In a previous post about using the power of PDF for a greener world, we discussed how to thwart printaholics in your office with non-printable PDF files.  Another way to save reams of paper is to replace physically signed copies of common office forms like vacation slips, expense claims, etc., with electronically signed versions.

Most companies make forms available on their corporate intranet.  These are usually completed electronically using Microsoft Word or Excel and then printed, signed, and placed on a manager’s keyboard for another signature before ending up in HR or Finance.

Along the way, everyone will make a copy for their records resulting in at least three paper copies for each request.  When you consider that each employee will make several requests per year, these simple tasks result in an enormous amount of wasted paper, storage space, printer resources, and time to print, as well as wasted time walking these forms through the approval process.

A simple electronic signature process could be used to save paper and time for approving office forms.  Forms in Microsoft Word or Excel could be converted to PDF along with the employee’s electronic signature. An electronic signature can be as simple as applying the employee’s name and the date. The form would then be sent to the manager for approval, who would apply their electronic signature and forward the form to the appropriate department and copy the employee.

Everyone would have a copy of the signed form. If your organization is using SharePoint, this process can be implemented as a simple workflow using Express for SharePoint to perform the conversion to PDF and the application of electronic signatures.

Now you can take your vacation with a clear conscience, knowing that no trees were felled in the process.