed. In fact, there are consultancy firms that can help with this kind of process because a bad process or poor management of this change can generate even more internal resistance within the organisation. For this reason, in any digital transformation process it is important to carry out an analysis and get to know the initial level of digital maturity we have and the objectives we want to achieve. Secondly, knowing all the areas that are susceptible to digitalisation and setting a series of priorities in terms of their processes and the capacities of the areas to be able to tackle it. Thirdly, involving the entire company is fundamental because, at the end of the day, all employees must be involved. Fourthly, to be able to draw up a roadmap that can be followed so that there are no surprises later on. Fifthly, to be able to choose the technology or tools that are most suitable. This is usually one of the main problems, usually the companies that get into a technology or get into a system or a solution without having assessed whether this is really the solution that fits, and I'm not talking about procedures, I'm talking about the code or its structuring. Step six is to analyse the impact and the changes that need to be made in order to plan for future actions. Seventh, as I said, having good advice is vital and fundamental for the success of the digital transformation process.
- How can different enabling technologies help SMEs?
It will depend a lot on the type of SME and the digital transformation challenge I mentioned. It is not the same to implement an ERP where there is a whole management system within the organisation. It is not the same to implement a signature platform or a CRM for all the commercial management or to implement a mes system for the entire production system. They are totally different systems and with technologies that, obviously in an industrial production system, many other types of technologies are taken into account, such as a digital twin, blockchain and artificial intelligence, Big Data, etc. So it will depend a little bit on what system you want to implement and where you want to implement it. It is not so much a question of which technology, but rather which system you want to implement within the organisation, because the same system can contain several technologies.
- Why is it important to use electronic signatures in SME business processes?
The main function of electronic signatures is to facilitate the signing of electronic documents with natural persons in a totally simple way, guaranteeing the identity of the signatories. Furthermore, electronic signatures not only improve the exchange of information between the different people who are going to sign the document, but also avoid unnecessary travel to sign these documents, as used to happen in the past with paper. In addition to being a much faster technology, it is therefore obviously associated with cost savings, a better quality of service and also offers greater guarantees in terms of digital security. It is worth mentioning that there are obviously different signature methodologies and, well, it obviously offers many guarantees. A document signed with a qualified certificate issued by an electronic signature certification authority, than a biometric handwritten signature. But, well, here we enter into certain processes and signature levels that are also associated depending on the type of document or management that the organisation wants to carry out.
- Are there free or low-cost e-signature tools available?
There are different platforms on the market, with different signature methodologies and some even with their "freemium" model. This means that you can access a very cheap service with certain types of signatures. The problem is that there is often a lack of knowledge about electronic signatures and their legal weight. As I mentioned before, there are certain platforms where you can simply sign a document with a biometric handwritten signature, which obviously has legal recognition and is recognised. Then there are other types of platforms that also allow you to sign with other types of signature methodologies, such as an OTP with a text message, which you receive a text message to your mobile phone and with a code, you sign or you receive a text message to your email and you sign, or even you can sign with your facial biometrics or with your digital signature certificate. Depending on how this type of document has been signed and the type of electronic evidence that you can collect, in the event that you, or in this case the company, have any problem and there is a dispute with this contract because a third party says that it has not been signed, depending on the probative force that this document has, a judge could be in favour of one side or the other. That is why often these types of platforms, although they offer a much cheaper and, at the same time, much simpler signature service, run the risk of possibly not being such a secure signature system. So what is valid? Yes, that there are cheaper signature systems or platforms on the market that are fully accessible? That's true, but they also have that risk. That's why it's important, when you're looking for a signature platform, not only to look at the price or what it offers, but also to understand a little bit or to get a little bit of advice that depending on your business methodology, which signature methodology would be the best fit.
- What advice would you give to an SME that is moving forward in its digitalisation process?
First of all, I believe that any digitisation process is good for all companies. It is true that it is often a challenge, also depending on the degree of digitisation, because of course, digitising a digitisation process can be very extensive. But it is a challenge that is necessary today, because those companies that do not digitise will have a problem, because it is estimated that within five years 80% of sales will be made online and it is essential for a company to digitise if it wants to maintain itself in the future in an economy that is practically becoming digital. Moreover, the digitisation process not only allows you to generate greater productivity and savings and income in terms of optimising many processes, but it also allows you, with all the information that we collect in a database if you have managed it well, to make decision-making easier, as you have much more information than you had before. Also, if you are able to generate a good image from a digital point of view with third parties, given that we already live in a global world, it allows you to open borders and it could even help you to be able to extend your business outside your region or outside the limits in which the business is possibly currently located. It also allows you to get to know your customers better because you have more contact and interaction with them. It can help improve your reputation and, of course, improve teamwork, because with all the digital technologies that we have nowadays, it is much easier for the team to be much more communicated, much more fluid when it comes to work because the information flows much more quickly and agile. Therefore, I recommend everybody, regardless of the size of the company, to evaluate a digitalisation process, because it always tends to bring positive points or positive things to the organisation.