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The Technology is Becoming Flat

This technology post is first in a series of reviews for products that are making a difference. Plenty of products are cool or just fun-to-use but they may not be contributing to actual measured progress. So I won’t write about them here.

Instead, I’ll be sharing my experiences and results with products that are making a competitive difference. Why? To sustain the values that matter.

(Note: Unless stated otherwise, I am neither an investor in nor a hired promoter for featured products.)

The World is Becoming Flat

What I mean when I say that the world is flat is that sometime in the late 1990s a whole set of technologies and political events converged which made it very easy for people all over the world to work together – that leveled the playing field. It created a global platform that allowed more people to plug and play, collaborate and compete, share knowledge and share work, than anything we have ever seen in the history of the world.

--Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat

EchoSign is modeling the way

Illustration: EchoSign logo

EchoSign is a poster child in my book for everything done right in the new world of enterprise software. I use it to get documents signed fast and then to manage my signed documents in a more effective way than before.

It’s as simple as that – and as powerful.

To understand why this subscription software-as-a-service is so powerful, you only need to think about the typical steps and costs for getting even one contract signed and filed:

  • Investments in fax technology or Adobe Acrobat as standard digital format for emailing
  • Faxing or emailing the contract (assuming snail-mail is either obsolete or only a post-step)
  • Ensuring the contract has been received
  • Ensuring the appropriate version of the contract has been received
  • Waiting for receiver to sign
  • Waiting for receiver to format and send via email or fax
  • Review and acknowledgement of received signed contract
  • Digital and/or physical filing of contract
  • Remembering how and where I filed the contract later

No matter how large or small your business, I’m sure you can relate to these steps and associated costs. The documents aren’t necessarily legal contracts – they can be anything that must be approved or signed off in a multi-step process. Multiply these steps by the number of signatures required and/or the number of contracts submitted per day or week. Now the total time spent, along with potential points of failure leading to misunderstandings or worse, really adds up.

Nothing exists until it is measured

Using EchoSign, the minimum time I save from format to filing is about four hours. This is a least-case scenario. I estimate a four-day time savings in another situation, so that’s about the range. My previous investments in formatting software and a fax machine (about $800) are already written off, but EchoSign could have saved me those costs too if it had existed sooner. OK, so those are some of the hard numbers. But there’s more.

The reactions I’ve received from people who receive my “please sign” requests through EchoSign include, “Wow, this is really useful!, Thank you, what a great tool!, and Thank you so much for turning this around so fast. The bottom line here is that EchoSign adds value to my business relationships, and it's easy-to-use and professional.

All the values I’ve described thus far were realized using the free version of the service. As quickly as I saw the ROI, I signed up for the professional package, which is more than reasonable at $12.95/month. A team version is $19.95/user/month for minimum five team members and lets you personalize your EchoSign interface using your company logo [Pricing].

Now I'm starting to realize the improved economies for more efficient file management. The value rises with the number of files signed and people requiring access to them. But wait - there's more!

Benchmark and model for change

Illustration: Model for Change
My Conclusions

In April 2006*, I got fired up hearing Ray Lane’s presentations, The 7 Laws for the New Software Landscape and The Interpersonal Enterprise because he captured my conclusions (summarized in the Qlippit on the right) about how traditional software providers must change to succeed today.

I was determined to find out if any changes were beginning to take place and to what extent. So a month later, I attended one of my favorite annual events, the Dow Jones Enterprise Ventures investor conference with two objectives in mind - to discover if there are:

  1. new enterprise software companies with Web 2.0 business-marketing models
  2. emerging technology and service companies designed to provide for smarter marketing

Surprisingly, of the presentations I attended, only a few companies fit the Web 2.0 model exactly. One was EchoSign and another was Coghead. Other interesting start-ups, including Trovix came close but were hybrids according to my (and Ray Lane's) conclusions.

Only a handful of potential investors sat in the room during the time slot I chose to hear EchoSign's CEO and co-founder, Jason Lemkin, present. Later I figured the reason for the small audience was because EchoSign could afford to be highly selective in its choice of investors. Ten minutes later I was enthralled not only by Jason’s innovative business and marketing strategy, but what the company could do for me and my business. I continue to be impressed with the company’s progress and my progress using the service. And the audiences are no longer small either.

Enterprise marketing applications

On a side note, in my quest to find vendors creating smarter marketing tools, I was gratified to see pure marketing service and technology companies presenting. In the previous six years at Dow Jones, there were virtually none. But in 2006, a healthy number dotted the application category, including:

I would love to hear from any readers who have applied the products and technologies offered by these companies and what your results are to date.

The Edge is Becoming the Core

The edge is where the action is – in terms of growth, innovation and value creation. Companies, workgroups and individuals that master the edge will build a more sustainable core. Peripheries represent centers of innovation because they provide early visibility into new needs and new capabilities. Peripheries take many forms, whether it is the edges of our existing institutions, geographic edges like emerging economies or demographic edges represented by younger generations bringing new needs and behaviors to markets around the world.

--John Hagel III, John Seeley Brown, The Only Sustainable Edge

*Note: in internet time this initial account is now almost ancient history. We see many more examples of Web 2.0 companies, some more progressive than others. And hundreds of rave reviews for EchoSign!

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Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for review, EchoSign seems to be useful online solution.

Nov 7, 2010 at 09:30AM | Unregistered CommenterVahur

EchoSign is certainly a useful and successful service. I use it for all my business contracts. Recently it was acquired by Adobe.

Feb 7, 2012 at 01:34PM | Registered CommenterCynthia Holladay

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