Software Tech To Accelerate Your Nonprofit Political Reform Efforts

Nonprofit political reform organizations have unique software needs to effectively advocate for their causes, engage with supporters, manage campaigns, and drive impact.

Here are some key software categories and examples of best-of-class software that you should consider to address those needs.

Constituent Relationship Management (CRM)

You likely need a central location to track all of your volunteers, donors, supporters and the like, as well as what communication has ben sent them, how much they’ve donated, and where they engage with you the most. There are many examples of this from the high end and more costly, like Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud which is version of a commercial software that’s more tailored for nonprofits, to low or no cost solutions. The advantage of using Salesforce is that the platform is quite robust and has many features and add-ons by a large pool of third party vendors that you can use. Of course, all of those additional third-party tools also translate to more costs.

Given most nonprofits don’t have the same monetary resources of an enterprise and typically run a tight ship with regard to the cost-to-value ratio they expect, as well as the desire for a solution that’s tailored for the nonprofit space, you may want to look at other solutions like Everyaction, Action Network, or Nationbuilder. These platforms are not only targeted in pricing for nonprofits, they were designed with political nonprofits in mind. Among these, Bonterra Everyaction provides the most flexibility with regard to integration with any third-party, cost-effective solutions for marketing, event management and others like those listed below.

Mind you, if you have no funds, then you may want to start tracking your constituents in tools that are freely available to you like Google Sheets (spreadsheet) or the Microsoft Office 365 Excel that you already use for your personal needs. Just keep in mind that there are some security and scalability issues you’ll hit fairly quickly after you start up and gain momentum. Nevertheless, this is a reasonable choice and place to start.

Advocacy and Grassroots Engagement

If your organization is specifically focused on affecting policy change, then you’ll need to not only keep abreast of current legislation, but also who has sponsored the current or similar / related past bills, and how they’ve voted on them. Additionally, you likely want to mobilize your grassroots volunteers to engage their legislators by writing to them or contacting them via phone and email to express their concerns and wants.

There are a number of tools to consider here and some that clump much of what you may be looking for into a single platform. You would also need to know your budget here and willingness to bypass combing the publicly available content in favor of tools that aggregate the data and may even provide platforms for interacting with your supporters, advocates, and volunteers on a bill.

On the higher end, you’ll find Quorum. It’s designed for organization with higher budgets and the need to mobilize large constituents. If you’re more limited on budget, you should look into tools like LegiScan, LexisNexis or TrackBill.

Fundraising, Donor Engagement

There are two classes of software that you’ll want to consider for your fundraising. One is focused on collecting donations and managing fundraising campaigns. You can think of this as your credit card processing or payment collection method for your donations with the additional tools to gain insight about your fundraising efforts, what’s working and how you can improve your efforts.

Here you’ll want to consider solutions from DonorPerfect and Anedot which include a set of tools for not only capturing funds, but also managing your donors information. If you’ve already signed up for a CRM like Bonterra Everyaction, it’s a matter of enabling credit card processing and creating forms for capturing the donations. Insight about the campaigns can be managed directly in Everyaction or with their fundraising add-ons.

Another one in this category that focuses purely on payment collection is PayPal. PayPal is commonly used for collecting payments by individuals and businesses. Its value lies in how it’s such a common name and trusted by so many folks. What’s more, they offer special nonprofit pricing to confirmed 501(c)(3) oganizations.

The second class of software is for researching who may be interested in giving to your organization, based on their past giving, or who among your existing donors may be able to donate more. In both cases, you’re trying to figure out where to concentrate your limited set of volunteers and staff as well as time and money so that you can more easily and predictably fund your efforts.

A key factor to consider for any tool you select here is how well it integrates your information and helps you dig deeper into either your list of existing donors, or uses your list of donors to find others with similar interests, means and giving patterns. Platforms like WealthEngine and Donorsearch are excellent examples that gather giving and institutional data about donors for various causes and have integrations with CRMs or means of importing your contacts via spreadsheets and CSV (comma separated value) files.

Email Marketing and Communication

Your messaging is crucial to how you can make more people aware of your efforts, recruit more supporters and volunteers and get more donors. After carefully defining your strategy and messaging, and certainly as you’re testing the various messages, you’ll want the means of managing who gets informed when and how. You’ll also want a way to invite people to your various activities, or keep them informed of your efforts via a newsletter.

This is where tools like Mailchimp and Constant Contact come in. They are traditionally used by companies for their marketing efforts which includes the occasional email or even newsletters. They both offer means for managing your supporters list and sychronizing them with your CRM or list management spreadsheets. They also offer various templates for getting a newsletter started, and tools for doing A/B testing of your message. Pricing is competitive in this space and they both offer discounted pricing for organizations that can prove their nonprofit status.

Website & Analytics

As part of your communication strategy, you’ll likely have a website where you present your message, list events and activities, tell folks how they can get involved, and highlight specific advocacy your supporters can engage in. You’ll also want to embed your fundraising forms on your website, provided by your fundraising tool of choice.

The CRM tools already mentioned, like Everyaction or Nationbuilder provide website functionality, though they are somewhat limited. That may be a good start. However, as your needs grow and you wish to better brand your efforts and embed event management, fundraising, volunteer management and other tools on your website, you’ll want to look at stand-alone solutions like WordPress (via or WPEngine) or Wix.

WordPress is used by many organizations big and small, for-profit or nonprofit and likely has the greatest number of add-on software (plugins). Wix, on the other hand, is more user-friendly especially when it comes to branding. They both offer templates you can use to quickly spin up your website with some standard navigation menus and pages.

Additionally, to ensure you know how well your content is received, how your website visitors interact with your website, and how successful your website messaging is you’ll need to use analytics tools like the free Google Analytics.

Social Media Management

No communications and messaging discussion is complete without a discussion about social media. Many people now receive their news and engage organizations via social media, whether we like it or not. This is where platforms like X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, LinkedIn among other more specialized ones comes in. Each of these has its own targeted audiences and use for your organization.

There are too many many social media platforms and you have too little time to manage each one individually. That’s especially true when you consider the multiple accounts you’ll have to manage under each platform such as those for the organization as well as for your key staff like your Executive Director.

A better approach would be to use tools designed for not only seeing all of your posts and responses in one place, but also to learn about best times to post, patterns about what messages work better than others, or even respond directly to the messages for each platform from a single location.

Tools to consider here are Hootsuite and Buffer, commonly referred to as social media management tools. Buffer may be a good place to start as it offers a free version for startups, though Hootsuite is the better known name among those who’ve used social media management software and is one of the original tools designed for this purpose with quite a robust set of features. Both tools offer discount pricing to confirmed nonprofits.

Event / Volunteer Management

Aside from your communication and messaging strategy and their associated tools, you’ll likely want to capture sign ups for your events, whether it’s for in-person meet-n-greets, to online educational events or fundraising mashups. You’ll also want the means to have folks sign up to volunteer for these events or your various efforts to bring about change.

Once more, there are two classes of tools you’ll want too look at here. First, it’s the run of the mill event announcement and sign up management tools. This includes tools like Eventbrite and Mobilize, with Mobilize focusing specifically on the reform and nonprofit space. Both tools act as platforms to facilitate event registration, ticketing, and attendee tracking for your events and conferences. Given Mobilize‘s specific focus, they also provide the means for capturing support for online petition signing.

