Where does e-signatures Solution and Digital Document Signing fit into e-procurement?

12 Aug

It is no brainer that digital solutions overtaking traditional working practices.

Procurement is one such practice that used to be done in a traditional way before the introduction of electronic solutions. The electronic requirement is the B2B, B2C or B2G transaction/trade where sales and purchases of services, Jobs, and supplies, are made through web base or other IT platforms such as ERP or Electronic Data Interchange.

E-procurement takes place with the help of a software application that can allow us to perform activities like supplier management or conducting complex auctions in the fewer or the same time. E-procurement is sometimes referred to as supplier exchange. 

If you can observe, wherever we have to deal with any procurement procedure such as invoicing, generating and sharing electronic tenders, etc through online medium/electronic mediums, Digital Document Signing is a crucial part of it. Deploying e-signature solutions that can easily integrate with the current procurement organization system can boost the speed, accuracy, security, and integrity of the total process. There is hardly any space left for errors then. In order to be able to use the electronic signature on procurement documents (the value chain), one has to have a DSC, Digital Signature Certificate.

In any public sector organization, e-procurement is used in case of contracts that can bring efficiency (due to less scope for human errors) and savings (by operating faster and cheaper) in procurement costs and add to the element of transparency (for the better credibility and less scope for frauds/corruption) in procurement solutions. The public sector is widely accepting of E-procurement solutions across the world. Plus, it can be managed through a computer device or mobile device from anywhere at any time. 

Importance of Digital Signature Certificate?

DSC or digital signature certificate is a means of proving your identity through electronic signatures. The certificate guarantees high-level security for online transactions. The holder of the certificate can use it to encrypt data that can be read and accessed by the concerned parties only. The signature made by one person (with a private key that is unique to every person) connects the person to the document/data on the document in a coded format. This adds security and validity to the signed data. Once the signature is made, the data cannot be changed. However, in case it happens, the signature is considered invalid. E-signed procurement bills/documents assure the receiver that the document was safe in the transit.

How does Digital Signature Work?

Digital Signature Solutions can be deployed and used only if the user holds a Digital Signature Certificate. This certificate is a document generated/issued by a concerned Licensed Certifying Authority in an encrypted form. When the user signs any document using an app for signing documents, this encrypted file gets used (this is your private key) and it connects the signer (with this/her identity) to the document he/she is signing. Imagine a physical lock that can be opened with a particular key only. Apart from locking and securing the signature/document that is being signed, the encrypted file also connects a Digital Certificate to the signed document. This certificate holds the signer's identity details.

The process also connects a signer to the public key. The public key is the same as a private key, however, it allows the other party involved in the transaction to verify the signer’s authenticity and validity of the signer's DSC. There is a misconception in the market that DSC is a scanned copy of your signature. It is not true.

The Value Chain of e-procurement:

The e-procurement value chain has the following factors:

e-Informing

This part of the value chain is not directly connected to the purchasing process. As a matter of fact, it comes before the purchasing process starts. This stage involves collecting and sharing the purchasing data through an electronic medium. The data is shared both to and from internal & external parties. In this information even critical data like proprietary information is shared with the supply chain associate for better efficiency and high-scale performance of the supply chain. Here data quality, accuracy, credibility, and timeliness are of utmost importance. This process takes place in ERP.

e-Tendering

Electronic tendering optimizes the process of tendering for the procurement of goods, services, works of high value. Just like tenders need signatures to verify the document, e-tender needs to be signed electronically to prove its credibility.

e-Auctioning

Like an auction, e-auction is the process of electronically auctioning the assets, goods, or natural resources through online platforms by competitive bidding. Electronic auctions are more secured, transparent, inclusive, and can be conducted on a large scale as compared to physical auctions.

Vendor management

This is where the contracting authority controls costs for better service excellence and reduces the risks of increased cost from the vendors. The contracting authority controls the end-to-end procurement process. Vendor management helps in molding the deal in the most profitable way for the contracting party. They also make sure of the signature validity of the vendors to verify their true identity. A free electronic signature app can be used here.

Catalog management

This is a strategic process that begins the moment the contacted suppliers publish their product portfolio through electronic platforms and they are made available to buyers for the further procurement process. Buyers can procure these goods and services from the catalog through the same electronic platform. This can be done in real-time to ensure the utmost quality.

e-Purchasing

Unlike or rather on contrary to e-tendering, e-Purchasing is done to procure goods and services that are of high volume but low value. It makes electronic purchasing of goods and services much simpler. Catalogs play an important role in e-Purchasing activities. As we have seen above, it starts with online suppliers publishing their goods, works, and services, and then everything moves ahead electronically or through online platforms, be it selection, order, reception, and payment. E-signature solutions if deployed and integrated well with the procurement system can make things even smoother, faster, and secure. You do not want to buy anything online without a receipt of the payment and without knowing the identity of the seller, and vice versa.

e-Ordering

It is the actual process of generating and approving buying requisitions( sending purchase orders and receipt of goods and services ordered), through electronic solutions for better supply chain performance. E-ordering is generally indirect which means they are non-product related. In the case of ERP, the orders are product related. Employees can make use of both the supporting software system and the ordering catalog system.

e-Invoicing

E-Invoicing is a process through which an invoice is shared or presented to the customer for the payment. Account departments usually take care of this task, especially in large companies. They approve, share, and track the payment on it.

e-Contract Management

The last factor of the procurement value chain is e-contract management. Here the person/software deals in payments, receivables, contract settlements, auditing, etc.

Read the blog- Everything you need to know about e-signature laws

There is one more factor (which is optional) called Indent management. It involves tender preparation. In the work’s procurement, electronic approvals and sanction are important. In goods procurement, indent generation is important. 

Elements of e-procurement:

  • Request for proposal,
  • Request for quotation,
  • Request for information,
  • RFx
  • eRFx 

However, as the frequency and demand for e-procurement processes increases, it demands more and more standardization. At present, one markup-language based standard framework is built on a global level built with the help of electronic business experience. This extensible standardization framework has five layers:

  • Collaboration protocol,
  • Messaging,
  • Core components 
  • Registry and repository, and
  • Business processes.

Final words:

If you wish to participate or already participate in e-Tendering exercises on multiple government sites, you have to have the DSC. A digital signature certificate confirms your reliability in online transactions and also adds transparency to the process. When we talk about government tenders online applications have Supremacy over traditional paper-based documents. Submission of online documents directly on the government site facilitates immediate response and consideration, unlike a paper document.

Apart from authenticating your identity, Digital Signature Certificate provides you with a high level of validity and security to ensure complete privacy transparency of the data shared through digital certificates. These certificates, as we have seen above, encrypt the data so that only the concerned parties or the recipient of the document can access it. You can digitally sign this information to make sure that the data stays intact and does not get changed/modified/deleted/edited in the transit.

Some more benefits of integrating Digital Signature Solutions in the e-tendering process.

Reduced costs: 

No use of stationery supplies and paper to create, sign, and mail the document.

Increased productivity: 

All the records are stored electronically which facilitates easy sharing and storage. One document can be shared with multiple concerned parties within no time.

Reduced errors:

Nor or reduced human intervention means no human errors. Electronic tendering is more organized and easy to track.

To conclude, we can say that e-procurement works at a superlative scale as compared to manual procurement workflow. 

 

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