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GCN : May 2014
to Adobe s electronic signature services. After two months of preliminary test- ing and procedural development, a pilot program was launched in which a se- lect group of SAHA s housing specialists tested the new system and procedures, and provided their feedback to manage- ment. In August housing specialists were trained to use the system, which was then mandated a month later. Adobe EchoSign is a cloud-based, soft- ware-as-a-service application that does not require an organization to modify its IT infrastructure. Organizations that subscribe to the service simply login to EchoSign.com and can immediately start using the service, said Mangesh Bhan- darkar, director of product management for Adobe EchoSign. EchoSign provides menu options that let a range of users and organizations use the service, from an individual, inde- pendent proprietor to large enterprises. A wizard interface walks administrators through configuration steps in about five minutes and allows them to build and customize templates with their own or- ganization s look and feel. "When the landlords come onto the service to sign, the branding shows that they are dealing with SAHA not Adobe," Bhandarkar said. Once the agency uploads the docu- ments into EchoSign, an email is sent out to the landlords, who then click on a link that lets them access their documents. The document is loaded in the recipient s Web browser so no downloads or installa- tions are needed. Landlords can review and sign instantly online with a mouse or stylus, by typing their name, or by fax. The service also supports a variety of document formats including HTML, Mi- crosoft Office, Excel, PDF and other im- age formats. From a technology perspective, there was little the agency had to do besides buy the current version of Adobe Acro- bat. Landlords and SAHA internal staff had to develop a comfort level signing documents electronically, Aleman said. On average, SAHA now receives con- tracts back from the landlords in 16 hours -- and in some cases, within minutes, Ale- man said, adding that the participating landlords are happy also that they get paid sooner. SAHA managers can moni- tor the status of the contract to determine if it is with the landlord or held up by staff members. Plus, every action taken dur- ing the signature process is recorded and reported through a detailed audit trail, Aleman said. The service also provides complete document confidentiality and secure storage in the cloud using email and password authentication. Documents are encrypted with full Advanced Encryption Standard 256-bit Secure Sockets Layer security, and customer account data is encrypted with RSA keys. Contracts are converted to a secure PDF format prior to transmission to eliminate last-minute unapproved revisions, Bhandarkar said. The move toward e-signatures aligns with the agency s overall goal to move to a paperless environment, Aleman said. The goal in fiscal year 2014 is to get 100 percent landlord participation in the voucher e-signature service. Aleman would also like to bring tenants into the service. SAHA has 13,000 families en- rolled in the voucher program and has set up self-service kiosks with computers in the agency s lobby. Those tenants that don t have computer access could also use computers in public libraries, she said. Public housing agencies from other municipalities have contacted SAHA to learn more about the agency s move to e- signatures, Aleman said. State and local agencies across the country are looking for ways to do more with fewer resources, but at the same time maintain quality of services. The trick is to work smarter not harder. "If we can do that with technology, then we need to get all over it," Aleman said. • GCN MAY 2014 • GCN.COM 31 With its e-signature program, the San Antonio Housing Authority can provide better customer service to landlords and families, save on costs for postage and have a detailed audit trail. SHUTTERSTOCK