The approval process is a core part of any organization: we all need tasks to be approved by leaders, managers, directors, and clients before we can formally move on to the next step of a workflow. Not all approval processes are correctly standardized and structured, which often leads to confusion, missed deadlines, and overall inefficiencies within the organization.

This is why standardizing and optimizing the approval process is crucial for any organization.

What Actually Is an Approval Process?

A widespread misconception is to consider the approval process as the final stage of a task; however, the approval process should be considered as part of the organization’s overall workflow.

Thus, an approval process is a type of business process: it includes steps required to approve any task or project in the organization formally. This can consist of project proposals, marketing projects, budgets, invoices, and any other items that would need approval or a series of approvals. 

A Standardized Approval Process

A standardized approval process can significantly streamline the whole process, avoid confusion from all stakeholders involved in the process, and saves time and money in the long run. The goal of creating a standardized approval process is to create a reliable, integrated system that can easily be repeated for different approval processes.

A standardized approval process has two main benefits:

  1. To establish a reliable and consistent approval process so all the deliverables can meet the organization’s standards (or client’s preferences). A standardized approval process can act as an essential part of the organization’s quality control, so the organization can adequately manage what’s delivered to the customer or client, ensuring every element of the deliverable is exactly as it was desired.
  2. A standardized approval process can also help your team’s productivity. Your team members can understand what is required of them to work more quickly and accurately. If the team knows the exact criteria to gain approval, they won’t waste their time and effort going in other directions. 

If your current approval process is inefficient, it is probably time to create a streamlined and standardized approval process.

Important Elements of Standardized Approval Process

All properly standardized approval process must include the following elements:

  • Deliverable

A deliverable is any item that needs to be approved by the reviewer/approver. This can be an artwork, image, video, invoice, a project proposal, or any other submission document.  

  • Approvers/Reviewers

The approver is a stakeholder in the project/task that needs to decide whether the submitted documents should be approved or not. Suppose the project has several approvers/reviewers. In that case, do you want a subsequential stepped workflow, or do you want reviewers to view the document concurrently? 

  • Permission Levels

It’s crucial to establish different permission levels for each stakeholder involved in the approval process to maintain the deliverable’s security and integrity. Manage who can edit, approve/reject, and view the submitted deliverables in every round of reviews.

  • Timeline

The approval process must have set deadlines so the project can be completed promptly. Depending on the case, a limitation on the number of review processes might be necessary.

  • Documentation

It’s essential to record every step of the approval process to maintain transparency of the process and the accountability of all stakeholders involved in the approval process. Proper logs/audit trail of who did what and when are essential in cases of conflicts to view and track the disputed actions.

Important Considerations in Designing a Standardized Approval Process

First, you must map out all the steps that will happen in the approval process to create a standardized approval process. Most approval processes only have two possible outcomes: approve or reject the deliverable. Yet, there can be various pathways and possibilities between the submission and the approval/rejection.

Planning the approval process workflow can significantly help in defining a structure and sequence of steps of the actual workflow, and here are some key considerations to have:

  • Submission technicalities

how can submitters submit the deliverable. For example, will the submitter need to send an email or submit the submission to a workflow management solution? What should get included in the initial submission document?

  • Requirements

would the submission need to be supported by additional documentation (i.e., a document explaining what is included in the deliverable)? This will dictate whether you’ll need a system/solution that supports document storage.

  • Steps

how many steps will be included in the approval process, and what are they? Define criteria that must be met at each step for the submission to move to the next round or stage.

  • Approvers

identify approvers for each stage of the approval process and their roles.

  • Revision

If the approval process requires revisions or edits at certain stages of the process, define who is responsible for editing the submission. It will typically be the original submitter, but perhaps anyone in a team could pick up the editing task.

  • Criteria of Approval/Rejection

an essential aspect of a standardized approval process is to define clear and specific measures to approve/reject each submission. This would also help in cases where an automatic approval or rejection is required (i.e., during disputes). If you use workflow management software, make sure to define the parameters of automatic approval/rejection.

  • Further actions

what actions must happen when a request is rejected or approved? Remember that the approval process is not the end goal but a part of its overall workflow. Consider how the approval/rejection would affect the overall business process. For example, you can set up automatic notifications to kick off another project (with approval) or delay the project (with rejection).

End Words

Creating a standardized and streamlined approval process can significantly improve an organization’s efficiency. If you don’t have a defined process, your time, resources, and budgets can be wasted with missed deadlines and too many revisions/edits.

Fortunately, business process management solutions by Aproove has allowed implementing a standardized approval process to be much easier than ever. The stakeholders involved can communicate and collaborate in a single dashboard, where every action before the actual approval/rejection is properly documented to promote transparency and accountability.