Teams Real Simple with Pictures: Approvals using Adobe Sign – from Scratch

This blog is part of a series on Teams. For more articles, check back often

Written: 06/06/2021 | Updated: N/A

Last week, we looked at Approval Templates. This week we are going to continue the theme of approvals and look at approvals using Adobe Sign. Adobe Sign, an eSignature application like Docusign or Hellosign is designed to let people sign documents online instead of using the traditional pen and paper. In other words, when a signer signs an online document wilfully and intentionally it’s considered an eSignature. It constitutes the same as a handwritten or “wet” signature and is a system of agreement which is legally binding as recognised by the US, the UK, the European Union and many other countries in many other parts of the world. The value of having an eSignature app for your organisation is easily describable and typically follows a standard set of narratives such as time as in the ability to do business faster, geography as in the ability to sign from anywhere on any device, the environment or the elimination of manual costs as well as the use of paper, and security and compliance since data is encrypted and the apps are designed to meet industry standards such as SOC and ISO27001 (ISMS). It is a great type of app for our hub for teamwork, but some will no doubt ask – and it’s a legitimate question, why use a third party app at all since we have the approvals application? Two reasons here. Number one is there may be times when you need something approved and recorded with more formal attestation, and adding signatures to the approval process is necessary. Secondly we return to the prior point of signing being something intentional and thought out instead of a button click. Now in time the approvals app will support several eSignature applications. For example it’s pretty well known that DocuSign has been demoed in sessions run by Microsoft and Microsoft have confirmed this on the RID on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap. Yet Adobe Sign is the only one integrated into Teams today and at the time of writing. Like the previous blog on templates, my good friend Vesa Nopanen did a blog on this a while back so I am very much doing this for completeness and pretty much in the event I ever need to jump in and do eSign during our Art of Approvals session which we running on the speaking circuit. I am going to take a slightly different tack from Vesa and do this end to end, from scratch. I’ll certainly be using it in real life

Also to note this has just gone GA after coming out of public preview. I only just found this out this evening right after posting so had to scratch the first part on public preview after writing it earlier last week. Can’t keep up 😀

This blog will cover

  • Enabling Adobe Sign in the Teams Admin Centre
  • Setting up an Adobe Sign Trial
  • Creating an eSign approval request in the Approvals App
  • Creating an eSign approval request in a Channel or a chat
  • Creating an eSign approval request in a meeting
  • The eSign approval experience for users who do not use Teams
  • eSign FAQ’s

Note this blog will have abridged steps which will assume some experience with Teams and navigating the Microsoft 365 environment

Pre-requisites

  • Teams Licence, Flow Licence (In an Office/Microsoft 365 Subscription)
  • Licence and permissions to use the Approvals App: permissions to create a Microsoft Dataverse database, an account on flow.microsoft.com, Administrator Role in the target environment
  • Adobe Sign account/licence or trial (14 days)
  • Teams/Global Admin permissions to set up public preview

ENABLING ADOBE SIGN IN THE TEAMS ADMIN CENTRE

1.) By default, Adobe Sign integration is set to on. However for completeness and to ensure that admins know that they can disable the functionality later if required, select Manage Apps under Teams Apps

2.) Search for, and select, Approvals

3.) Select Settings

4.) Ensure Adobe Sign is swiped on. If off, swipe on and submit. To disable, swipe off and submit

SETTING UP THE ADOBE SIGN TRIAL

1.) You may already have an Adobe Sign account, so this part may be unnecessary. However, if you haven’t you can sign up for a 14 day trial to test out the functionality before purchase. Simply type Adobe Sign 14 day trial into your browser. The page which directed me to it is here. This is the UK page

2.) Complete the information and select Start your Free Trial. It is recommended to use the same email address that you use for Microsoft 365 for ease of integration

3.) You will then be asked to create an Adobe Sign account. Complete the details and select Complete Account

4.) An email code is sent via email to validate. It then asks for a mobile number. Add and select Continue

5.) Validate again with the verification number sent to your mobile device

6.) Select Continue

7.) The Adobe Sign account is now set up and ready to go

8.) To add users select Account and then Account Setup and then Click Here under Create Users