The other class of tools focuses on recruiting volunteers. Here you’ll find tools like VolunteerMatch, which provide you the means to match nonprofits with potential volunteers. Think of these as job boards for the various volunteer roles you may have and want to fill with qualified candidates who are interested in volunteering with organizations that fit their interests.

Survey and Research

There will come a time when you’ll want to survey your supporters or volunteers to gather information about various aspects of your operations and efforts. You may want to understand what they think is working for your events or what interests them most in your newsletters. Or you may be interested in learning where they think you should focus your efforts or how you should change your strategy and associated tactics.

This is where tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms come in. They are user-friendly survey tools that enable you to collect valuable feedback and start your analysis. SurveyMonkey has a very robust set of features around collecting survey data and even suggestions on how to best present the questions, along with taking the guess work out of look and feel with survey templates.

Google Forms is a simpler tool that may fit your budget well (free), especially if you’re already using Google’s set of tools personally or have purchased Google Workspace as your organization’s productivity tool. However, Google Forms is a rudimentary tool that outputs the data in a web page or spreadsheet format and is limited in how the surveys can be constructed. Both Google Workspace and SurveyMonkey offer discounted pricing on confirmed nonprofit status.

Collaboration, Project Management and Productivity

At the onset, when you’re bootstrapping, you’ll likely use your own Google or Outlook account for emails, calendaring, and file sharing. This is a good place to begin, especially given they are free. As your needs grow and, especially, as your volunteers come and go, to ensure communication continuity on messages and various documents you create for your organization and efforts, you’ll want to to start using Google Workspace or similar paid tools for emailing and communication with outside organizations.

Internally, you may also need a central communication and coordination tool like Google Groups that’s included with your Google Workspace or a tool dedicated for this purpose like Asana or Basecamp.

Google Groups is a good place to start, though the interface is quite dated and sometimes confusing. Tools like Basecamp provide a project- and team-based communication and associated features that make it quite easy to manage time-based activities like tasks, documents, messaging, and include integration with other tools you may already be using for your website, collaboration and communications.

All of these tools provide nonprofit pricing on confirmed status.

Login Management

One last tool to consider is a password manager. By now, you’ve noticed the large number of tools you’ll be using, and realize they each have their own associated logins. As a way to ensure that you not only remember the various passwords, but also use strong passwords and have a secure way of sharing them with your staff, you’ll want to pick a password manager from the likes of Bitwarden, 1Password or Lastpass. Bitwarden is open-source though a bit hard to use. 1Password and Lastpass are both well known tools in this space and a bit easier to setup and use.

It’s important for nonprofit political reform organizations to select software that aligns with their specific needs, budget, and long-term goals. In your consideration, we always recommend starting with knowing what are your organizational Mission, short and long-term goals or your north star, and associated Key Performance Indicators. This will help determine which of the tools above are most important to you and should have the more robust set of features to address your needs.

What’s more, depending on where you are on your organizational growth and fund availability, you can choose to start with a smaller set of tools, or a free version of one, then upgrade to the paid subscriptions as your needs and means grow. We especially recommend starting slowly and taking advantage of small gems hidden in the existing set of tools you may be using before using your hard-to-come-by funds on unnecessary features and software packages.

With that said, you’ll likely want to start your paid software selection with a CRM, as this is the hub for all of your organizational information and your contact list management. In reviewing which CRM to use, you should then weigh in your organizational goals and metrics to see which CRM best addresses 80% of those inherently, without the need for additional third-party tools. This will both reduce your overall costs as well as help you laser focus on what additional third-party software and add-ons you’ll need as your organizational needs grow. This is the other 20% of capabilities from the categories listed here.

This sounds involved and it is, but the effort you put in up front will pay dividends as you work through your fundraising, recruiting, event management and, most importantly, bringing about the political and policy changes we all need.

Nonprofits have diverse IT needs, and the best approach to addressing those needs—whether through a consultant, an employee, or a volunteer—depends on the specific requirements and circumstances of the organization.

In fact, you’ll likely rely on all of them at one time or another, and many times you’re rely on all of them simultaneously. Your needs will likely be first addressed with Volunteers and expand to consultants and employees as the needs and successes of your organization grows.

In this article, I’ll explore what can best be addressed by each of these groups and when they should play a role in addressing your needs, specifically in technology (Information Tech or IT). However, these same principles can be applied to other parts of your nonprofit operations as well.

What’s Best Addressed by a Consultant

Specialized Projects: Consultants are ideal for short-term, specialized projects such as implementing a new Constituent Resource Management (CRM) system, migrating to cloud services, or conducting a security audit. This is especially important if you have no expertise on the needed tools and want to quickly set them up or conduct the audit.

Strategic Planning: Consultants can help nonprofits develop IT strategies aligned with their mission and goals, ensuring technology supports their long-term vision. Ideally, the consultant you hire has sufficient expertise about the operations of a nonprofit to also understand the underlying processes that need to be put in place to ensure quick adoption and maximum value, to accelerate your efforts to bring about the changes you have in mind.

Expert Advice: When the nonprofit lacks specific IT expertise, whether in the form of volunteers or employees, consultants can provide guidance on technology selection, infrastructure setup, and best practices. There are many consultant who specialize in specific categories of tools or even a single tool, such as a CRM like Everyaction or Nationbuilder who can quickly assess your needs, suggest a solution and even deploy the technology and train your staff on its use.

Cybersecurity: Consultants with cybersecurity expertise can assess vulnerabilities, design secure systems, and implement data protection measures. This becomes quite important as you begin to encounter resistance or opposition to your ideas on reforms you’re pursuing. You may very well encounter cyberattacks as your opposition realizes how effective your efforts have become. Protecting your data, strategic plans, list of internal activities, volunteers, key contacts and donors becomes highly important in not only ensuring your organizational success, but the health and wellbeing of your people.

Data Analysis and Reporting: Consultants can assist with setting up data analytics tools, creating custom reports, and deriving insights from collected data. Curious how your educational programs on Ranked Choice Voting is drawing in supporters? Are you increasing your donations with the press releases or meet-n-greets? How many people become volunteers after each event? How many become donors and at what levels? Figuring out what data is important to you based on your strategic goals and setting up the right tools to capture and analyze them is where a consultant can deliver much value.

Training and Workshops: Consultants can provide IT training to staff, enhancing their technical skills and knowledge. This is especially important when you want to ensure your staff knows how to best use the tools and processes your consultants put in place. It’s especially important here to ensure the consultant can set up a proper knowledgebase that you can maintain, add to and continue to reuse so that you can free up the contractor to focus on the higher priority tasks where their costs are better justified.

What’s Best Addressed by an Employee

Daily IT Operations: An in-house IT employee is well-suited for managing day-to-day IT operations, user support, troubleshooting, and maintaining hardware/software. Ideally, this is done once you’ve received help from an expert consultant or employee who has helped with your tools and tech selection, training, and deployment.

