The Evolution of eSigning is Here, and You’re Invited!

Alex Panagides
6 min readDec 19, 2022

Sending documents for legally binding digital signatures is done by few. eSigning should be as accessible as email. mxHERO has developed a technology that makes this possible, and you can try it out!

mxHERO fully integrates email with eSigning technology. The benefits are many.

eSigning is reshaping the world, greatly facilitating the process of legally binding agreements by reducing costs and increasing efficiency in everything from commerce to governance. However, eSigning comes at the expense of adding more complexity to our already complex lives. Although eSigning saves us from the inconvenience of requiring the physical presence of each party, it still requires the sender to understand how to use one of the multitudes of eSigning services. Even the most simplistic offerings have instructions that run for pages.

eSigning isn't easy. Three "tip of the iceberg" screenshots of eSigning online instructions from Dropbox Sign, DocuSign, and BoxSign, respectively.

eSigning, at its core, is an email-driven process. Email is not only how signers are reached but implicitly as validation of identity. Even the most advanced eSigning technologies, like DocuSign, require an email username and address to function at the minimum. Email is ubiquitous and well-understood. No better medium exists to fulfill the role of the vehicle for universal participation. Given that email is universally understood and is already an integral part of eSigning, might there be a way to reduce complexity by extending email’s simplicity to the entire eSigning process, sender included?

This innovation allows anyone to request digital signatures simply by sending documents through email.

Here at mxHERO, we work on innovation, particularly in the email space.* Over the past year, we’ve developed a technology that allows the entire eSignature process to occur wholly within email. The solution works by enabling standard email to initiate the signing process. The result of this strategy profoundly simplifies the entire eSigning experience. Before, the sender would have to log in and initiate signing through the eSigning platform interface; mxHERO’s innovation allows the sender to simply attach documents that need to be signed to an email that is sent to those who need to participate in the signing process. In other words, the entire signing process works completely within the email interface instead of leaving email just to return to email.

A ~2 min video demonstrating the advantages of integrating email from the beginning of the eSigning process. The demonstration uses Dropbox Sign (formerly HelloSign), but the comparison is largely the same with any other eSigning solution (e.g., DocuSign).

This new approach is far simpler and faster than using an eSigning interface every time a document needs to be signed. The sender needs only remember to trigger the signing process with a hashtag in the email subject line.

A simple hashtag sends attachments to recipients for signature.
A high-level diagram of full integration of email with eSigning. The sender sends documents needing signing, and the recipient(s) receive documents staged for signature directly from the eSigning platform.

The Many Benefits

In essence, mxHERO has changed the interface of eSigning from a plethora of proprietary system UIs to ubiquitous and simple standard email. The impact of this change is profound in several ways:

Simplification

We know that the simpler technology is to use, the better. For organizations everywhere that have adopted or are looking to adopt eSigning technology, any reduction in complexity is a welcome boon. It means less cost for training, and more return on their eSignature investment, unleashing the greater efficiencies and agility that accrue from eSigning utilization. Making the entire eSigning process an easy-to-understand email significantly reduces required training, resulting in increased adoption.

Simpler is better. Email is the most ubiquitously used technology on the Internet.

Better Mobility and Beyond

Email is the most ubiquitously installed application. It is supported (if not already pre-installed) on every device, whether a cell phone, laptop, or desktop. Email is even supported by document scanners and nearly every other conceivable hardware with Internet accessibility. When making eSigning entirely an email process, all these devices become eSigning platforms. This is a significant convenience to the user and, in some cases, brings eSigning to completely novel scenarios. With mobility paramount in today’s environment, adding eSigning to a mobile device typically requires users to install an app (assuming the eSigning solution even offers a mobile app). Even with an app, the mobile phone’s small screen ensures a sub-optimal user experience. A much better user experience is simply composing an email, adding a hashtag, and sending. Almost no training is needed, every mobile phone is supported, and no app installation is required.

When email is the only requirement, requesting digital signatures from any device becomes not only possible but easy.

More than making the eSigning process easier is making the eSigning process even possible in scenarios where it isn’t today. A compelling use case is the office scanner. Nearly every office scanner offers a way to send a scanned document through email. It is easy to comprehend the powerful use-case of scanning a contract and directly sending it out for legally binding execution. This scenario illustrates the shortest bridge from the analog world of the paper contract to the digital world of the electronic signature.

…the shortest bridge from the analog world of the paper contract to the digital world of the electronic signature

An ideal marriage — paper contracts executed digitally. The scanner sends a document to recipients via email, mxHERO submits it to the signing platform in the background, and the recipients receive it for digital execution. Full integration of eSigning with email creates the shortest distance between the analog world of the paper contract and the digital world of eSignatures.

Simplifying eSigning Integrations

eSigning is often integrated into diverse systems across the business. For example, a CRM system may send out sales contracts ready for signature by prospective clients. Today these integrations are done through applications provided by the eSigning vendor. However, the organization must custom-develop an integration using the vendor’s API if the vendor does not have a ready integration for a particular system. Although APIs extend eSigning to practically any system, the need for custom development creates additional costs and introduces complexity (software maintenance, etc.) into the organization’s operations. In many cases, particularly for SMBs, these obstacles can be formidable.

Once transformed into a wholly email process, eSigning is easily integrated into nearly every system. In most cases, without the need for custom development. This dramatically extends the benefits and reduces the costs of eSigning adoption for organizations of all sizes.

Email as an abstraction layer to eSigning solutions simplifies system integration. Instead of each system needing integration with the eSigning platform, since nearly all systems can send formatted emails, the email-to-eSigning technology provides all the integration needed.

Reducing Vendor Lock-in

Despite the existence of many eSigning technologies, each solution’s particularities reduce an organization’s ability to move to different vendors. Once a company has trained its personnel and developed integrations and processes around a particular eSigning technology, the costs of switching to another vendor grow. Over time, switching costs become an effective “vendor lock-in.” This type of risk is significantly mitigated when eSigning is abstracted by email. Email is a universal protocol, not a vendor-provided solution. Once users and systems are integrated into the eSigning solution through email, changing the eSigning vendor requires only adjusting the integration between the email layer and the new signing solution. The email interface remains the same for the users and systems that depend on eSigning functionality — meaning no additional user training or redevelopment of system integrations.

When email is an abstraction layer to the eSignature solution, switching between eSignature vendors becomes a non-event.

The big picture

At mxHERO, we are excited to bring this innovation to market. eSigning is an important technology, greatly facilitating the vital trust needed in our societies today. By making the entire process of eSigning part and parcel of email, it becomes accessible to everyone. eSigning becomes simpler for those who already participate, but even more importantly, it extends this critical technology to the legions of users who don’t.

Today, a tiny subset of people can send a document for eSignature. Allied and fully integrated with email on both ends of the process (sender and recipient), eSigning becomes accessible to everyone.

Try it out!

mxHERO provides a free-to-use MVP (minimal viable product) that can be found at https://lab.mxhero.com/sign. The MVP currently supports DocuSign, Dropbox Sign, and BoxSign. You will need administrative access to your email domain to integrate the service. Give it a try, and please give us your feedback!

Notes:

  • Automated Electronic Document Signing Initiation By Email (Patent pending: USPTO #63/369,937)

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