Approval Workflows: Time to Ditch Your Email Ping-Pongs!

approval workflow

We live in a world where gaining approval is a key factor in success, whether it’s in our personal or professional lives. It is important to admit that the path to productivity is likely to get doomed by the long review and approval process. Unfortunately, the conventional approval appears to be a long nerve-wracking process with paper forms, messages, and email notifications.

Approval workflows facilitate timely approvals so that business executives can have a faster pace with happy employees which is a foredeal to excel anyway. This write-up primarily highlights the importance of approval workflows in a business environment for the effective streamlining of the approval lifecycle. 

What is An Approval Workflow?

An approval workflow is a process that simplifies the review and approval phase of a task by establishing standard routing of documents, proposals, or other items for approval or rejection. An end-to-end process approval workflow ensures that the appropriate personnel review and approve each item in the process, resulting in a more efficient and reliable approval process.

Examples of Approval Workflows

There are several types of tasks in an organization that require approvals to move forward. Depending on the specific business processes and requirements, each of these approval workflows may have different requirements and steps. Implementing an approval workflow can help streamline and standardize these processes, improving efficiency and accuracy.

Some Common Approval Workflow Examples are Discussed Below:

1. Purchase requisition approval workflow:

This workflow is typically used in procurement processes to manage requests for goods or services within an organization. This approval flow involves several steps, such as initial review and approval by a department manager, followed by further review and approval by a purchasing manager or procurement team.

2. Expense approval workflow:

This approval workflow example is used by the finance and accounting department to manage requests for reimbursement or payment of expenses incurred by employees. The approval process may involve verifying the expense and ensuring compliance with company policies, followed by review and approval by a manager or finance department.

3. Time off request approval workflow:

This workflow is used by the human resource department to manage employee requests for time off, such as vacation, sick leave, or personal days. This workflow approval process involves review and approval by the employee’s manager, followed by further review and approval by a human resources representative.

4. Document approval workflow:

This workflow is used by the marketing or content team to manage the approval of documents, such as blog content, contracts, proposals, or reports. The approval process may involve review and approval by multiple individuals, such as department heads, legal counsel, or senior executives.

5. Change request approval workflow:

This workflow is used by the administrative groups to manage requests for changes to a system, process, or product. The approval flow in the process involves review and approval by multiple stakeholders, such as project managers, developers, and quality assurance personnel.

Why Are Approval Workflows Important?

Approval workflows are important because they help ensure that critical business processes are executed efficiently and accurately. They provide a structured way for stakeholders to review and approve important decisions, which helps to minimize errors and ensure that all parties are in agreement. Without approval workflows, decisions could be made without proper review or input, leading to mistakes, miscommunication, and delays. Every business is entitled to many approval-seeking processes that can impact operational speed and business execution. 

Delayed Approvals =  Slow Business Pace!

Common Challenges in Approval Workflows:

The delays associated with the approval process are apparent and are experienced by both sides of the coin; both the approver and approval seeker need a well-structured approval process to be efficiently productive. Chasing reviewers for approval is as awful as sifting your deadlines due to delayed feedback. Also, unclear feedback is destructive enough to waste time in arranging a meeting to make it clear. Here are a few delving challenges in the manual approval process that emphasize the importance of an approval process workflow.

The manual approval process remains cumbersome in scenarios like the approval being delayed by the approver as he is occupied with some other priorities or other instances where he is unavailable or absent. These delays have adversarial effects on the inter-related critical or key activities that can harshly affect the business revenue cycle. 

Many business models are complex involving a tiresome search for the document to be approved. Sometimes, the access is denied to the intended approver itself, and yes again delays!  Some have also reported difficulty in finding a piece of work in the right space.

There may also be scenarios where the approver changes the document after he is done with the approval. This is a serious issue and the other end is unaware of the changes and proceeds the task with the older version.

The conventional approval system does not facilitate a centralized space to route things/tasks to be approved in a structured manner. This induces a higher probability of approving a wrong thing and sometimes the worst thing that can happen can be an unintended person approving an unintended thing. This hinders transparency in approval processes and elevates the chance of business processes being left inaccessible, unnoticed, and unnotified. 

Cumbersome review approvals also involve losing track of what is to be approved, when to approve, and who is the intended personnel to do the approval.  Lack of proper communication and a misaligned approval structure create an internal mess and chaos. Some cases are even worse, where the end user is unaware of the changes made in the approved document or who did the change/ approval.

Though these may look excruciating enough to look for an end-to-end approval workflow in charge, the most tiresome part is the approver’s chase for timely approval. Such situations can lead to the hasty approval of a document without proper review/ validation can make things worse as it may create some compliance issues.

  • According to research by The McKinsey Global Institute, workers spend around 13 hours checking their inboxes and communicating via email every single week, on average. This represents almost a third (around 28%) of the time that they spend at work.
  • Reports say people feel happier at work if their team has a more efficient review and approval process
  • There are also reported delays in project delivery due to slow and unclear reviews.
  • 3 in 4 say they could create better work if they spent less time managing feedback

Voila, approval workflows got the tune – No more chase-and-run game! Having an approval workflow can help address these challenges by providing a streamlined and standardized process that is faster, more accurate, and more efficient. 

Elements of Approval Workflows

Elements in an approval workflow, organizations can ensure that approval processes are streamlined, standardized, and efficient, while also maintaining compliance with internal policies and external regulations. An automated approval workflow typically consists of several key elements, which may include:

1. Request initiation/ Submission:

The workflow begins when a user initiates a request/ submission of some kind for approval, such as a purchase requisition, an expense report, or a time-off request. Typically an approval process involves submission, clear review, and approval/rejection phases.