Network and Systems Administration: An employee can manage network infrastructure, server maintenance, backups, and system upgrades. Most of these tasks should be automated so that they require minimal oversight. Also, the work is typically a one off, especially after the initial setup, and would require very little ongoing effort. Though they may require specialized knowledge from time to time, theses processes should be well documented after the initial setup. If your team lacks the knowledge, then having a maintenance plan with a specialized IT Consulting firm would do the job.

User Training and Support: Most of your software user training should either be provided by your vendors or setup by your consultants at the onset. However, as processes and software are updated, the material will need to be as well. This is where your employees come in. They can provide ongoing training updates and even fill in for answering training questions to staff, ensuring they effectively use IT resources and tools.

Data Management and Backup: Employees can handle data management, ensuring data integrity, and establishing regular backup procedures. Backups can certainly be setup for full automation. With many of today’s cloud providers, in fact, they are already fully redundant and are backed up regularly, requiring very little to no involvement from your employees. Where they would get involved is in retrieving the backups and restoring any files your staff may have lost.

Collaboration and Integration: An employee can work on integrating various systems, ensuring smooth communication and collaboration across departments. Though your consultant will likely setup the initial integrations, as systems change and your organization’s data needs expand, those base integrations and processes have to be updated. If the processes are specialized, large or more complex, then your employees may need to work with a consultant on this too.

What’s Best Addressed by a Volunteer

Overall, anything that’s not time critical or those that can be project-based and timeboxed for limited time periods can be handed off to volunteers. Of course, you’ll have your super volunteers who can dedicate large amounts of time or limited time but over a long-period. That’s rare and you may not find very many of them. And for anything ongoing, you’ll want to rely on employees instead.

Ad Hoc Support: Volunteers can provide occasional support for basic IT tasks such as software installations, troubleshooting minor issues, or setting up new devices. This is especially helpful when you have to ramp up local campaign offices, Get Out The Vote events, as well as rallies and educational events.

Community Engagement: Volunteers with IT skills can help organize tech-related community events, workshops, or training sessions. There’s something quite meaningful when the change makers, putting together a local event, are the local citizenry.

Website Content Updates: Volunteers can assist with updating website content, posting news or events, and maintaining the organization’s online presence. Given these are typically not time sensitive, they can be scheduled in advance and dependent on volunteer availability.

Data Entry and Cleanup: Volunteers can help with data entry, database cleanup, and data migration tasks. They are especially helpful for data entry from local event sign ups that may be done on sign up sheets or at events where you’ve captured business cards from local political players.

Social Media and Online Marketing: It’s amazing how so many folks have become well versed in social media as a result of regular use. If you can attract them, younger volunteers can do an amazing job with managing social media accounts, online campaigns, and digital marketing efforts. You’ll need to ensure they remain on point by working directly with your Comms / Marketing team.

Basic Training: Some of the training that can’t be automated, especially those that require human interaction, can very well be handled by your volunteers. This comes in handy for some of your introductory tools knowledge and live Q&A sessions when you’re onboarding a large group of volunteers for campaigns and events.

It’s important to note that the roles of consultant, employee, and volunteer can overlap, and the right approach depends on your nonprofit’s specific needs, resources, and goals. A well-balanced combination of these approaches can help your nonprofit effectively address your IT needs and leverage technology to advance your mission, especially when you’re time constrained in how quickly you need to move to bring about change.

In fact, you’ll likely start by relying heavily on volunteers. Then, if you have sudden growth, you’ll want to hire and retain consultants as you prepare your funding and budget for key employment roles. Eventually, you’ll have staff for the day to day activities where you have the need to directly manage their actions, relying on consultants for occasional, key, specialized, and time sensitive projects, while engaging volunteers to complete grassroots activities that require an energized base.

Nonprofits have various needs when it comes to day to day operations of their organizations. A good Operations Management can make a nonprofit swim where others sink. The nonprofit’s operations management needs are essential to ensure the organization operates efficiently, effectively, and in alignment with its mission and goals.

Today, I’d like to highlight some of these key Operations Management needs for nonprofits:

  • Strategic Planning: Nonprofits require effective strategic planning to set clear goals and objectives, establish action plans, and allocate resources to achieve their mission. Operations management plays a critical role in aligning the day-to-day activities with the long-term strategic vision of the organization.

    Such planning certainly requires an intimate knowledge of an organization’s Mission and Vision, but also how the organization will be staffed, among other consideration:
    • What are the intended goals of the organization?
    • Who would be accountable for each of the goals?
    • Will the majority of work by done by volunteers or employees?
    • How urgent is the need to achieve the stated mission?
    • What’s the intended timeline for achieving those goals?
  • Financial Management: Sound financial management is crucial for nonprofits to maintain financial stability, transparency, and accountability. This is certainly important for any organization, but especially for nonprofits given the oft limited budgets, especially at the onset of an organization’s founding and early days of fundraising.

    When defining how the funds should be managed, the topic should also include annual budgeting, monthly financial reporting, donor stewardship, grant management, and compliance with financial regulations.
  • Human Resources and Talent Management: Nonprofits need to attract, retain, and develop a skilled and motivated workforce whether those are paid or volunteers. Operations management in this area involves recruiting, onboarding, training, performance management, and creating a positive organizational culture.

    This topics requires careful consideration if a large portion of the work will be completed by volunteers who may have different motivation and irregular availability compared to a paid employee.
  • Fundraising and Resource Development: A nonprofit is nothing without funding, much of which is through fundraising from small donors and institutional donations. Effective operations management in this area involves donor prospecting, relationship management, fundraising campaigns, selection of the right fundraising platform, and grant writing.
  • Program and Project Management: Nonprofits often run multiple programs and projects simultaneously. Think of every public event, fundraising project, software deployment initiatives and volunteer drives that a nonprofit may be engaged in.

    Operations management ensures these initiatives are well-planned, monitored, and executed efficiently, especially with the use of templatized repeatable activities and automating the triggers, reminders and notifications, and even marketing campaigns to achieve their intended outcomes.
  • Board Governance: Strong board governance is critical to the success of a nonprofit organization. Operations management ensures effective communication with the board, preparation of board meetings logistics, and adherence to governance policies and procedures. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point about Program and Project Management since much of the activities for Board Governance fits in with the repeatable activities that require the rigor and automation that a Program Manager can bring to the table.
  • Data Management and Evaluation: Nonprofits need to collect and analyze data to measure their impact, assess program effectiveness, and make data-driven decisions. Operations management in this area means defining the criteria for what data needs to be collected, in what granularity, with what precision. Once these are understood, then Operations must find, select and implement data management systems, conducting evaluations, and using that data to drive continuous improvement as well as report overall organizational progress to the organization’s executives and board members.
  • Technology and Information Systems: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous on data management. Nonprofits require efficient and secure information systems to manage their operations effectively. Operations management includes the selection, implementation, and maintenance of appropriate technology solutions.

    These technologies are varied and can be quite extensive, such as Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), Advocacy and Grassroots Engagement, Fundraising and Donor Management, Event Management, Volunteer Management, Data Security and Privacy Management, among others. For a more comprehensive list, see our future post on What Software Should Nonprofit Political Reform Organizations Consider.
  • Compliance and Risk Management: Nonprofits must adhere to legal and regulatory requirements, maintain ethical standards, and manage risks associated with their operations.

    This can’t be understated.

