Document Digitalization and Process Automation



The driving factor behind the digital transformation of documents is the option of unlimited access. The majority of documents that companies work with today are probably of electronic origin. You can use digital transformation for the automation of workflow and to eliminate time consuming manual processes and unnecessary administration.  

One of the most common causes for the removal of documents from the digital environment is the approval of their content by a signature in traditional form. This significantly slows the transformation and increases the risk of manual processing errors.

A solution to this problem is the digitalization of the signature. However, the company must decide the form of the electronic signature. This decision is influenced by factors such as requirements for integration, working with documentation exclusively in its own infrastructure or also the segment in which the company operates. 

Electronic Signature Selection

There are three types of approval of digital content as defined by the European eIDAS regulation (Regulation No. 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council), which are also valid in the Czech Republic: 

  • Simple Electronic Signature (SES)
  • Advanced Electronic Signature (AES)
  • Qualified Electronic Signature (QES)

A simple electronic signature does not have a clearly defined format criteria or security criteria. It is usually a signature in e-mail communication or a scanned handwritten signature.

According to eIDAS, article 26, an advanced electronic signature must meet the following criteria:

  • it is uniquely linked to the signatory; 
  • it is capable of identifying the signatory;
  • it is created using electronic signature creation data that the signatory can use under his sole control with a high level of confidence; and
  • it is linked to the signed data in such a way that any subsequent change in the data is detectable.

Thus, an advanced electronic signature ensures higher security and the option of identifying the signatory. For example, it is a handwritten electronic signature with signature characteristics (data records on the speed of the stroke, pressure, etc.), it is used for signing documents in a secure area (e.g., internet banking), where the client signs themselves by entering their password from a two-factor authentication (e.g., a token from the bank application).

A qualified electronic signature is also a form of advanced signature; however, it includes the following additional requirements for the identification of the signatory:

  • a certificate for the qualified signature is issued by a certification authority
  • the certificate is stored on media certified by the NBU (the National Security Authority) for example, identification cards

An advanced signature mainly differs from a simple signature in that the advanced signature contains the identity of the signatory, which is verified by a certification authority. In other forms of signatures, the identity of the signatory is captured in the unique characteristics of the signature or in other data from the signature (GPS, IP, delivering the document by e-mail, input of a single use password, signing in to the client zone/internet banking etc.). This data can then be analyzed in court assessment appraisals by handwriting experts and forensic experts in the area of information systems.   

Security and Applicability

A qualified signature contains the identity of the signatory, but it is quite difficult to use and has very specific hardware and application requirements. A qualified signature can also represent a security risk for the owner of the certificate if they have to use it in an unknown device (e.g., an identity card with a chip). In the scenarios with a client or internal documentation where there is an emphasis on the processes following the signature, a qualified signature poses multiple obstacles.

Unless legislatively regulated (for example, filing a tax return can be only done with a handwritten signature or with a qualified certificate), any form of electronic signature may be used. The most common type of signature is the advanced electronic signature, which represents a middle road between the options of use and security. It creates a tool that is useful and able to integrated for a companies internal and external processes. For commercial use it is more appropriate to digitize a common paper process with an advanced electronic signature.

How to prepare for the implementation of the electronic signature

Before the search for the signature solution itself, the company should conduct an internal analysis and answer some questions related to it:

  • Analysis of the current signature process

- In which cases does the company sign on paper?
- What can be improved in the paper process?

  • Which type of documents does the company want to sign electronically?
  • How does the agreement of the content with clients look – is it in person or done remotely?
  • Where will the documents be signed? At company branches, internally?
  • Which form of electronic signature is most suitable?
  • Documents

- Where are the digital documents created?
- Where are the digital documents archived?
- How will the digital documents be sent to the client?

  • What are the impacts of the new signing processes on the internal systems?
  • When should a legal analysis be conducted and an agreement with an electronic signature be prepared?


The introduction of the electronic signature does not only mean the beginning of signing digital documents, but also a change of internal processes and habits. A company’s internal systems, which are also influenced by electronic signatures (e.g., document storage, CRM, client zone) are risk factors.

When introducing an electronic signature, it is advisable to choose only one type of document, which has the most simple signing process and brings immediate benefits. Afterwards, it is necessary to evaluate the progression of the signature process from the creation of the document up to feedback from the stakeholders, to draw conclusions, to suggest improvements and to then begin with the digitalization of another type of document.  

Last but not least, it is important to think about the end clients and to correctly communicate the change in signatures and sufficiently explain the process of the new electronic signature.

Implementation and Costs

There is a reasonably wide range of finished signature solutions on the market which one can use almost immediately. They offer the basic options of the integration and default setting of processes. Depending on the company, it can work with a complete solution or the solution must be further integrated into its infrastructure.

The implementation of the electronic signature can take from one month up to a year, depending on the difficulty of the processes and specific requirements. It mainly depends on the number of integrated systems as well as the form of electronic signature.

The modification of internal systems (if necessary) will also impact the duration of the implementation, which is mainly ensured by the suppliers of these systems.

The costs for the implementation of the electronic signature can be broken down as follows:

  • License fee for the electronic signature solution (according to the licensing policy it can be a one-time payment, a monthly subscription, payment per transaction/signed document)
  • Service level agreements (SLA)
  • Fees for development/integration/implementation
  • Cost of the signature hardware (tablets, signature pads, computers)
  • Cost of internal company system modifications
  • Cost of the time of company employees who deal with the electronic signature

If the company does not have high requirements for custom-made integration and modification, it can focus on cloud solutions, or software as a service. In this case, the costs are limited only on the choice of a specific package of functions which are defined by the service providers. These are usually the number of accounts, the bulk of the signed documents or additional integration services (e.g., Google Drive). The implementation cost of this service is lower, but they also offer a more limited spectrum of options for customization. With this type of solution it is also important to remember that the documents leave the IT infrastructure of the company.

Process Optimalization and Automation

The digitalization of documents and other work processes can greatly increase effectiveness, lower costs and increase customer satisfaction. But how to approach the optimalization of digitalized processes?

Mapping document flow

A process map functions as a flowchart which displays individual tasks in a process as well as the people responsible for them. It shows the necessary resources, responsible people and follow-up steps in the document workflow. The map can help the company identify areas which need to be optimized. 

Comparison of process performances for individual documents

The company identifies the metrics to track while measuring the efficiency of processes. The metrics can include process speed, frequency and number of errors, employee time or the return on workflow investment.  

Funnel analysis in processes

In this step it is necessary to identify obstacles in work processes and to focus on the identification of problems. The company identifies key reasons that slow the process and where frequent errors or redundant steps occur.

Modelling new processes for document management

The identification of critical processes is followed by the modelling of a new process. It is a visualization of each step in the new work flow, the direction of the documents and the people responsible for approving the content.

Automation of document management

The objective of the digital workflow is to create a system which automatically determines the correct direction of documents. The integration of the approval process into the document workflow opens up space for the use of electronic signatures. The necessity of manually printing, signing and scanning documents as well as their manual forwarding to another approver will be thus eliminated. It is also important to consider the automation of document generation and their automatic distribution to interested parties. 

With the correct implementation of the electronic signature, a company becomes more effective not only towards the client, but internally. It eliminates errors which were part of the paper process and can expedite the delivery of the product, service or invoice and the fulfillment of the contractual relationship with the client and other third parties.