As founder and "chief strategy officer" of DocuSign, Tom Gonser is constantly talking to customers, analysts and partners about how DocuSign can help them tackle the challenges posed by paper-based processes.

"I spend my time thinking two or three steps ahead of where we actually are, by considering what the ongoing advancements will have on the ways we work and communicate, then put myself in that future position and imagine the potential new needs and challenges we will face at that point," Gonser says. "I call this living in the ‘most likely future,’ and it helps us build towards where things are likely to go."

Gonser and five other panelists will share their insights into how to make buying a home "as easy as buying a latte" at Real Estate Connect New York City, which runs Jan. 16-18 at the Grand Hyatt New York.

Owned in part by the National Association of Realtors, DocuSign has been at the forefront of the movement to reduce paperwork in real estate transactions, working with developers of paperless forms and transaction management software to ensure that electronic documents can be signed securely and effortlessly.

"I am all about solving the paper problem," Gonser says. "Every year we remove more and more paper from business transactions and people start to understand that it is really not necessary to print, fax, scan, copy, and overnight express documents anymore. I love to talk to customers who have seen a fundamental shift in their lives because they no longer waste time chasing paper."

Real agents today must demonstrate not only a strong knowledge of the market they serve, but also use leading tools to streamline the transaction and provide real-time information and high-speed transactions, Gonser says.

"The biggest opportunity is to meet your customer expectations by using the leading applications and services your customers expect you to use, and that they use themselves," Gonser says of the implications for real estate professionals of the explosion of information and services available to consumers on the Internet.

"Gone are the days of ‘just being a good local expert,’ " he says. "You need this and the tools that show you are leading edge and easy to work with."

E-signature dramatization image via Shutterstock.

Gonser thinks the future for real estate "is brighter than it has been for a while. We’ve just been though the equivalent of a ‘nuclear winter’ with home prices dropping and mortgage restrictions being so tight. Finally, things are looking up. Great agents know this is a customer service business, and that is true in the highs and the lows. It has never been more critical to provide customers with the best possible service."

Gonser says some consumers won’t work with agents who can’t provide them with access to paperless, e-signature services like DocuSign’s (competing e-signature providers include dotloop, HelloFax Inc. and Adobe).

"Making them run around and find a fax machine or wait to meet to sign is just not the way they want to spend their time," Gonser says.

Because mobile devices allow users to tackle problems wherever they happen to be — instead of waiting until they get home or to work to finish a transaction or answer a question — Gonser expects they will take over "just as mobile phone calls have taken over landlines."

"I fully believe that mobile will soon become the only way that information will be consumed and communications will happen," he says.

Gonser sees mobile devices as the perfect platform for interacting with electronic documents.

"They are online all the time, tablets are about the same size as paper, and you can write on them — what could be better?"

Companies that want to provide services to mobile users can built "Web apps" tailored for mobile devices, or "native" mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows 8 and other operating systems.

Because it’s important to be able to work even when disconnected from the Internet, DocuSign sees hybrid approach — a native application user interface and access to local device features, coupled with cloud-based security, storage, and communication — as the best solution.

"We’ve done both, and we feel that the answer there is a combination," Gonser says.

Although it’s taken quite a bit of work to move businesses away from paper, Gonser sees the movement reaching critical mass.

"We’ve been writing on paper for thousands of years, but in this decade all of this will end," Gonser predicts. "It will be as dramatic as the move from wireline phones to cellular, from hand-calculated ledgers to spreadsheets, and from postal mail to email."

When he’s not working to solve "the paper problem," Gonser loves to ski, windsurf, jet-ski, scuba dive, hike, golf, and fly high-powered rockets — "just like the rest of us," he says.

Tom Gonser will be a featured speaker at Real Estate Connect New York City, which takes place Jan. 16-18 at the Grand Hyatt New York.

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