    Establishing an organization with your state and our federal government as a nonprofit is no easy feat. So, after all of the initial hard work, you don’t want to lose your status with either government entities since to do otherwise would mean losing much , if not all, of your funding, not to mention having to pay any fines and fees for late or lack of regular filings!

    Operations management involves developing and implementing compliance and risk management strategies, as well as defining who is responsible for regular filing, scheduling such activities and ensuring accountability for their completion.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Many nonprofits collaborate with other organizations and stakeholders to achieve common goals. Often times, such relationships are established by Board Members and maintained by your Executive Director and Fundraising staff. However, operations management can ensure smooth collaboration and effective partnership development by ensuring the right systems are in place for management of all related data and communication.
  • Communication and Public Relations: This is another factor that falls into what operations can effect with the right tools selection and implementation. Effective communication is essential for nonprofits to raise awareness, engage stakeholders, and build a positive reputation. Operations management includes the selection and fine tuning of the tools to manage the communication channels and the crafting and consistent delivery of these messages.
  • Volunteer Management: Nonprofits often rely on volunteers to support their initiatives, some more than others. Operations management in this area involves recruiting, training, and recognizing the roles of volunteers, as well as providing the best tools to them to become and remain engaged without having to learn complicated systems and processes that would otherwise hinder such engagement.

As I’m sure you’re beginning to see, Operations Management and Excellence are crucial for nonprofits to achieve their mission and deliver their programs effectively. It involves quite a lot of moving pieces, all of which require careful attention to detail and long-term vision for how the organization can achieve its north star.

I suggest starting by mapping out which of the above are your top three to five needs, then looking for the person(s) in or outside of your organization to help plan for and execute effectively on each. You can read more about whether to hire a consultant, an employee, or recruit a volunteer to fill these needs, weighing in the tradeoffs of each in our upcoming posts in our future posts.

How a Growing Number of California Community Colleges Simplify Submitting  and Processing Concurrent Enrollment Applications

COVID-19 exposed the California Community Colleges to undue pressure resulting in reduction of student enrollment, but, coupled with emergency funding from the state, it also provided an opportunity for visionary College CIOs, IT Departments and Administration Staff to update their enrollment systems.  

Many now provide a convenient way for high school students to register, and also make it easier for their administration staff to process applications.  Additional benefits include increasing the total number of students registered while reducing administrative costs of application processing. 

This study details not only the number of colleges that have automated their Concurrent Enrollment registration process, but also the level of automation they employ, the software solutions or platforms they use, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of manual, partial or full automation.  We found clear leaders among the various software solutions used that have proven easiest to deploy, while delivering the highest benefit for the costs.  They are listed in our report based on their efficacy and market adoption rates.

Given the newly approved 2021-2022 fiscal year state budget and associated one-time increases in college budgets for system upgrades, there’s an opportunity for forward-thinking college administrators to update their manual PDF and paper-based processes to fully automated Concurrent Enrollment registration process and reap the benefits.

Our 13-page report is available via the form below.

Chabot-Las Positas Community College District delivers college education in the Southern Alameda County through its two campuses Chabot College and Las Positas College. The combined colleges serve 29,000 students who get a great start or continue their education, on their way to developing a trade or a 4-year university.

Southern Alameda Country, CA
Southern Alameda Country, CA

2020 and COVID-19
As with many businesses and educational institutions, in order to keep their staff and students safe from COVID-19, the district had to quickly switch to remote learning early in 2020. That meant many changes in not only how the classes were taught, but also in all aspects of operations and student registration.

Adverse Effects on Registration
The challenge came with registering new students for the 2020-2021 school year, especially high school students who wanted to get an early start on college by registering while finishing their last couple of years of high school.

Adverse Effect on Student Registration

Normally, they would register for concurrent enrollment by filling out a paper or PDF application and forwarding it to the college. With COVID and the lockdowns, much of the one-on-one assistance the administration staff wanted to offer couldn’t be. So, the colleges expected a drop in enrollment. That meant hundreds of new students who wouldn’t be able to start on their paths to greater education, preparation for a career, meeting new friends and creating their future success. At a minimum, their dreams and education would be on hold. In the extreme, the delay would mean never getting the education they wanted!

A Creative Solution
The Admissions staff at both colleges teamed up with the district IT department leadership and, taking advantage of some recently made available emergency COVID funding, came up with a creative solution.

They knew they had to make the application process fully digital and do it in a way that the students found easy to use. The application had to be simple to complete not only by the students, but also for getting approvals from the students’ parents, their principal, and for sending the college their official transcripts.

The district already had a great relationship with ValTeo Tech’s lead Solution Architect and, with our guidance, they developed a smooth process for not only giving the the students the power to start the application process themselves, but for completing it, routing it to their parent for approval, their high school Principal for review and upload of the transcript, and for the college staff’s review and notification of the application results.

The colleges developed a web page to help the students provide everyone’s email addresses, and then launch the application. All of the routing, signing, review, email reminders and notifications were then automated using DocuSign’s PowerForm technology.

Results Beyond Registration
The Chabot-Las Positas Community College District teams pulled off the design to development and launch in less than 5 weeks!

Even though the launch started mid-way through the application submission period, they received 93% more application submissions than they would have expected in a standard year. In other words, the solution not only overcame the expected reduction in college applications, it almost doubled the number of applications!

That’s great news for students who could now get a head start with their college education, on their way to achieve their educational and career dreams.

It also meant a reduction in costs for the college since they saw the elimination of staff overtime that was previously required to complete the review process. The staff no longer needed to follow up with high schools to get official transcripts. They no longer needed to validate that all application fields were filled out, or that the parents and principal had completed their review and approval. It was all handled by the automation they’d put in place.

This also meant that the students saw the results of their application submissions sooner. Instead of the typical 30 days review, the review process was reduced to just 4 days!

Thanks to the combined vision and the will to quickly act, the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District admissions teams and the district’s IT leadership, helped bring to life the dreams of hundreds of new college-bound students, and give hope to families, especially in these trying times.


In this post, Scott Os of Synaptix Group will follow-up his recent post on what is a Center of Excellence (CoE), with information on how to establish and staff the CoE, providing you with supporting PDFs to get the process kicked off right.

Let’s say you’ve read about the importance of a Center of Excellence. On the road to your Digital Transformation, you’re now wondering, “what do I do now?” There are many things to consider, the various roles, responsibilities, and use cases that need to be defined, software and personnel costs that need to be reined in and stakeholders that need to be informed.

But where do you even begin?

That’s the premise of this post. I’ll talk about the structure, roles and responsibilities of a newly formed CoE as it relates to your company’s progress through a DTM Maturity Model, with suggestions on a path for how you can, not only create such an organization, but create the foundation to accelerate change while taking full advantage of your company’s Digital Transformation software investments.

General Guidelines

A CoE can be a service organization that provides expertise across projects in a ‘shared services model’. The function of the CoE is to drive standardization of quality products, architecture and governance policies, as well as processes across the enterprise. Leveraging a centralized management and automation platform for processes, consulting, and support services, as well as delivering leadership and advocacy to help the organization improve business outcomes.

The true value of the CoE will be around participation and the broader strategic efforts within the company. To accomplish this, the CoE needs to have strong alignment on business goals/strategy and the CoE mission. Additionally, the CoE must focus spending on the future of the organization, not just on the “squeakiest wheel.”

