Workflow approvals are a bottleneck of the worst kind.
Projects get delayed waiting for approval, and those reviewing the work spend more time searching for the piece than they do reviewing it.
“Professionals take 18 minutes on average to locate a document manually––20% to 40% of their time––and spend 50% of their time searching for information.” – Ashish Deshpande, 50+ Key Statistics to Help You Automate Smarter in 2020 and Beyond
That’s where we here at Process Street come in.
We know how important it is to have an effective method for organizing your workflow approvals. Heck, everything our content team does goes through at least two rounds of review before it goes live.
Check out task five in the following free process template for a snapshot of how we handle workflow approvals with Process Street!
That’s why today we’ll be covering:
- What is a workflow approval?
- Workflow approval benefits
- How to create an approval workflow
- How to supercharge your approval process
- 21 free approval templates
What is a workflow approval?
Workflow approvals are any process that needs to be reviewed and signed off at a certain point. This can be mid-workflow, at the end of a project, or at several points during the workflow.
For example, at Process Street we have a monthly all-hands meeting. In this meeting, the entire organization meets up to present their progress over the previous month, update other teams on their vital numbers, and so on.
In preparation for this meeting, each team manager needs to gather the data for their key performance indicators (KPIs) to display.
Our marketing team’s KPIs are our qualified signup numbers, the number of blog posts and template packs we’ve published on our blog, site traffic, and the number of guest posts we’ve published on other sites.
To calculate these, Adam Henshall (our Team Leader and the head of our blog) totals up the number of blog posts and template packs, I (as the head of Offsite Content) total the number of guest post pitches we’ve had accepted, the number of finished pieces we’ve sent, and the number of posts that went live. Finally, Andrew Miller (the Director of Marketing) dives into our analytics to find the site traffic and qualified signup numbers.
Each of these figures needs to be reviewed and approved by Andrew before going into the all-hands meeting to make sure that everything is as it should be. We need to be presenting accurate numbers, and so the workflow approval for our meeting prep is an important step in keeping our team on track.
Workflow approval benefits
Workflow approvals are useful in smaller teams. However, the more your organization grows the more vital it becomes.
In an enterprise-level business, workflow approvals are an essential aspect to team management and organization if you want to keep your operations on track.
After all, the larger a team is, the easier it is for details to slip through the cracks and for items to not get the attention they require.
Thus, workflow approvals benefit teams by:
- Enhancing transparency
- Enforcing accountability
- Keeping teams and managers in-sync
- Stressing best practices
Workflow approval benefit 1: Enhancing transparency
As your team grows it’s all too easy for managers to lose track of what everyone’s working on. That’s why transparency in work is so useful.
By making sure that everyone knows what you’re working on and how you’re doing, the rest of the team can work on their projects in confidence. They know what stage your work is at (whether their projects rely on yours or not) and can accurately predict when everything should be finished.
This transparency is helped by implementing workflow approvals, as the approval steps require a manager (or whoever is responsible for the project as a whole) to examine your work and review the quality of it.
While it’s true that an approval step doesn’t force those involved to check in on the progress of the project before it’s submitted for approval, it nonetheless makes it more present in the mind of the reviewer and thus makes them more likely to check in.
Whether you’re looking to book time off with a Holiday Leave Application checklist or you’re submitting a final rendition of a video script, approvals are fantastic for making sure that everyone knows what they need to.
For example, I’m assigned to review and approve some of the work that our content promotion team does. However, because I’m not involved in the promotion team aside from that approval step, I wouldn’t usually know what projects are being worked on, let alone their progress, until the point that I need to step in and review the work.
Before we built workflow approvals into our processes this was a massive problem. I became a bottleneck, as a chunk of work would be passed on to me for review and approval at almost random times with little account for my own work schedule.
Then, as soon as we documented the approval as an official step, I was able to see the relevant processes and easily access them from my dashboard to check on their progress. This lets me plan my time much more effectively and smash the bottleneck that was my ability to deal with sudden chunks of work being piled onto my schedule.
Workflow approval benefit 2: Enforcing accountability
I’m a procrastinator. It’s not that I don’t want to get my work done, it’s that (along with other issues) I sometimes physically can’t get myself to plow through items.
Thus, the times when I produce the most work (a lot of which is my highest quality too) are when I’m under pressure. Deadlines get me to focus.
Accountability makes sure that I get my important work done.
Aside from assigning tasks directly to team members, workflow approvals are one of the best ways to enforce accountability and get your team to focus on their work.
It’s no longer completely down to them when the project will be finished – they can see precisely who they have to submit their work to. They’re always aware that the final product will be reviewed and has the potential to be rejected.
Then there’s the power of knowing that more people are involved with the project and are depending on you to hit your target within the deadline. After all, if you don’t submit your work for approval on time (and to a decent standard), there’s no way that they’ll be able to review and sign off on the project to hit their due date.
