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About Alice, video conferences and digital signatures.

August 25, 2022 by Dr. Fabian Knirsch

What Alice, video conferencing during the pandemic and digital signatures have to do with more efficiency in everyday office life - an absolutely subjective experience report with the claim to be an inspiration for courage in digitalisation.

Everyone knows them by now: Zoom, Skype, Teams or Meet. Two years of the home office pandemic have changed our access to these tools. Digitisation has not only changed how we communicate, negotiate, laugh together and, unfortunately, sometimes share our worries, but also how we work together. The quick walk to the colleague, the short exchange over coffee - all this has (at least temporarily) moved to the virtual space. While we have learned to appreciate the advantages of both worlds after returning to presence, to the offices, to the workplace or to the field and have (hopefully) been able to find the ideal optimum of virtual communication and the need for personal interaction that is unavoidable for us, another domain of digitalisation has clearly asserted itself. Where it was introduced before or during the pandemic and the period of remote working by companies or private individuals, it is no longer possible to imagine life without it: the digital signature. Although not as present as the video conferencing tool of choice, it has slowly established itself as a daily fixture in our (office) routine.

Paper, mail and para(gra)phen

Stacks of paper, signature runs, page-by-page initialling and sending by post - or worse, by unsecured email - have given way to a fully digital process in many companies and organisations. Initially with similar motivation to the other remote working programmes, then later mainly because it is practical, fast and efficient. And that's good, because documents printed for signing, poorly photographed for scanning and sent by email are about as far away from compliance and legal validity as a conversation in a Zoom call is from a cosy exchange over lunch.
Word or PDF documents that have been available digitally for a long time are no longer printed and sent to colleagues, suppliers and customers, but are now signed completely digitally. The key to successful implementation lies in the two words that we hear again and again in everyday business: Legal validity and GDPR. Loved, promoted and celebrated by some, perhaps secretly sometimes seen as an annoying must by others, they are the cornerstones for such important topics as signatures. Both legal validity and the GDPR must be guaranteed - without discussion, 100%. And because we want solutions and don't study paragraphs (with the exception of Jusrist:innen, you like to do that and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for it!

**Alice and digital signing

Let's look at this with an example: Alice* is in a managerial position at a medium-sized company with 30 employees. During the pandemic, she introduced a video conferencing solution and a digital signature solution because her employees and customers could no longer be on site. While documents used to be signed on paper, personal contact was suddenly no longer possible. The move to digitalisation had been planned for a long time, but was delayed longer due to concerns about a large IT project. The existing process, while inefficient and slow, was just barely functioning. When it became foreseeable that the permanent home office would take longer, Alice asked sproof for a digital signature solution. Together with the sproof sales team, a solution was worked out that met all of Alice's requirements: Data stored exclusively in the EU, guaranteed legally valid digital signatures according to the eIDAS regulation, easy onboarding for her entire team and the ability to quickly collect signatures from customers without them having to sign up or onboard. And most importantly, no IT project, no in-house hosting, no maintenance and the ability to start immediately.
While Alice is now back in the office with her colleagues and still uses video conferencing for her geographically more distant clients, the digital signature has remained a permanent feature and there is no paper on Alice's desk except for her daughter's drawing.

About the author
Co-Founder at sproof
Fabian Knirsch is co-founder and CTO of sproof GmbH. He completed his doctorate in computer science at the University of Salzburg in 2018 and worked on the topics of security and privacy in research. He was then a UAS professor at the UAS Salzburg until 2022. Fabian is a self-confessed "IT security enthusiast" and is burning for the common mission to offer the central platform and interface for digital signing in Europe.

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