CoE Roles & Responsibilities

A component of the CoE charter describes the interaction of the CoE and the Steering Committee. CoE Leadership will be driven by Strategic Business Initiatives approved by the Steering Committee, and will either implement the strategic elements, or work with Project Managers & Architects to implement the policies, procedures, best practices at a more tactical level.

The CoE would be staffed with people who bring domain expertise about the business and technology. These should be from the population who run the day to day operation of your company and who are directly affected by the changes to any systems or processes. They are the people who know how changes will affect staff and what value they could deliver.

Keep in mind, this team will create a standard methodology and best practices to bring consistency and leverage to development projects. In other words, what’s learned from the initial implementations will set the precedent on what mistakes to avoid and how to accelerate adoption and change within your organization.

This added experience is the gem for creating a CoE: by creating the lessons learned and best practices, you’ll reduce the chances of wasted effort and investments in software and personnel.

In the larger context of the company’s continued Digital Transformation on the path to higher DTM Maturity, throughout the execution of the plans put in play by the CoE, the organization is creating reusable assets and a playbook that would be leveraged in the future by other departments and project teams.

Does all of this sound too big to take on?

Fret not! One of the key advantages of the CoE is that it can initially be built on a small scale, with minimal incremental expenditure. As its value is delivered to management, the staff, and individual project teams, it can iteratively evolve and scale up its resources, services, and capabilities. The CoE model can also be a critical asset for distributed organizations, providing centralized processes, infrastructure, and reporting.

Roles and responsibilities will vary depending on CoE structure and budget, but you will generally have resources that fall into one of the following four categories:

  1. CoE Leadership
  2. CoE Core Team
  3. Project Team(s)

CoE Leadership

CoE Leadership typically consists of the following:

  1. Executive Sponsor(s)
  2. Champion(s)
  3. CoE Manager

The Leadership team provides the executive support and governance to project teams. Because both are represented in leadership, IT and Business work as partners in project delivery.

CoE Core Team

The CoE Core Team is comprised of the following:

  1. CoE Manager
  2. Program Manager (Optional or could be the CoE Manager)
  3. Enterprise Architect
  4. Solution Architect(s)

This team handles demand and intake from project teams. They are tasked with standardizing the delivery process and performing the value-add services of the CoE. They own and improve best practices and methodology, enable project team members, deliver proofs of concept, and participate in program/project governance.

Project Team

Project Team(s) consist of the following:

  1. Project Manager
  2. System Architect(s)
  3. Business Architect(s)
  4. SMEs
  5. QA/test

Project Team(s) manage and drive the project on the ground. They are responsible for the day to day deliverables and scope and delivery project outcomes according to the best practices and methodology determined by the CoE.

One of the most effective tools that should be employed while constructing the CoE is a responsibility assignment matrix or RACI chart. This is a very useful tool during the formation phase to make certain all is covered and also during the operating phase to make sure nothing “falls through the cracks.”

DocuSign & Adobe Sign’s Calculated Fields are Good for Much More than Just Calculations

How do you build a simple tool to both allow custom pricing calculations and contract signing on an eSignature platform? You use the DocuSign Calculated Fields or the Adobe Sign Calculated Fields, of course!

That’s the straight use of these fields, but they also open up other uses / options on either platform.

How are Calculated Fields Typically Used

A good simple use case example of calculated fields came up in one of our recent solutions where our customer wanted to allow their clients to get immediate pricing as part of an office cleaning and janitorial service quoting/contract signing solution.

The client would initiate the request directly on our customer’s site by selecting the types of services they needed, fill out their business / personal info and submit. The data is immediately sent to DocuSign and the web page redirected to that platform to review and sign the contract. The customer could change the square footage ranges from a dropdown list and, in the process, see an updated quote on pricing, all with different discounts being displayed for various sized spaces and different services. Once they signed, it was no longer a quote, but a new contract. Voila!

This is what’s often referred to as a Configure Price Quote (CPQ) solution, albeit this is a much simplified version of it.

None of that is new, though most folks are unaware of this cool control on the DocuSign and Adobe Sign platforms.

How are Calculated Fields Different

Calculated Fields on DocuSign provide the ability to dynamically conduct arithmetic calculations on data fields during an agreement signing. These calculations can be for numbers or dates, such as setting an effective date for a contract based on the date an agreement is signed. Adobe Sign additionally provides the ability to concatenate text to create suggestions of text or terms.

DocuSign’s Calculated Fields assume number calculations and, as a result, all data presented is right aligned. You can format the data to have 0 or 2 decimal places. Additionally, you can perform some data operations with predefined functions such as to obtain date differences.

Adobe Sign fields have more flexibility by allowing various date / number formatting and manipulations. As a result, you can manipulate data presentation for numbers and text, as well as the types of calculations that can be performed such as getting the minimum value from a set of fields, or rounding up/down of calculated value.

What are Some Unique Uses of Calculated Fields

So, you may be asking, “Ok, wise guy! What’s the not-so-typical use of calculated fields?”

Good question. I’m glad you asked! ?

Calculated Fields do very well in allowing your customers and document singers to dynamically change values to see immediate result during their signing, sure! In the process, the round-trips, requesting revisions based on specific customer needs, is reduced or eliminated, and your Time To Close or Time Value of Money metrics improve.

On the other hand, many integrated solutions and robust Contract Management System like Conga in conjunction with Salesforce, or custom applications, provide for uses cases that are simple to complex for presentation and even customer manipulation of the data before sending any of the information for signing to an eSignature platform.

Does that mean Calculated Fields have no use?

Actually, they have a hidden and an important value! Given the formatting options they provide, especially for numbered values, where it’s imperative the data is right aligned or localized (such as with date presentation differences between US vs. Europe or South America), they are a perfect solution.

All calculations and CPQ manipulations by sales staff or even customers can still be conducted on a system better designed for that purpose, then properly presented for final execution on the eSign platform.

Bottom line is that whether you wish to use Adobe Sign or DocuSign’s Calculated Fields to allow your customers to manipulate their custom quotes directly on those platforms, or you wish to incorporate at least the formatting of these fields in conjunction with your existing CPQ or other quoting applications, Calculated Fields deserve a serious consideration for data manipulations on your eSignature platform of choice.

Happy calculating!

In this post, we’ve invited Scott Os of Synaptix Group to explore and explain what is a Center of Excellence, the needs it serves to help move you along the maturity model, and why it’s a key success factor for your Digital Transformation. Scott is the Founder and President of The Synaptix Group and draws on over 30 years of senior level experience managing the design, development, and implementation of document based solutions, with a particular focus on Enterprise deployments in public and private sector.

In a recent ValTeo blog, the DTM Maturity Model outlined the stages an organization traverses as it rethinks many of its customer interactions and internal transactions that revolve around paper-based processes.

As companies move from the nascent to the pivoted stage, there is a recognition that change is needed. This recognition may result from shrinking profits and/or the introduction of external threats, forcing the organization to rethink its legacy processes. It is typically at this time that a single individual or group of individuals emerge that are the thought leaders on how to evolve the company in order to handle this change. It is at this time that the concept of a Center of Excellence (CoE) begins to take form, though it may not be called that. During this stage, the early planning is done to prepare for how to structure and staff a CoE.