9.) Select the Add (+) icon on the right

10.) Add the new users’ details and then select Save

11.) The user will now be created and will receive an email invitation in order to go through the set up. They will be in status created until they have done so. They will need to go through an email validation and a mobile validation in the same way as the original user/admin does. Once complete they will show as Active with a log in time. Rinse and repeat for all other users required. The screenshots below give an overview of this process from both an admins and users perspective

12.) The setup process for Adobe Sign has now been completed. Users do not need to do anything in the Adobe Sign portal itself prior to using the Approvals App in Microsoft Teams

CREATING AN ESIGN APPROVAL REQUEST IN THE APPROVALS APP

The users have Teams public preview enabled. They have Adobe Sign integration inside the Teams Admin Centre turned on. Adobe Sign is set up and all users have Adobe Sign accounts. We are now finally ready to use it in Microsoft Teams. Let’s try this out first in the Approvals App with a fictional scenario

1.) Select Approvals from the left hand app bar (whether pinned or not pinned), or from the Teams App Store

2.) Select Adobe Sign under approvals on the left hand side

3.) Select Sign In. This will begin a one time integration for using the apps together. It is important to note at this stage you may have to sign in again to Adobe Sign on future occasions (particularly if using the web app) but the setting up of a backup email address and app permissions occurs only once

4.) Enter your Adobe username and password to sign in

5.) Enter a backup email address and select Continue

6.) Verify your back up email address with a code sent to that email address

7.) You are now set. Select Continue

8.) Select Allow Access to give Microsoft Approvals App permissions over Adobe Sign

9.) The integration of Adobe Sign with Microsoft Approvals is now complete. The view will be empty since there is no eSigned approval requests in play. Select New Approval Request from the top right

10.) Complete the first part of the approval request, everything prior to attaching a document. Set the Request Type to eSign. The provider is set automatically to Adobe Sign since there are no other third parties integrated currently. Set the name of the request and the description. This fictional example is raising a PO request to my line manager in order to get a PO Number.

11.) Once complete select Add Attachment and then Upload from my computer. An upload from your local machine is the only option currently available so if you intend to use documents in OneDrive (Personal Files) or SharePoint (I.e. Team Files housed within a Teams Channel) they should be synced down to your local machine

12.) Search for, select the file and then Open. Word, Excel, PPTX, or PDF all work. This fictional example will use PDF. Attachments are currently limited to a single attachment

13.) Now the item to sign has been attached you can set signer roles. There are currently two signer roles available

Signer: who signs the document
Approver: who does not need to sign the document but their approval is tracked as part of the approval process the the approval process to complete. If the approver comes after the signer they will review and approve the signed document. If they come before the signer they will review the document and approve before the document is signed

In this fictional example you can see that I will sign the PO request and Vesku will approve and once the approval completes send the PO Number to me. At this point you can add additional recipients, flip the recipients around by dragging and dropping and set whether these must be completed in order. Once done select Send

14.) For the signer of the document, the notification pops in Teams and comes via email

15.) The Signer experience differs in terms of getting to the signed document from email or from the Teams notification. Clicking through email, the signer goes straight to the document in a web page, whereas In Teams and clicking the notification, select Review on the approval to get to the web page

16.) The signer will then click the yellow field to sign. Whilst there is a prepopulated signature there is also some options to amend or enhance the signature including typing it out, drawing it out, using an image or creating the signature on a mobile device. Once done select Apply

17.) Select Click to Sign at the bottom of the page

18.) The signing is then confirmed to the signer. It is also confirmed to the requestor who raised the approval in Teams.

19.) Since the eSignature approval also included an approver after the signer, the last stage is for the approver to review the signed document. Like the signer in the previous step, the approver is notified via a teams notification and via email. If they click through via email, they will go straight to the webpage with the document which has been recently signed. If they click the Teams notification they will need to select Review on the approval and it will then take them out to the webpage

20.) Select Start down the bottom of the document

21.) Select Click to Approve

22.) The approver is then notified in the web page of the completion of the approval. Since the approval was the final action in the approval process, the status of the approval changes to approved for the approver. The requester is notified that the approval has been completed and all parties involved are emailed a completion that the approval has been signed and filed

23.) In the approvals app the approval is now marked as approved and is the first completed eSign approval. In this fictional scenario, Vesku can now provide Chris with the PO Number.

