approval process and workflow

Work at any organization comes with multiple approval steps. Sometimes, we need approvals even before the work begins! The approval process and workflow is also not limited to just one department. From HR to operations and everything in between, managers and directors must give approvals before you can take something forward.

Sadly, approvals have been known to cause delays and lower efficiency. They are manual even in the best of organizations even today! Automating them would help to a large extent but only a few companies are taking these steps. That’s probably because there’s some doubt about the benefits of automation and because organizations like sticking to old methods.

In this article, we shall speak about the approval process and workflow in detail, covering important steps involved, examples, and benefits of automation. Let’s begin.

Also read: A Complete Guide to Workflow Automation Software

What is an approval process?

An approval process is a formal business process that comes into force at different levels in the workplace. For example, work outline may need approval before executing, budget plans may need a nod from the manager, marketing initiatives cannot be taken forward before someone senior goes through them, and invoices cannot be paid before being crosschecked and verified.

In short, approval (or rejection) processes are a part and parcel of the work-life.

Elements of an approval process and workflow

On the surface, the approval process seems simple but there are quite a few steps involved. In a standard approval process and workflow, you will see the following steps:

1. Approval request and supporting documents

Most approval requests are associated with one or the other document. This could be a marketing plan, budget plan, an invoice, or something else. Anything that needs approval needs to be submitted as a document and that’s why it is the first element in this process.

2. The approvers

It is usually the manager but it may also involve the director or the team leads depending on the level of approval and the complexity of the document in question. Sometimes, there may be multiple levels of approvers. In this case, there must be clarity about the hierarchy. Who approves first? Or can approvals be done in parallel like department approvals at the time of employee leaving the organization?

3. The levels of permission for approval process and workflow

Permission levels are nothing but the amount of control a person can have in the approval process and workflow. For example, maybe other team members can only view the document sent for approval without having the access to edit, approve, or reject it. The manager may have the right to approve or reject and the HR should be able to edit it. These permission levels are important for security and transparency. The permission may also be based on certain conditions e.g. a team lead may be allowed to approve an expense for his team member for up to say $100 but any higher expense may need additional manager approval.

4. The approval logs

It is imperative to record every step involved in the entire approval process. This makes it easy to track and locate discrepancies. Understanding where the process is stuck and eliminating bottlenecks is also easier if there’s a record.

5. The due dates

Without due dates, approvals can take forever. Projects will then start late and invoices won’t be paid on time. This is why it is a must to have deadlines for approvals at every step.

Examples of approval process and workflow

To understand the working of the entire process in different departments, let’s take a look at a few common examples.

1. Invoice approvals

The accounting team needs to check the invoices and verify every single parameter in them. A checklist can go a long way in ensuring that no parameter has been missed. The workflow in this case includes finance, purchasing, and the ones on the ground actually making the purchase. The steps involved in invoice approvals are as follows:

  • Invoice submission (usually online)
  • Review to ensure it is compliant
  • Approval/rejection
  • Resubmission if rejected

2. Purchase order approvals

A purchase order is a document that the buyer sends to the seller. This document consists of all the details of the goods required and their respective prices. When a purchase order approval process is in place, it helps monitor the requests, manage the inventory, and log everything in one place. A purchase order, when sent is either approved immediately or is sent back because of the outstanding balance. Then the controller approves or rejects it based on set parameters. If it is not approved, the PO should be resubmitted after making the necessary changes.

3. Project plan and budget approvals

Every project goes through stringent approvals before coming on board, during, and after completion. If there are multiple projects, organizing budgets and resources can be very difficult without an approval process in place. A project plan and budget approval process will generally involve the following steps:

project plan and budget approval
  • Submitting the proposal
  • Estimating the costs
  • Prioritizing projects (in case there are multiple projects)
  • Evaluating the funding
  • Approvals/rejection
  • Resubmission if rejected

4. Content approvals

Content approvals include written work and other creative assets. There is always a level of approval before the content is published. Even in this process, there are a few steps involved that include assignment of the task, writer being notified, submission of the first draft, reviews, editing, and submission of the final draft. After it is approved here, it is published.

5. Leave approvals

leave approval process

When an employee requests a leave, it goes to the HR and then the team lead or manager. The process is quite straightforward as it involves a request through email or an online portal, approval by the HR, and then approval by the manager. If a leave request is rejected, the following steps (whether to request again or to accept it) vary from one organization to the other.

Also read: Digital Transformation in HR

Benefits of automating approval process and workflow

By now, we are sure you realized that the approval process and workflow is quite tedious. It involves several steps and missing any of them can hamper productivity. This is why automating the entire process can help businesses tremendously in the following ways:

1. It is safe and secure

Automation ensures that you record every single step. This makes the review process very easy. Plus, by controlling who gets access and the ability to edit/approve/reject, you maintain 100% security internally. This is crucial for every organization.

2. You have the freedom to create custom templates

When you automate approval processes, you will get built-in templates to use and customize as per your needs. You won’t need to design anything from the start and you will save tremendous amounts of time in the process. The approval process will begin a lot faster than it used to.

3. You can edit!

After creating a workflow and putting it to use, you may find the need to edit a few aspects. Automation allows that! You won’t need to create a whole new form each time you want to add/remove a field or add another approval step.

4. Everything is streamlined

If there are a complex approval process and workflow, it is very difficult to streamline it. Sticking to deadlines is also difficult. Once it is automated, all levels of approval can be tracked and the respective team members can be notified. The pipeline is smoother and there is very little chance of missing deadlines. Every step is also clear and concise.

Also read: 20 reasons why going Paperless and shift to Digital Forms will be a Major Trend in near Future

5. There are mobile features

Many automation solutions have mobile capabilities. These include making requests, receiving notifications, approving work, etc. from the mobile phone!

6. You get to choose from notification templates

You get to decide how to notify the concerned person – through email, through text, or both! There are in-app notifications and push notifications as well. Plus, you can determine the frequency of each notification.

7. It lets you collect data and signatures

A few approvals may need a signature. In these cases, you can choose a program that offers a signature collection as a feature. The same holds true for feedback. If you don’t need approvals but just feedback, you can pick a solution to do exactly that.

Automation of the approval process and workflow makes a tedious process easy and quick. This is why decision-makers must consider automation and enjoy the many benefits it showers upon the organization.

Quixy is an innovative no-code platform that helps you automate the approval process and workflows in minutes without writing any code. Sign-up for a free trial now, explore its features, and get started with ready-to-use approval templates.

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