Simple Workflow Gets eSignature Capabilities
In February, I wrote about the Teams Approvals app. At the time, I concluded that the Approvals app delivers simple workflow that is attractive because it’s so easy to use. Microsoft still hasn’t enabled guest user access to Approvals, but they have some other features, including the ability to add electronic signatures from third-party providers.
Microsoft cites Adobe Sign and DocuSign as examples of providers which allow users to create an approval needing an electronic signature. DocuSign doesn’t seem to be ready to support Teams just yet, but the offer to use Adobe Sign turned up in my tenant, so I tried it out.
Licenses Needed for Adobe Sign
Anyone sent an item to approve can use Adobe Sign to sign it without a license, but users need an Adobe Sign license to generate new approval requests. Adobe offers a trial (14 days in Ireland, different periods elsewhere), which is enough to prove the concept.
The process to use eSignatures with approval requests is simple. The person seeking approval creates a new approval request and chooses eSign as the approval type. They also choose an eSignature provider. If their account is not signed into the provider, they must authenticate at this point. Notice that the approval request must include an attached document. This is important because the document is the primary element routed by Teams to the provider’s cloud service for processing. Once the document reaches the provider, it goes through the same approval cycle used for any other document submitted for eSignature processing.
Oddly, the Approvals app only uploads documents stored on my local drive. No option was available to upload documents stored in SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business unless local copies of synchronized files are available. It’s an odd omission given the importance Microsoft puts on storing files in the cloud to make it easier to index and discover content for both user and compliance purposes.
The requester must tell the sSignature provider who should sign the document and if the signers must sign in order (Figure 2). Although Teams will check the names against the tenant directory, you can add any valid SMTP address as a signer. Once Teams passes the request to the provider, it sends notifications to the signer addresses using its normal approval mechanisms.
Third-Party eSignature Processing
When the user sends the request, Teams captures information about the request under a tab for the provider in the Approvals app to allow the user to track its progress. Meantime, the provider works on details of the request sent to it by Teams. For Adobe Sign, that means sending email to the signers to notify them that a request is waiting. (Figure 3).
This is the same process that “normal” document signing requests follow with Adobe Sign. The only difference is that Teams gathers the information about the document and injected it into Adobe Sign. Clicking the link in the message launches Adobe Sign with the document loaded and ready for signature (Figure 4).
As signers respond, Adobe Sign notifies Teams, which then posts an update in the user’s activity feed.
Once everyone requested sign the document, Adobe Sign completes its process by emailing a copy of the fully signed document to the requester and signers and updating Teams that the approval cycle is complete. Teams posts a final notice to the user’s activity feed (Figure 5) and updates the request in the Approvals app.
Unlike normal approval requests, I noticed that eSign approval requests do not show up in Power Automate. This is probably because Teams doesn’t use Power Automate to process eSign requests.
Overall, the integration between Teams and Adobe Sign is reasonably seamless and a good example of how to combine cloud services from multiple sources to get work done. Everything worked as expected, and apart from not being able to upload documents from cloud sources, the only minor irritation I encountered was being asked to sign into Adobe Sign multiple times over a short period. It’s obvious that Adobe hasn’t quite mastered the art of single sign in just yet.
The bottom line is that if your organization uses an eSignature provider and has the necessary licenses, linking eSignatures to approval requests adds value. Users can quickly and easily request documents for approval without leaving Teams, reducing the need to wonder just how to submit a document for eSignature processing. It’s an integration worth investigating if eSignatures are important to your business operations.
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