The Grimsby Institute Group is one of England's largest providers of further and higher education. With a rich history of developing innovative training and education solutions for the community, the Group consists of the Grimsby Institute, University Centre Grimsby, Scarborough Tec, Skegness Tec, The Academy Grimsby and Career 6. Ofsted rates Grimsby as an “Outstanding Provider”.

We asked Drew, Grimsby's Funding & Compliance Officer, what lay behind his choice.

What inspired you to investigate using e-signatures for Grimsby Institute Group?

We had an issue around the signing of contracts by employers relating to our apprenticeship provision. This is something that has to be in place before any apprentice is enrolled and starts with an employer, we were finding this caused a snowball effect whereby the assessment process and funding was being hindered – causing frustration from employers and learners. We analysed our complex process flow to see if we could cut unnecessary branches, or amend ordering to streamline while ensuring we satisfy rigid compliance and audit requirements – we quickly realised that the process had stagnated and technology was the untapped asset we needed.

What benefits and economies were you hoping to achieve?

We were hoping for a short term impact of increasing timeliness of signing documents, speeding up enrolment and therefore a more transparent, seamless and positive way of working with employers and learners. Additionally providing departments alternatives to achieve a goal, loosening stringent processes and providing a different way of achieving the same outcome with less legwork.

What are the Institute’s signing requirements?

The Group is comprised many entities, stretching from Lincolnshire up to North Yorkshire – there is huge scope for weaving e-signing into the organisation. We have deployed eversign to our Distance Learning team to attempt to eradicate a three-week wait on postage around the country to obtain a signed enrolment form; our apprenticeship team to gain signatures from multiple signatories with little hassle, to Estuary TV, our television station; the system is increasing in use throughout the Group. The scope of the system could mean we could be increasing our document usage from hundreds to thousands within the year. The business function has allowed us to departmentalise the system to allow ownership by managers and declutter those documents that are not of relevance.

How has e-signature meshed with the new requirements introduced by GDPR?

GDPR had had a significant impact on how we approach data, being a part-publicly funded organisation; we collect large amounts of personal and sensitive data about individuals. Eversign has been instrumental in gaining consent to hold data and informing learners and employers about the use of their data by The Group.

How has eversign been as a supplier?

Support from eversign has been fantastic, responding quickly to my quick fire questions and supported us when we have encountered an issue and as our demands have increased.

What do you think of the eversign product?

One thing that became apparent to me when using the system is how easy it is to use. Staff often request training to use Eversign, however when using it for the first time soon realise after a minute of showing functionalities, the training was not necessary. It is easy to pick up and adapt for different uses and has allowed departments to go electronic with their forms with ease, sending to both internal and external customers.

What challenges have you faced in implementing electronic signatures across the group? How easy or difficult has it been?

Change has been the biggest barrier to the implementation of electronic signatures. For some of our departments, we are using the system for not only e-signatures, but also using the text functions to complete forms and contracts – encouraging people to ditch paper for electronic systems can be difficult and attaining ‘buy in’ from staff has proven difficult. I have found by encouraging staff who have felt a benefit of the system and have been brave enough to take the plunge to train and coach other staff has been key.

Now you are a few months in, are you realising the benefits you expected to achieve?

Definitely. It has been a catalyst to improving other processes and systems. Unintentionally the introduction of eversign into the organisation was in conjunction with a new CRM system; we have been able to mingle processes together providing an alternative electronic alternative to previously paper based tasks.

What’s next?

We are hoping to use API to pre-populate forms for our main enrolment event, whereby over a thousand new learners come to the campus to enrol. We would like to have a form ready for them to sign to speed up the event, reduce storage of paper forms and utilise our existing systems. We would like to have the system open and ready for enrolment as learners come to the building as a self-service, reducing the pressure on some of our teams.

Thanks Drew!