However, it is really once an organization moves from pivoted into the accelerated stage that the CoE typically begins to emerge as a force for change in many ways. This is done with an eye toward shared technologies, skills, training and knowledge transfer. The CoE is also tasked with documenting the process to assess new use cases, determine their priority and develop timelines

Whether the 4 levels of enterprise digital maturity are referred to as nascent, pivoted, accelerated, and optimized (as in the Valteo Tech’s DTM Maturity Model) or an enterprise level of maturity is characterized by the 6 levels defined by Forrester (Continue as Usual, Test and Learn, Systemize and Strategize, Adapt or Die, Transformed and Transforming, Innovate or Die), or the terms for the waypoints along the journey map to potential, formation, building/evolving, operationalized, and adaptive as in the business process management maturity model, what we have found across dozens of company experiences is that there is a consistent theme:

In order to move your organization along the maturity road, you must adopt a consistent, standardized approach to your digital transformation.

Why Have a Center of Excellence?

A recent Forrester study on business process improvement, coupled with our experience with companies of all sizes and government agencies, demonstrates that building a CoE significantly enhances the ability of an organization to meet or exceed the goals that center supports.

Source: Forrester Research, Inc. US and UK Enterprise Architecture and Business Process Management Online Survey

The key data from the above graphic is that 67 percent of respondents who were successful in bringing about change in their organizations had formal CoEs. Among those reporting failures, only 14 percent had such centers in place.

When governance, a support structure, guidance, metrics & measurements, along with shared learning exists across an organization, success is far more likely. Per above data, it’s almost 4 times more likely. Such successes support organizational, program, and specific project goals that are best aligned with company long-term strategy and bear measurable results based on agreed-upon company metrics. In fact, this level of organization and success acceleration is one of the key indicators of that organization’s achievement of the Accelerated Maturity level on the VTT model.

So, why a CoE?

  • Maximize Project Team Success
  • Reduce project risk
    • CheckpointsBest practices
  • Recognize ROI quickly
  • Maximize efficiency through reuse
  • Reference architecture for ease of maintenance
  • Harmonize Business and IT
    • Transformational role in automating processes

What is a Center of Excellence?

A center of excellence (CoE) is a team that provides leadership, best practices, support, training, and collaboration for a focus area to drive business or customer-valued results. At its core, a CoE is a governance model for guiding and managing a program across an organization.

The CoE provides visibility within the company about the idea of digital transformation, and helps the idea catch on in organizations that might otherwise be resistant to change. It is recognized as being a building block for realizing the wide-scale potential and value of digital transaction management solutions.

In order for a digital transformation to be successful, any adoption plans must address cultural, technological, and organizational elements. These are analogous to the main tenets in enterprise architecture, people, process and technology. The key takeaway here is that the concept of CoE presumes change is hard and will encounter resistance. To that end, any structure or activity defined in implementing and executing plans for a CoE is aimed to reduce the friction that often exists with the introduction of any process or technology.

How do you Implement a Center of Excellence

The great thing about a CoE is that there is more than one way to implement it effectively. We’ve seen many different successful CoE implementations over the years and what’s important is understanding how your own organization operates to build a CoE that will work well in that environment.

One of the key advantages of the CoE is that it can initially be built on a small scale, with minimal incremental expenditure starting with companies that are at the Pivoted stage of the VTT DTM Maturity Model. As its value is delivered to management, staff, and individual project teams, it can iteratively evolve and scale up its resources, services, and capabilities. The CoE model can also be a critical asset for distributed organizations, providing centralized processes, infrastructure, and reporting. This distributed model is indicative of organizations experiencing the Accelerated and Optimized level of maturity.

In our experience, all CoEs should serve the following basic needs:

  • Authority: Knowing what the CoE is responsible for and what decisions it can make is the most important element here. At one end of the spectrum, the CoE can be purely advisory. At the other end, it can be responsible for some tasks and have the power to dictate what other groups can and cannot do. The best approach depends a great deal on company culture.
  • Management: Allocating limited resources (money, people, etc.) across all their possible use is an important function of CoEs. They should ensure organizations invest in the most valuable projects and create economies of scale for their service offering. In addition, coordination across other corporate interests is needed to enable the CoE to deliver value.
  • Guidance: Standards, methodologies, tools and knowledge repositories are typical approaches to filling this need.
  • (Shared) Learning: Training and certifications, skill assessments, team building and formalized roles are all ways to encourage shared learning.
  • Measurements: CoEs makes it easier to measure the value delivered by DocuSign across the organization by centralizing and standardizing the top business metrics.
  • Support: For their area of focus, CoE’s should offer support to the business lines. This may be through services needed, or providing subject matter experts.

What Levels of CoE Exist at Each VTT DTM Maturity Stage?

The Nascent stage usually exists before organizations begin to recognize the need for CoE’s. Capabilities may initially live in functional organizations or with individuals. In the earliest stages, organizations may perhaps establish a steering committee or create initial pilot projects to begin to identify and focus skills in an organization.

Organizations begin to move to a Pivoted stage when they start viewing CoEs as an asset for project teams. With this project-centric view, they know that teams need support and are looking for a home for the deeper skills they require. Identify leaders for the CoE and other resources with the skills needed for the roles given above. CoE leadership begins to coordinate across projects, train and mentor others, help plan and set scope, and monitor the capabilities they were responsible for building.

To move to the Accelerated stage, they begin to define and document the standards and practices for their competency. By this stage, a team charter should define the center. Team members should capture best practices in a wiki or similar format and begin to more actively manage associated risk and quality. Training and reference best practices should be standardized and help to actively communicate the competencies across the organization. Many of these efforts are aimed to build a playbook or template of how the CoE should be implemented company-wide or deployed for a distributed / matrixed organizational structure.

Making the leap to the next higher level, Optimized, requires strong coordination and, therefore, strong commitment across executive levels. CoE sponsors and leaders should coach executive leadership so that organizations can gain this commitment to begin to build managed, strategic CoEs. The focus becomes across an organization with clear support for corporate plans, integrated with corporate scorecards, and an actively managed portfolio of initiatives that use their service. The true power of CoE’s begins to be unleashed as more formal career paths are created, where development and mentoring become available for the competencies the CoE supports.

In future installments, we’ll explore the structure, roles and tools a successful CoE typically employ.

Companies and organizations who’ve started their Digital Transformation often wish to bring about change in a controlled environment, gather the results, make any corrections before expanding the process, before applying it organization-wide. This is not only a sound approach, it’s a well understood pattern for ensuring adoption of a solution.

So, what “pattern” am I referring to? What are the steps in an organization’s transition from becoming aware of the need to change, to completely transforming every aspect of the business to be fully digital?

In this post, I’ll outline the ValTeo Digital Transaction Management Maturity Model© that can be used to not only gauge the stage of transformation for your organization, but to plan the next steps and better understand what value a fully digital business holds for you in the future.

This post is part of a series on How to Plan Your Digital Transformation.

