The global airline turns to e-signatures and e-contracts to take business processes to new heights, and plans to integrate the tools into other applications.
One of the formidable challenges of operating an airline is managing a complex web of contracts with business partners and others scattered across the globe. At Netherlands-based KLM, the need to rein in paper documents has routed the company toward electronic contracts and e-signatures.
"We have agreements with other airlines in our SkyTeam alliance, travel agencies and other organizations," says Joost van de Bunt, business development manager for KLM sales in the Netherlands.
In the past, this meant mailing, emailing, and faxing paper and files across numerous countries. In many cases, obtaining the necessary signatures presented additional complications, and that slowed projects and processes to a crawl.
"It took a lot of time and effort—as well as courier costs—to get all the necessary agreements back and forth," van de Bunt explains. "Too often, documents got lost somewhere along the way, and there was little or no ability track where they were located and at what stage of the process they were."
As a result, KLM turned to Adobe EchoSign to clear away the paper jam. "We received a green light from our legal department and began making the solution available to account managers throughout the company," van de Bunt says.
After instructing the managers in how to use the system—and helping business partners get up to speed—the firm got its approximately 500 sales contacts into the system. It then expanded the use of EchoSign to an additional 500 travel agents and group sales agents outside the organization.
The airline is now able to route documents faster and more efficiently—and know exactly what stage an agreement is. "It's possible for a sales agent or VP to know if a signature is pending, go to the person, and say, 'My client has approved the document and wants to have it signed, may I please get your signature right away?'" van de Bunt says."Better internal visibility helps with speed, finding errors or problems, and overall accountability."
Since adopting Adobe EchoSign, KLM has signed 20,000 contracts electronically companywide, eliminating the need to print one million pages. This, in turn, has saved an estimated 120 trees and nearly 10 million liters of water, van de Bunt says. In addition, KLM is now achieving a 63 percent contract completion rate.
From start to finish, it now takes an average of 28 hours to gather all global signatures internally—a process that previously required days or even weeks. The system also delivers a high level of flexibility. If a partner prefers not to deploy e-signatures, they can use a fax-back option.
KLM plans to expand the use of e-contracts moving forward. There are currently plans to integrate e-signature tools into Salesforce.com and other applications.
"The technology works extremely well, and it is easy to deploy and use," van de Bunt says. "It's an extremely effective way to improve processes and workflows, both inside and outside the company."
Samuel Greengard, a contributing writer for CIO Insight, writes about business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.
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