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How to Evaluate E-Signature Pricing

Industry Insights
|  December 12, 2018 Rahim Kaba
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Organizations know that moving to a fully digital signing workflow will benefit their entire operations. They often start small to test the software’s capabilities, work out any kinks and prove the value. From there, the goal is to extend electronic signatures across the company over time. Naturally, once they scale, their e-signature usage grows. The greater the number of users, signers and documents, the more e-signature pricing will change.

That is why it’s important to look for a vendor who offers a transparent, flexible e-signature pricing structure that adapts as your needs change. You don’t want to be locked in to something that doesn’t make sense long term – or worse, billing surprises and "gotcha pricing".  

How You Consume E-Signatures Matters

When evaluating the cost of a solution, you understandably want to know the variety of pricing models the vendor provides. Do they offer e-signature pricing per document, per package, per transaction, per user, or a flat annual fee?

This depends on how you will be consuming e-signatures. Document signing transactions are either sender-initiated or system-initiated. The one you chose determines the pricing options available.  

SENDER-INITIATED PROCESSES

These are known as "ad hoc" because they involve some manual preparation by an employee. They tend to be smaller volume processes and one-offs such as NDAs, contracts, statements of work, purchase orders, etc.

This is the fastest way to start using electronic signatures – as an e-signature service that you login to when you need it, or as a pre-integrated connector that drops e-signatures into other platforms like Salesforce, Box and SharePoint.  Both are ideal for small to mid-sized companies, as well as individual departments and workgroups within larger organizations (especially if IT resources are limited or you need to go live immediately).

If you intend to move to a fully automated process in the future, there is an advantage to starting with an e-signature service. It offers you the ability to test your volumes before committing to a price. If this is something you are considering, ask the vendor if their service includes all the same core features and capabilities as the full platform.

Watch out for credit card lock-in

Unfortunately, credit card lock-in is something you may come across in the world of cloud subscriptions. Read user reviews from sites such as G2 Crowd to verify whether the vendor has a reputation for billing surprises. Are people complaining about still being billed, even after the subscription has expired? Or, while using the service do they get surprise overage charges without explanation? Is this a recurring theme in user reviews? Watch out for vendors who are repeatedly cited for such practices (hint: check out Yelp or the Better Business Bureau).

SYSTEM-INITIATED PROCESSES

These are high volume, repeat processes with partners or customers where the documents are automatically generated by the system, such as a banking or insurance portal. They are fully automated and seamlessly integrated with core systems, so there is no manual work needed to prepare documents for signature. Examples include insurance applications, loan applications, finance contracts, new account agreements, and government permits and licenses.

In this scenario, the pricing can be negotiated in different ways, depending on your needs and anticipated volumes. The catch-22 is that when you first start out with e-signatures, you don’t necessarily know what the user adoption and volumes will be.

That’s why you need to look for an e-signature vendor who is flexible and allows you to test user adoption over a period of time, and then adjusts your cost accordingly. The vendor should work you to find a pricing structure that is fair for everyone – whether that be per document, per transaction or a flat annual fee. It’s a common-sense approach that ensures a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.

Don’t Overlook These Considerations 

Here are two other things to consider when evaluating the cost of an e-signature solution that could save you a lot of money in the long term (or drive the total cost of ownership up if you’re not aware from the start).

  • Features Cost:
    • E-signature solutions come with a wide variety of features and functionality. Ask the vendor how they price the solution and if you need to pay added fees for additional capabilities. For example, are authentication features and 3rd party connectors included with the base plan?
       
    • Generally speaking, the more regulated and complex your signing workflows, the more features and functionality you need. Look for solutions with the ability to customize workflows and the look-and-feel of the application, as well as strong audit capabilities to demonstrate compliance.
       
    • For these reasons it’s important to choose an e-signature provider that charges one price for their entire set of features and functionality is important – especially if you plan to roll e-signatures out across your operations down the road.
       
    • This will prevent any unpleasant surprises. The last thing you want is an e-signature provider that nickels and dimes you for every feature – today and as your needs grow.
  • Scaling Costs:
    • Another important consideration is the cost of scaling and managing e-signatures across your operations and different lines of business.
       
    • To keep costs down, look for a solution that supports all environments (on-premises, private cloud and public cloud), while using the same code base for all three environments.
       
    • IT and internal policies change all the time. This will give you the flexibility to choose the most appropriate deployment option for each of your signing workflows, and changing environments, if needed.
       
    • Further, a solution that uses the same code base will enable you to re-use the work you’ve done in one infrastructure in a different infrastructure, and make it much easier to maintain and update.

E-Signature Pricing: The Bottom Line    

When an e-signature provider is truly invested in your success and wants to form a long-term relationship with your organization, they will do what it takes to ensure a cost effective solution today and in the long term.

That begins with an understanding that your needs will change with time and willingness to adjust the cost and contract terms even before they have expired, to giving you all the features and tools you need to scale e-signature cost-effectively across your organization.

Learn More

To learn more about pricing and other selection criteria that will make you successful with e-signatures, read this new guide from Technology Evaluation Centers: Key Evaluation Criteria for E-Signature Software—Making the Right Choice for Cost-Saving Efficiency and Superior Service.

This is part of a Buyer's Guide blog series. Other posts include: