Approval workflow is an extremely important aspect in any organization, no matter how big or small it is. Certain departments even consider approval process as an important element to rate their success, such as marketing. But being an important aspect, it also poses many unexpected challenges, like high delay during request review – making the employees unable to continue their tasks. These challenges may sound small, but together they force delay to the entire approval process. Worse, they can make the whole company less productive. So today, we would like to introduce 5 methods to improve approval workflow and boost productivity!
Create a clear workflow with precise roles
It is easy to create an approval workflow with just 2 people. But when 3 or more people involved, things can start to get messy. A common approval process often involves employee submitting a request or work to approver. Then the approver will review and give approval. And while this does sound simple, in some cases these workflows can turn out disorganized due to so many people or departments involved.
The best way to avoid this is to set out a streamlined approval workflow with specific roles, each role should also has clear explanation of what to do and time needed to complete. If the approval workflow has to be complex, it is highly recommended to test it out first before applying it in huge range. Sometimes an approval process may sound good on paper, but it turns out to be inefficient. In many situations, employees may not even dare to question the flow since many efforts and resources have already poured into the approval process. They will only keep quiet and struggle to make the process works.
Only involve the right people for approval workflow
An approval workflow may require multiple people to give approval. Unfortunately, this is when things can easily go wrong. To be fair, there is indeed a reason when involving multiple approvers. This is probably because sometimes people do not know who should involved in the approval process, and so they tried to bring in more people than needed. In other cases, people may want to put more approvers in as a form of “security”, just to make sure that nothing shady or fraud slipping through the approval workflow.
That being said, the fact still remains that the more people involved in the approval process, the longer it takes to actually complete a request. In some cases, approvers may get confused of what they are supposed to do. There can be a raising concern of “why should do this when approver A can already fulfull the job”? This only makes the approval workflow painfully slower while causing involved parties stress and frustration. Therefore, it is best to try selecting only the precise personnel for the precise role. If a role is not absolutely needed, consider removing it to make the approval workflow lighter and easier to process.
Let responsible personnels know the expectations
In certain cases, an approval workflow is slow may not because of having too much people but rather, unclear tasks for each involved personnel. To improve approval workflow, each person should know what’s his/her role, what is expected from them, and what kind of result or feedback they need to deliver.
Some workflows become too slow because reviewers do not know how they should give feedback. This includes: when approvers need to give feedback, how to send feedback, and what they are supposed to tell. In some cases, informing approvers about potential losses if review takes too much time can also be a good idea to make sure they understand what’s at stake. Depending on different situations, this expectation can be varied, like: how can approvers give suggestion for the website? Or how can approvers give comment on the video?
On the other hand, request senders also need to agree on how should they deliver the request/result to approvers. For example, if the submitted result is a document, which type of file it will be sent? Is it PDF, Google Docs, or Microsoft Words? Also, how to send the result? Will the result be sent via email, or Google Drive, or other platforms? Agreeing on what and how to send request will let approvers know exactly which files/results they need to check without confusion.
Make it easy to collaborate between involved personnels
Sometimes the problem with approval workflow does not come from the approval process itself but rather, how involved personnels communicate with each other. A huge delay between approval can simply come from the fact that request sender do not know how to respond to approver. Or a group of approvers take too long time just to wait for each other’s responses.
One way to improve approval workflow is to provide all involved parties a platform where they can easily connect and discuss. In the past, people may just use email to exchange information. However, email services themselves (like Gmail) are not exactly designed for project management or workflow management. Therefore, important messages can still be lost within a sea of emails. Nowadays, it is much better to use communication platform for this job, like Slack, to let people get in touch with each other. Another additional option would be video call platforms like Zoom or Skype that allows online meeting. They are especially helpful when the teams need to discuss and agree on important matters.
Automate approval workflow, reduce unnecessary steps
Back in the 80-90s, companies mostly relied on printed papers in order to send request and receive approval. Computers were not popular option for many organizations, and so convenient tools like email or Skype were not a thing back in the day. However, such methods have soon showed its weaknesses. As many companies has grown in size, so too their departments and agencies. If we use printed documents for approval, it can take extremely long time for a manager just to give approval. The delay only gets worse when both employers and employees are too busy to do anything else, even reading a simple document.
Fortunately, in this day and age we can ultilize the power of technology to automate most approval workflows. There are many approval workflow tools and services that can automate approval workflow entirely online. Employee can easily create and send a request online, then responsible approvers can quickly receive it via email or dedicated platform to make decision. This kind of automation works wonderfully with current era because:
- It significantly reduces time needed to deliver a request to the approver and vice-versa.
- It can prevent requests from being lost, unlike traditional printed papers which have risk of being lost.
- It can cut unnecessary steps and make the approval workflow streamlined and easy to follow.
- Many approval workflow tools & services already provided request management system, meaning no more missing document or request, no more confusion when processing huge amount of requests.
- It provides high level flexibility as request senders and approvers can easily do their job anywhere, without the need to meet face to face.