Mosscare St Vincent’s Housing Group (MSV) own and manage almost 9,000 homes in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire. Their aspirations are to respond to the housing crisis in the North West, by assisting the millennial generation locked out of decent homes, the elderly, those on low incomes, those in need of specialist housing, first-time buyers, and people who are “rightsizing”.
Remotely signing contracts using digital signatures
Initially instigated by a move to hybrid working – the practice of combining remote working with office-based work – and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, MSV needed to find a viable solution to obtaining paperless and binding signatures of both employees and customers on documents and forms. Previously, there was no process in place for digital signing that was legally binding or accepted.
Traditional signature methods
Traditionally, tenants had to sign papers by physically travelling which was not only inconvenient, but it took longer to ensure legal formalities were complete. If the tenant missed the appointment, everything came to a halt until it could be rescheduled. Furthermore, getting third-party signatures from notaries and lawyers proved to be problematic, delaying timescales for handing over the keys. MSV wanted an easier way for tenants to sign their paperwork without having to be physically present.
Finding a viable electronic solution
There were other electronic signature solutions the Housing Association looked at, but did not feel they were 100% adapted to meet their needs. The company wanted to go digital to make processes more functional for both employees and tenants, and so turned to long term supplier, DocTech for help. DocTech are document management specialists who installed and support MSV with DocuWare, a digital Document Management System.
After testing several solutions, MSV realised they needed a reliable solution and above all, one that was adaptable to their processes. It needed to be easy to use so employees could take advantage of the benefits immediately.
The ability to integrate with other platforms was also an important consideration in MSV's decision making process.
“The requirement for a signing service came as part of a more agile business approach and was exacerbated by the pandemic. The heavy reliance on paper signatures was essentially holding us back and slowing us down. After looking at other signature providers it soon became evident that a straight swap from wet to digital signatures was not enough as colleagues still had to file things away manually. The integration of VIDsigner into DocuWare provided us with a solution to both, and in a short space time has become an essential part of our processes”.
Paul Clark, ICT Senior Applications Analyst
As a Social Housing provider, MSV has many different types of documents and forms that need to be signed. These range from simple tenancy related documents to more complex contracts and legal documentation such as applications and internal ICT policies.
Use of the electronic signature
The first usage of the VIDsigner integration with DocuWare came as part of a new device rollout in late summer/autumn 2020 which required MSV’s employees to sign on receipt of their equipment by courier.
Following the success of this usage, the integration has become a key component of the ICT equipment rollout process and has significantly helped to streamline operations.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, MSV’s Lettings Team needed a way of issuing documents to tenants in line with a virtual viewing process. Within a matter of weeks and with the help of DocTech, MSV was able to present a Proof of Concept (PoC).
This PoC saw information and documents generated within their Housing Management System sent to DocuWare, where they were then linked to VIDsigner. In May 2021, MSV went live with a redesigned new customer process, which enables all required forms to be signed using VIDsigner.
In March 2022, the use of VIDsigner increased further by introducing Housing Application document types into the environment.
The benefits of integrating VIDsigner into MSV’s Housing Management System
As opposed to simply being a straight swap between wet and digital signatures, introducing VIDsigner into their process has seen additional benefits including:
• A reduction in admin time: Once generated and signed, documents are stored automatically into the relevant DocuWare cabinet.
• A greater understanding and usage of their Housing Management System by employees, with an emphasis on making processes more efficient and customer driven.
• A substantial increase in the use of their customer portal: By introducing employees and customers to a digital way of doing things.
Established in 1984, DocTech specialise in automated, digital document solutions, supporting organisations with a range of needs from a simple digital archive through to complex invoice processing workflows and third party integrations.
Based in Bury, UK, DocTech work with over 300 clients throughout the UK and Ireland across both the private and public sectors.
Quote from company executive (DocTech) Ruban Rajasooriyar, DocTech’s Managing Director said: “We’ve worked with MSV since 2001 and our relationship continues to grow. With the help of our partners at ValidatedID, we can offer an electronic signature solution that integrates directly into DocuWare, streaming processes and improving tenant experience”.