What Does the DTM Maturity Model Represent

The Digital Transaction Management (DTM) Maturity Model has been developed by ValTeo Tech to gauge the level of digital transaction automation maturity in an organization, no matter the organization’s size, structure or industry. It’s loosely based on the Digital Transformation Maturity Model by Cognizant’s Brian Solis.

The DTM Maturity Model is both a planning tool and an aspirational roadmap as it points to a future for an organization that we don’t believe yet exists in any company. In fact, it may be that the ideal final stage is one that an organization always strives to attain and never does, but, in the process, makes Digital Transaction Management and, by proxy, Digital Transformation a part of its culture fabric and differentiation strategy.

To demonstrate this point with data, in Forrester’s Predictions 2017: In Digital Transformation, The Hard Work of Operational Excellence Begins, you learn that many organizations that began their Digital Transformation journey early now realize this process is not only about realizing the value in the use of new technologies, but a means to create immersive experiences for their customers and staff to rethink their operational processes. As you can imagine, this is not a single point of metamorphosis, but a continued refinement and redefinition.

By extension, the DTM Maturity Model, as we’ve experienced and defined it, describes the stages an organization traverses as it rethinks many of its customer experience interactions and internal transaction that revolve around paper-based processes.

The diagram below represents the four maturity stages. You’ll notice that the horizontal access defines the timeline of maturity for an organization. However, the vertical axis is left undefined or, at least, not labeled. This is because it can represent a few interchanging variables that may affect the rapidity of earned value, but not its general direction. For example, the vertical axis could be defined as Realized Value, Customer Satisfaction, Efficiency in Use of Resources, or a number of other metrics that an organization uses to measure success and differentiation.

What Does Each Maturity Level Mean

As you read through the definition of these levels, you may think the term “transformation” should apply to the use of a technology that replaces a manual step or an older technology. Our intention for the use of this term goes beyond this. Namely, by “transformation” we mean the use of technology to rethink a process, how people interact as a result of such changes, and the added value that they bring.

An example that often resonates is how the use of smartphones by the general public transformed the methods by which customers wished to, and now do, interact with companies. Smartphones weren’t simply a replacement of functional phones. They weren’t just a better phone, but a device that allowed for significantly different, more meaningful and valuable interaction options. This has lead to complete rethinking of customer support, introduction of new presentation, search and sales process, as well as communication by companies to their customers, employees and other stakeholders.

In this way, our reference to “transformation” or “transformational” then is not just an evolution or transition of a process or ways of doing business from one method or system to another. Transformation is intended to mean a complete metamorphosis that leads to rethinking of how business is done and, in many case, elimination of what’s no longer relevant and introduction of new methods, process or even lines of business.


At this level, an organization has not yet recognized the need for change. Often there is no defined digital strategy and the use of technology, though it may be organized, is not intended nor implemented to be transformational.

Organizations in this stage may still be experiencing growth and are profitable. In essence, they perceive no business problem. So, why solve it. This scenario applies to both organizations that are too young, such as startups in established industries, or established companies where the old way of doing things continues to deliver results. In this latter group, the companies may be risk averse and uninterested in being disruptive.

While companies in this group often implement new technologies like a new CRM, ERP or DTM solution, these implementations are often a (further) digitization of how things were done before. In other words, Nascent companies are not without technology, but they don’t necessarily use it to transform their business and industry.


Companies in this category have recognized the need to change, albeit this may be a recognition by just one visionary leader or individual contributor. The recognition may result from shrinking profits and the introduction of external threats, forcing the organization to rethink its legacy processes.

Though a digital strategy may not yet be defined, it’s begun to take shape as a result of new experiments setup to rethink how business can be done for one use case or department. Such efforts are tactical and departmental, rather than organizational.

The technologies selected are chosen based on specific goals with selected metrics designed to not only measure success but determine whether an implementation was transformative. These initial implementations can be quite cumbersome as they require a whole new method of thinking, change management and knowledge transfer.

Knowledge of the new systems and processes are limited to the departments or groups who are conducting the experiments. Some of the lessons may be documented, but most of them are anecdotal and can be viewed as tribal knowledge. In fact, there’s no defined program or process for assessing new scenarios and candidates for change based on transformation, value-based metrics.

The teams involved often have an understanding of agile process and experiment with how it can be implemented at their organization. At first, such attempts are to combine the legacy Command and Control or central decision making with agile, resulting in what we refer to as Cagile (ka-gyle) process: partly centralized, partly agile with latency in making changes, learning from them, and deciding on new directions. This is a transitionary period and, though not optimal, a necessary step to begin the switch to a fully agile and decentralized decision-making process typically seen in more entrepreneurial / intrapreneurial settings.


Accelerated organizations often have understood the value of a digital transformation using DTM technologies based on limited experiments they’ve completed. Thus they actively develop and incorporate a digital strategy with the larger company growth strategy. What metrics to use to demonstrate successful transformations as well as measures on whether a transformation is even needed are defined and understood.

As a result of multiple experiments, the organization not only understands which transformative technologies to use, but also begins to build a roadmap for fully incorporating and integrating these technologies with other backend systems to reduce any manual transfer of data between such systems. All planning for new process or use cases to undergo transformations also incorporates integration modeling between the various systems.

Given the new company digital strategy, the early adopters and experimenters are tasked with developing a Center of Excellence (CoE) around shared technologies, skills, training and knowledge transfer. The CoE is also tasked with documenting the process to assess new use cases, determine their priority and develop timelines. They act as the central support hub, with specialized roles such as Chief Digital Officer, Digital Evangelist or similar titles leading them.

Agile processes are fully deployed and considered central to instituting a culture of continual improvement that involves deliberate experimenting by developing Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). In this way, MVPs are quickly validated by all stakeholders involved to determine whether the intended value can be realized with the new solution, how it can be corrected, or what changes need to be made to optimize it. Collaboration among teams, departments and regions, then, becomes part of the paradigm shift, though it is something that still requires training by CoE for each new group brought into this new strategic fold.


At the Optimized level, digital strategy has become a part of the cultural fabric of the organization and is lived through every decision. This is evidenced when the digital strategy is not discussed as a separate piece that needs to be incorporated into the annual strategic review and planning, but it is the central aspect of the company strategic plan around which all other initiatives take shape.

Highly specific roles that were previously defined to help focus the organization on the digital transformation efforts are no longer needed. Hence, such titles as Chief Digital Officer or Digital Evangelists are eliminated and, instead, the related skills are incorporated into every individual contributor and leadership position. Training on how to foster such thinking and skills are fully formalized and become not only a part of the hiring process, but also part of their continual education.

The agile process of scientific experimentation is fully adopted by all teams and ingrained into every aspect of business, with small teams formed for both strategic and tactical projects. To that end, the CoE is decentralized and replicated in each region or practice in order to scale adoption of the new processes.

The entrepreneurial spirit of freedom to experiment, fail early, revise and retry is fully employed, including for revisions to the process to manage any transformative change. Everyday meetings and discussions have an inherent focus on how to optimize every aspect of business and measure any efficiency or efficacy based on understood metrics. In turn, the metrics themselves are challenged from time to time to determine whether better measures of success for fine tuning customer experience and process automation should be considered and used.

As you can now understand, this Optimized organization is likely inspirational in the same way that excellence can be achieved, but always leaving room for improvements.

