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Electronic signature

The complete integration of e-signature into your business processes

What is an electronic signature?

The electronic signature is a legal term that aims to authenticate the will or declaration of intent of the signatory. It is the electronic counterpart to the traditional handwritten signature applied with ink. In essence, this means that instead of signing a paper document by hand, the same document can be "signed" and signed electronically. This procedure significantly saves time and resources.

In the context of digitization and system-driven approval processes, the legally valid signature within existing IT solutions represents an important challenge. With the aim of reducing costs in the company, there is a need within multi-stage approval processes for a system-compatible equivalent for the classic signature with paper and ink without losing its binding nature.

The electronic signature: The following use cases are among the typical areas of application:

  • Providing contracts with legally valid electronic signatures
  • Supporting multi-level business processes that require signatures from different entities
  • Read confirmation of need-to-know / must-know information
  • Secure archiving of documents
Figure 1 to 5: Application examples of the e-signature

Types of electronic signature

In the field of electronic signatures, there are various types which differ in terms of bindingness and complexity, as shown in the following diagram.

The term "digital signature" is often used. This is a technical term that refers to a class of cryptographic (i.e., mathematical) procedures that can be used to generate advanced or qualified electronic signatures. The "electronic signature," on the other hand, is a purely legal term that was first used by the European Commission in a revised draft of EU Directive 1999/93/EC in order to avoid tying the legal regulations to a specific technology.

  1. Simple electronic signature
    The simple electronic signature does not claim to be forgery-proof and enjoys only limited evidentiary value in court. Nevertheless, this form of electronic signature is permitted / valid for form-free agreements according to § 127 BGB. Example: Simple text or image information to identify the author, such as a generated image caption on a document generated in the process or an automatically attached mail signature (name and address).
  2. Advanced electronic signature
    The advanced electronic signature allows both verification of signature and the fact whether contents document have been manipulated since signing. To create the signatures, a key is generated that is given only to the user authorized to sign. The methods used ensure a high level of evidence evaluation in court and can therefore be effectively used to replace the most common business correspondence. Example: Digitally signed documents or e-mail traffic according to S/MIME standard.  
  3. Qualified electronic signature
    The qualified electronic signature differs from the advanced one in the process of creation and transfer of the key used for signing. The key / certificate has a validity period and must be issued with an identity check by a so-called secure signature creation device (e.g. a special / verified card reader). In Germany and Switzerland, only the qualified electronic signature fulfills the requirements for which the written form is prescribed by law.
Example: the special electronic lawyer's mailbox (beA).

Bild 1 bis 5: Anwendungsbeispiele der E-Signatur

What is a digital signature?

A digital signature is a subset of the electronic signature. But not every electronic signature is a digital signature. The digital signature is an encryption technology that underlies the electronic signature. Unlike an electronic signature, it is not the intention of a person to sign a document and thereby enter into a contract or agreement.

The digital signature (set of characters inserted subsequently into a document) serves to identify the signatory and, since it cannot be manipulated, altered or copied, also to confirm that the signed document has not been changed from the original. The digital signature can do what the electronic signature alone cannot: It identifies the signatory.

Is an electronic signature also a digital signature?

Electronic signature Digital signature
Function: Electronic signatures identify the person signing, their intention and their consent.

Function: The digital signature supports electronic signatures, secures sensitive data, strengthens the trust of signatories and detects manipulation attempts.

Properties: The Electronic Signature is any mark placed on an electronic document. Properties: The digital signature creates an electronic fingerprint

Encryption: The electronic signature does not use encryption. Encryption: The digital signature uses encryption.
elektronische Signatur

With eSignature, the pen is a thing of the past

In this webinar you will learn how the electronic signature works and how you and your company can also benefit from the advantages of the electronic signature. You will gain insights into the TQG businessApp platform® as well as the integration of the electronic signature and its various uses and applications.

Registration (german)

Criteria for selecting the best software solution with electronic signature

  • Evaluate the classification of the software requirement according to on premise / cloud
  • Bewerten Sie die Klassifizierung der Softwareanforderung nach on premise / cloud
  • Where is the data storage? Do you want documents signed on your server or is the document located somewhere in the cloud? DocuSign is basically in the US cloud.
  • Include the consideration of data protection requirements regarding EUGH in your selection.
  • How is the integration and use of the signature solution planned in connections to internal / external DMS, ERP and services. Will your documents be captured from one solution and combined with other systems? Do you integrate the signature solution in BPMN2.0 - process flows in a digital platform like the TQG businessApp platform?

The TQG businessApp platform® supports both simple and qualified signatures. While the simple electronic signature works exclusively with an image file, the variant with the advanced electronic signature uses the generally accepted and widespread PDF standard with a digital signature created via the user's certificate.

  • Simple and binding signing of documents
  • High integration for binding processes
  • for employees in one's own company or even beyond its borders depending on the personal certificates used / issued
  • Management and use of signatures
  • Display of signature status
  • Integration with third-party e-Signature software
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