2. Predefined rules:

The workflow includes predefined rules, such as approval criteria, denial, and routing rules, which determine the appropriate path for the request based on specific conditions, such as the requested amount or the requester’s department.

3. Review and approval tasks:

The workflow includes review and approval tasks that are assigned to specific individuals or roles, based on the predefined rules. These tasks typically involve reviewing the request details and deciding whether to approve, reject, or request additional information. 

Approval workflows breaks down the tasks into simpler steps to be handled by each member of the team.

4. Permission levels:

The approval workflow fixes the permission levels for each member of a team and their roles and responsibilities, making a clear distinction over what they have to do, when, and where they fit in the picture. This mitigates unnecessary duty/responsibility-based confusion and no one can peep into others’ work roles.

Permission levels list out the approvers and the approval conditions based on the company’s style guide.

5. Alerts and Notifications:

The workflow includes notifications and reminders that are sent to requesters, approvers, and other stakeholders to keep them informed of the status of the request and to ensure that deadlines are met. This helps everyone stay informed of what is being done and stay on the same page. Some automated workflow solutions like Cflow offer flexibility with their reminders, as even the approver can approve/reject via email.

6. Reporting and analytics:

The approval workflow includes reporting and analytics capabilities that enable users to monitor and analyze the performance of the approval process, such as approval times, approval rates, and bottlenecks.

7. Integration with other systems:

The advanced automation solutions facilitate approval workflows to be integrated with other systems, such as ERP, HR, or finance systems, to automate data transfer and eliminate the need for manual data entry.

8. Audit trail: 

Approval workflow management includes an audit trail that documents the history of the request, including all approvals, rejections, and comments, as well as any changes to the request details.

Benefits of Implementing an Approval Workflow

An approval workflow is an integral tool for organizations seeking to streamline their approval processes and improve efficiency, accuracy, and accountability. By implementing an approval workflow, organizations can ensure approvals are done in a timely and reliable manner, reducing the risk of errors and increasing compliance with regulatory requirements. This can ultimately help improve business operations, increase productivity, and enhance customer satisfaction. Approval workflows have many benefits, including

Increased Productivity & Efficiency:

When there are delays and confusion in business process management, business productivity is affected adversely.  Approval workflows can resolve the issues and delays associated with the approval process boosting organizational efficiency.

Improved Accuracy:

Reducing the risk of errors and mistakes can be especially important in industries where accuracy is critical, such as healthcare, finance, and legal. Structured approval workflows help route things in a particular direction which on the other hand aids with better business streamlining.

Better Accountability:

The approval workflow provides a clear audit trail of who reviewed and approved the document. This can help prevent mistakes and misunderstandings, and ensure that everyone is on the same page, increasing accountability within the organization.

Compliance:

In industries with regulatory requirements, an approval workflow helps to ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations. 

Risk Reduction:

Approval workflows can reduce the risk of unauthorized or inappropriate things being published or shared. By requiring approval for all tasks done, organizations can ensure that errors and bottlenecks are identified easily. This ensures that only approved and appropriate outcomes are released.

Better Collaboration:

Approval workflows encourage collaboration between team members, as they must work together to review and approve. This can improve communication and create a shared understanding of goals and objectives.

Cost Reduction:

With an automated approval workflow, businesses can streamline their operations with peace which improves their revenue cycles and ROI. End-to-end approval workflows can cut down the time and cost associated with unnecessary management silos and make business more streamlined with better confidence in decision-making.

Approval workflows provide better visibility with task management and thus enhance consistency and audit readiness. This encourages fair trust with customers and promotes better control over business process management. When the backend is good enough, the outcomes score better promoting seamless work culture within the organization.

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Checklist to Select The Best Approval Workflow for Your Business

Selecting the best approval workflow depends on several factors, including the specific business processes and requirements, the size and complexity of the organization, and the available technology solutions. Here are some key steps to help you select the best approval workflow:

  • Know/identify the tasks/operations requiring approvals in your business model.
  • Specify the approval requirements including the number of approvers, the approval/rejection criteria, and the denial rules.
  • Check the availability of the selected solution in the market.
  • Make sure that the tool is easy to use and navigate and compare its cost with others in trend.
  • Check whether the tool is enriched with customization options, and supports easy integration with other systems/applications.
  • Evaluate the associated security measures in the approval process workflow such as user authentication, and data encryption. Do they comply with relevant regulations and standards?
  • How efficient is the tool’s ability to monitor and report and does it encompass actionable insights?
  • Evaluate customer support: Look for assistance with training, deployment, and ongoing maintenance.
  • Conduct a pilot test: Consider conducting a pilot test of the approval flow with a small group of users to evaluate its effectiveness and usability before rolling it out to the entire organization.

Final Thoughts

Empower your business with effective workflow automation tools that aid you in achieving operational excellence. Invest in workflow solutions that make it easy to eliminate the slack in mail messages and phone calls that slow down the approval process. The search for an efficient and effective approval workflow that delivers the expected business pace ends with Cflow

Automate your approval workflows with Cflow: a cloud-based Workflow Management Solution that encourages end-to-end automation with a drag-and-drop approval workflow builder with advanced business rules. This no-code workflow solution is affordable and requires no coding knowledge to build your sophisticated workflows.

The built-in features of Cflow allow you to define your own set of approval rules and tools to streamline and automate approval workflows in minutes, making the process faster, more efficient, and more transparent.

Ditch your email approval workflow; Automate approvals with Cflow. Sign Up now!

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