In our future posts we’ll cover how the ValTeo DTM Maturity Model© can be used to better define your DTM transformation plan and, more specifically, which metrics can be used at each stage.

In the world of banking and wealth management, it’s imperative to conduct a DocuSigning (electronic signing via DocuSign) face-to-face. This is a common pattern in this space where Bank Associates or Financial Advisors aim to provide white-glove service in the process of closing loans or opening new accounts. It’s also a point of confusion given the misleading DocuSign terminology of “In-Person” signing roles.

So, how do you accomplish this using the DocuSign platform?

Use Case and Solution Overview

Let’s first describe the typical use case. Bob, the owner of famous men’s clothing Bobby LaSuit clothier, has been looking to purchase a new facility to expand his clothing line production. He has already determined the total loan amount he needs, spoken with his banker, Vidya, and provided her with all the necessary information to complete an application, including his financials for the past three years, list of his assets and a pro-forma, demonstrating what growth he expects over the next 3 years and why needs to purchase the larger facility.

Vidya has entered all data into the bank’s Loan Origination System (LOS) and completed her due diligence. She is now ready to go over the final paperwork with Bob and get a signature to start the funding process. Both Bob and Vidya are quite focused on maintaining their relationship as they’ve been working together for some time, the result of which has been support from the bank for Bob from his startup days through various stages of growth.

So, on a Tuesday morning, Bob walks into his local bank branch to meet with Vidya and sign the paperwork. She sits across the table from Bob and reviews the documents with him. All seems to be in order. She then kicks off the DocuSigning process through a press of a button in her LOS. She captures an electronic signature and the system routes all documents to her and for funding.

DocuSign provides a couple of different recipient role designations that could address this scenario. Each of these roles have their intended use and consequences. The first option could be to use the DocuSign In-Person signing role. This is a fast way of getting to a solution, but a clunky method of accomplishing it as it creates a poor experience for the face-to-face interaction we have in mind. Alternately, you can embed the DocuSigning process in a custom-built application, such as the LOS in our scenario, which provides a much better user experience but requires software development efforts. Let’s review each solution further.

In-Person Signer Role

So, what is an In-Person signer role in DocuSign and what’s its intended use?

An In-Person signer role is one of the many DocuSign recipient roles that’s available both via API and the Web App interface. It can be used when both the person collecting signature and the signer are at the same physical location. So far, so good in fitting our use case.

In fact, this is the ideal setup for realtors and why DocuSign originally came up with the role. Why? Often times, realtors have assistants who may prepare paperwork for buyers in making offers for a new home purchase. The realtor, then, would visit the buyer to answer any final questions, go over the paperwork and get the signature. However, both the realtor and the realtor’s assistant just use the DocuSign Web App. What’s more, since the assistant is setting up the paperwork, he would want to notify the realtor when the paperwork is ready.

In this scenario, the assistant prepares the documents in a DocuSign Envelope via the DocuSign Web App and setup the Buyer as an In-Person signer, with the realtor as the Host. The DocuSign system, then, sends an email to the realtor as the Host. When the realtor meets with the Buyer, she brings up her email, finds the notification from DocuSign, follows the link which launches DocuSign and provides a prompt for the realtor to pass her phone, tablet or notebook computer to the Buyer to start signing.

You can read about the mechanics of how to setup an In-Person Signing on DocuSign’s Support Center.

They key here is that the realtor had to initiate the signing, and is required to be a Sender in the DocuSign system. In other words, there’s no direct way for the Buyer to start the signing. In fact, even if the Buyer wanted to sign the documents directly, he would have no way of getting to them unless the Realtor was present and able to kick off the signing.

DocuSign even provides a mobile app that helps the realtor kickoff the signing, but it still requires the realtor to start the process as the host. If you’re using nothing but the DocuSign Web App to collect data and signatures, this can be an ideal and quick solution. In fact, all that’s needed is the ability to create an initial set of DocuSign Templates to mark up where data needs to be collected from the Buyer, in this case, or other recipients and where they need to sign.

However, in our use case, Vidya is using a Loan Origination System to collect all data, track progress on the loan and generate the loan documents. To use the In-Person signing, she would then have to switch from the LOS to DocuSign to setup the In-person signing.

Assuming a DocuSign Template is used, this process leads to a poor user experience, with Vidya having to use up to three different applications to collect data, generate the loan documents, then kickoff the DocuSigning: she would collect data and generate the documents in the LOS, then save out the documents on her local desktop, log into DocuSign and import the document to apply a template and send for in-person signing, then either use the Web App or her email to kickoff the signing. All of these steps are manual that act as speed-bumps in completing the transaction. Such user experience often means Vidya and her coworkers will reject the solution, even if it helps reduce paperwork!

However, this is a very fast method of starting to use DocuSign to collect signatures and a good interim solution until a more robust method is put in place. It certainly reduces the use of paper, even if it doesn’t reduce the complexity of the transaction.

Embedded Signing

But wait! There may be a better method.

DocuSign also provides the means of embedding the complete signing experience inside another application. This is ONLY available via API (programmatically) and cannot be initiated via the DocuSign Web App.

The experience is quite unique. In our use case of Bob and Vidya, Vidya would continue to collect all data and run through her loan origination process in her bank’s LOS. When the time comes to kickoff the DocuSigning, she would simply press a button inside her LOS to the effect of “Start DocuSigning”. The LOS, in the background, generates the document as it normally would, but sends it programmatically to DocuSign to create a new transaction, what DocuSign refers to as an Envelope, and start the DocuSigning.

The programmatic call to DocuSign would also include details about Bob, including his name and email, as well as any security measures required to validate that it’s in fact Bob DeSuit who’s signing the document. Additionally, the LOS could indicate to DocuSign if there are any areas in the documents where Bob needs to sign or initial, as well as any remaining data that needs to be collected or just validated.

As all of this occurs in the background, Vidya immediately walks Bob over to a banking kiosk where she instructs Bob to enter his Business ATM Card, enter his PIN and choose to DocuSign his loan. The Kiosk would pull up the DocuSign envelope and allow Bob to complete the DocuSigning directly on the touch-screen. At the end of the signing, all documents are properly routed to Vidya and for funding. The LOS is also notified of any changes Bob made during the process.

This solution provides an added flexibility that’s not available for the In-Person signer role. Namely, if Bob gets a call, prompting him to leave the bank without signing, Vidya could initiate a change in the LOS to send an email notification to Bob’s business email so that he can complete the signing remotely.

Not only is this solution more sophisticated and robust, it’s also more user friendly. There aren’t any clunky steps that require manual intervention by Vidya. All routing of data to DocuSign to start the signing, the process of switching from a Face-to-Face to a remote email-based signing, when necessary, the notifications to all system and people after signing is fully automated. As a result, not only is the signing completed more often and in less time, the solution has a significantly higher chance of adoption within all branches of the bank.

In the end, the bank loan officers use the system more, the customer’s are satisfied that they don’t need to deal with printed documents, the bank saves on printed paper, and the overall solution ROI significantly improves as time-to-cash (funding of the loan and collecting interest) significantly increases. It’s not uncommon to see a reduction in time-to-cash or time-to-close for 75% of transaction from 7 days down to one hour.

So, which choice fits your needs best?

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