Workflow approval benefit 3: Keeping teams and managers in-sync
Much in line with the previous benefits, workflow approvals help to make sure that everyone is on the same page and knows the status of the projects they’re involved with or are responsible for approving.
This means that managers will have a much better idea of what’s going on in their team to then report to their manager, and so on. In turn, this will let your entire company sit more confidently in its position, as everyone has evidence to back up their claims of why operations aren’t about to topple off a cliff and stop working.
While we’re talking about communication between teams and managers, it’s worth mentioning how beneficial this type of communication on project status is.
Managers don’t have to spend hours sifting through project documents for relevant information. By checking the work once it’s been submitted for approval, they get an accurate idea of everything the project entails without having to get dragged into the minutiae of it.
In other words, they allow managers to be more aware of their team’s work, and more efficient at reviewing and staying up-to-date on what’s going on.
Workflow approval benefit 4: Stressing best practices
This post marks the 150th I’ve written on the Process Street blog. Along the road to this point our best practices have evolved as we’ve learned more about content marketing, new studies have been performed, and we’ve generally matured as a company.
Still, after 150 posts, certain habits are hard to break. Plus, since we’re always looking to submit process improvements to make our internal checklists better, new best practices come into play semi-frequently.
If you’ve ever tried to manage change in an organization, you know what I’m getting at. It’s a nightmare to get your team to adapt to any tweaks to their regular processes.
Sure, we add the necessary instructions to our checklists, but without some sort of check in place, there’s little to stop myself or my team from ticking off their tasks while working as they’ve always done.
Approvals eliminate the chance of that happening and let your best practices enforce themselves while adapting to changes your make.
If the person running through a process doesn’t pay attention to your best practices as a result of the extra accountability provided by the approval step, the person checking through their work can see what they’ve done and reject it because it doesn’t meet your best practices.
How to create an approval workflow
Creating an approval workflow in a physical documentation system is, in theory, simple.
The problem comes with enforcing it in practice.
Let’s say that your team needs to submit an invoice to bill a client for services provided. It’s a standard transaction, nothing special.
Usually, an invoice would be drawn up (either by yourself or a member of your bookkeeping team) and sent off straight away. The problem is that, without any approval step or checks before it’s sent off, it’s inevitable that one day you’ll send an incorrect invoice.
You already know this. That’s why, in your system, you make sure that any invoice has to be signed off by the head of your accounting team before it is sent off. This is your workflow approval step.
Unfortunately, this kind of approval only works in small-scale teams where everyone knows what’s happening across the whole organization.
For anything larger-scale, you need something with a little more… oompf.
How to supercharge your approval process
The best way to keep track of your processes while enforcing workflow approvals is to document them with Process Street.
Process Street is the best piece of business process management (BPM) software on the market.
By documenting your processes in templates, you can provide detailed instructions for your teams so that everyone completes their tasks correctly every single time. We help you do this by letting you expand your task list with:
- Rich text
- Image uploads
- Video uploads
- File uploads
- Sample email creation and embeds
- Dynamic due dates for tasks and checklists
Checklists can then be run from your process templates to track the progress of a unique instance of your processes being followed. Form fields within your template will even allow the checklist user to record information that’s relevant to their specific checklist as they work.
Conditional logic allows checklists to adapt to the situation posed to the employee, creating dynamic processes that provide accurate instructions no matter what happens.
How Process Street supercharges approvals
“That’s all well and good, but what does this have to do with enhancing my approvals?”, I hear you cry.
Well, Process Street also has a powerful built-in workflow approvals feature! This inserts a dedicated task which halts all progress on a checklist until the relevant work has been seen, reviewed, and marked as “Approved” or “Rejected”.
Take my previous example of submitting an invoice.
This is a premade template – one of many ready-to-go (and completely free-to-use-and-edit) processes that you can import into your Process Street account.
Head on down to task 5 (Approval: Invoice (Bookkeeper)), to see the approval feature in action.
This task is entirely devoted to having a member of your organization review the embedded information. They don’t have to go searching for the relevant items – everything necessary is provided alongside the two options to approve or reject the content.
Not only that, but every task following this will be unavailable to work on until the necessary work has been approved.
In other words, not only are you able to give your entire organization a unified process to work from, you’re also able to physically halt anything from happening until the appropriate reviews and approvals have been performed and given.
21 free approval templates
So, now that you know how useful workflow approvals are, and how easy Process Street makes it to implement them, how about we give you a selection of free templates that take advantage of the feature?
Well, you’re in luck, because that’s exactly what I’m about to do!
All of these process templates can be imported into your Process Street account for free. They’re all ready-to-use as they are but feel free to edit them to your needs too; they’re fantastic as stand-alone processes or as a base for something more specific to your team.
Below are three embedded examples of templates using our approvals feature in action and, following that, a list of 21 templates which all use approvals to control the workflow. Help yourself!
On-page SEO approval process
SWOT analysis approval process
Annual financial report approval process
Other related approval processes
Social media marketing
How does your team enforce their approvals? Let us know in the comments below!