Hitting the Right Note

How Yamaha used e-signature technology to cut costs and accelerate workflow

For years, courier costs, human error and missing pages plagued Yamaha Corporation of America's contract process. "We depended on a lengthy signature process," recalls Mike Machado, a Yamaha systems specialist. "Sometimes the forms weren't signed in the right places and folks would strike things out. We often received incomplete agreements."

The California-based supplier of musical instruments relies on a nationwide network of 7,000 retail stores for sales. So when it came time to update its master agreement with them in May 2007, the company couldn't risk striking a sour note.

Rather than burden sales representatives with a cumbersome process that involved stuffing more than 5,000 envelopes and racking up nearly $15,000 in courier charges, Yamaha signed up for e-signature technology. Machado spent three months researching Web-based products that could cut costs and expedite the process, yet capture "the look and feel of a paper-based experience." Seattle's DocuSign was chosen for its user-friendly interface and a low cost. Within 30 days of deployment, Yamaha was using the software to send out agreements.

Today, Yamaha's dealers only need to log on to a secure site and review a contract. The program automatically generates an electronic signature that can be modified, for example, by adding a middle initial or selecting a different font. Yellow "Sign Here" tabs instruct dealers where they must click to place their signatures. Only properly signed contracts can be routed further. Completed documents can be downloaded and saved as a PDF for safe record keeping.

By not having to send multiple contracts via courier to each of its dealers, Yamaha has cut costs by more than $10,000 a month. And by relying on DocuSign's software-as-a-service electronic signature technology, Yamaha didn't have to invest in any additional IT infrastructure. But most importantly, the company's month-long, laborious contract signing process "can now be completed in minutes," says Machado. Not bad for a process that involves corralling a half-dozen approvals.

"The primary benefits of e-signature technology are really turn-around time, cost savings and an improved regulatory posture—all of which benefit from economies of scale," says Bill Nagel, a Forrester Research analyst.

DocuSign also grants Yamaha's sales representatives visibility into where a contract is in the process in order address bottlenecks. "When you've got a deal ready, knowing where you are in the contract signing process is crucial," says Machado. Despite federal and state laws that render a digital signature legally binding, skepticism still abounds. To allay concerns, Yamaha provided ample notice of its shift to electronic contract signing. In the end, only a small percentage of dealers opted to stick with paper, while others "decided to adopt the electronic signature process for their own business," says Vimal Thomas, Yamaha's CIO—which, of course, was music to his ears.

How it Adds Up

Yamaha Corporation of America, Buena Park, Calif.

Established in 1960, Yamaha is a manufacturer of musical instruments and audio/visual products to the U.S. market. YCA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yamaha Corporation, Japan, and is the largest of all global subsidiary companies. Within YCA's Music Marketing Group there are several sales and marketing divisions—piano and keyboard products, band and orchestral instruments, live sound and music production products, guitars, drums and consumer products.

How Yamaha Saved: By eliminating courier expenses, Yamaha has been able to cut delivery costs by more than $10,000 a month. Tool Used: DocuSign's electronic signature service

Time Frame: Started industry research in February 2007. It took one month to fully deploy the solution across the organization's three sales divisions.

Get the law in order

Before signing up with DocuSign, Yamaha's in-house legal counsel conducted extensive research over a 30-day period to ensure that the processes involved in capturing electronic signatures, storing such data and the signatures themselves, would be legally binding.

Keep it simple

To ease dealers into using e- signature technology, Yamaha made use of the solution's more user-friendly features, such as "Sign Here" yellow tabs that are meant to resemble paper-based Post-It notes that guide users to where they must place their signatures.

Cindy Waxer is a freelance writer based in Canada.

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