CREATING AN ESIGN APPROVAL REQUEST IN A CHANNEL OR CHAT

Using eSign in the approvals app is straightforward once you understand the roles of the signers and how to order them. Understanding this, can eSign be used elsewhere in Teams other than in the approvals app itself? The answer is yes they can be used in Channels and Chat

1.) Let’s start with channels. In Teams, select the Team, then the channel

2.) Start a new conversation or reply, and select the approvals messaging extention

3.) Like in the fictional scenario above, set the request type to eSign, add the request name, the description, the attachment and signer roles. This example will simply select one signer to complete the approval process. Once complete select send

4.) The approval now shows as an adaptive card in the channel conversation. Select View Details

5.) The Signer is notified via email and via Teams. In email click through to sign. In Teams select View Details on the adaptive card and then Review

6.) Click the yellow field, then apply after making any signature changes, then click to sign

7.) The approval is completed. The signer receives notification on the web page, The approval is marked as completed. The requestor gets notified and all parties receive notification that the approval has been completed in Teams and an email that the approval and eSignature is signed and filed

8.) Like channels, private chats can also support eSign approvals between those in the same organisation and guests

9.) In the particular case of guests, email goes straight through to the document, however in Teams it prompts to sign in which is not possible without an Adobe Sign account.

CREATING AN ESIGN APPROVAL REQUEST IN A MEETING

Finally, after confirming that eSign is supported through the approvals app, Teams channels and even private chat, is it supported through meetings?

1.) Set up the meeting as usual

2.) Select Chat

3.) The eSign can be used in the meeting if raised from the chat

4.) It is visible in the chat, select View Details

5.) Select Review

6.) It goes out to the web page for signature

THE ESIGN EXPERIENCE FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT USE TEAMS

As has been shown several times over the course of this blog, everything is supported by email. What that means is if an approval process is reliant upon someone outside the organisation who does not use Teams, or someone which does not have an Adobe Sign account, then it is still supported as long as they have an email address and access to a web browser. This isn’t surprising: the large e-signature applications have been around longer than Teams and were built upon email platforms so it would be surprising if it wasn’t there. Also, I personally like that you can approve from multiple apps. I use Teams a lot. I use Outlook in equal measure. It means the signature notification comes to where I am working and let’s me approve in the fastest possible time. Once approved, notification then goes out across both. I like this consistency

ESIGN FAQ
Our job is done for today. It’s been a thorough test and this is a really good functionality. Of course, this is really the fundamentals and there’s really way more testing which could be done; however it’s a really solid looking start and I look forward to using it further in the future. In terms of what’s coming it’s difficult to say since this is only in public preview and is only now heading towards GA. However, multi-vendor support should be available in the future and like templates, it would be good to see them used within flows. Cloud storage for documents I guess would be a good one, as well as persistent sign in (one and done) across everything – even incognito.

Q. Does ESign support guests?
A. Yes, it does. However, my personal opinion is that the cleaner experience for guests is email approval. They will need an Adobe Sign licence or trial should they want to click through to the signature or the approval of the signed document from Teams. They can do this via email without a licence. This piece as a whole could be confusing to some

Q. Are eSign approvals in federated chat possible
A. Yes, they are possible too with others outside the organisation

Q. The fictional scenario showed a PO request. What other scenarios are there?
A. Contracts, appraisals, sales orders, RFC’s, technical reviews: there is almost unlimited scenarios really only limited by your imagination. What is universal about eSignatures is that in most organisations and industries there are times when you need something approved and recorded with more formal attestation, and adding signatures to the approval process is necessary. The same applies to approvals on a signed document, and a signed document on the basis of an approval – these are pretty universal scenarios for most businesses

Q. Will multi-vendor support come? And when?
A. It will definitely come. Microsoft have already demoed with DocuSign so that at least will be added at some point in the future. In fact, it’s actually confirmed in Roadmap ID 81407 in the description of the RID on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap

Q. Where can I find information on Adobe Sign Security?
A. Here: https://www.adobe.com/content/dam/cc/en/security/pdfs/AdobeSign_SecurityOverview.pdf