Adobe Sign - Electronic Signature vs. Electronic Approval

Table of contents

Service overview

The University of Maryland Office of General Counsel has endorsed the use of Adobe Sign electronic signature service to promote efficiency and security for internal approvals and to conduct university business. To use Adobe Sign, an employee must first have the authority to undertake the action made by an electronic signature or approval. 

 An electronic signature process makes it easy to route, track and sign documents. Using them saves time by eliminating the need to collect and convert traditional pen-and-paper signatures. It is secure, legal and all digital.


UMD’s electronic signature service

An electronic signature (e-signature) is an electronic process that indicates acceptance of an agreement or a record. It demonstrates proof of signing using a secure process that often includes an audit trail along with the final document. E-signatures are legal, secure, auditable and verifiable. Adobe Sign includes digital signatures that use a certificate-based digital ID to authenticate the signer’s identity. It demonstrates proof of signing by binding each signature to the document encryption and validation is done through trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs) or Trust Service Providers (TSPS).

Adobe Sign is a cloud-based University of Maryland (UMD) e-signature service that complies with local and international regulations. It allows users to replace paper and ink signature processes with fully automated electronic signature workflows. With Adobe Sign, you can easily send, sign, track and manage signature processes using a browser or mobile device. Electronic signatures are faster, cheaper and more secure than paper-based signatures. They are easy to authenticate and cannot be backdated or duplicated with a copier or scanner.

Documents can be routed through customized workflows, integrated with other IT systems (e.g. Salesforce and ServiceNow) and tracked in real-time with automated reminders. The implementation of Adobe Sign may require some workflow remapping, which can also aid in the digitization of a unit’s administrative processes.


What's the difference between Adobe Sign e-signature and approvals?

E-signatures are to be used for official documents regarding legally binding courses of action, such as the expenditure of university funds or the execution of a contract. Typically, at least one party to the transaction is external to the University. These official documents include, but are not limited to, contracts, proposals, agreements, statements, notices, resolutions, memorandums of understanding, licenses and indentures. Only specific designated individuals on campus have authority to use e-signatures in Adobe Sign. To confirm that you have a delegated signature authority, contact the respective Vice President or the Office of General Counsel. A memo clarifying delegated signatory authorities on campus will be issued soon.

Approval signatures are used to formally collect approvals to record decisions and conduct business at the university. University policies define who can approve business and financial documents. For instance, electronic approvals are widely used on campus at UMD in areas such as timesheets and Outside Professional Activities.


When should Adobe Sign e-signature be used instead of an approval?

An e-signature should be used only when at least one party to a transaction is external to the University of Maryland unless legal circumstances create the need to use them. Examples such documents include medical leave forms, procurement contracts, and university gift agreements. For information about UMD policy regarding authorized signatories, see University of Maryland Policy and Procedures for Authorized Signatories on Financial Documents.

NOTE: Since the e-signature function can commit the University to legal obligations, deploying any new forms that will use the e-signature function of Adobe Sign must be approved by the Vice President of Administration and Finance and/or by the Office of the General Counsel. Forms using only Adobe Sign approval may be created and used by authorized offices on campus to meet their business needs.


Sample Adobe Sign documents and forms

Signed Adobe Sign document