How to Streamline Your Approval Process and Save Time

Updated on: 01 December 2023 | 8 min read
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Do you often find yourself waiting for days or weeks to get approval for your projects, proposals, or documents? If you answered yes, then this blog post is for you.

In this post, we will explain what an approval process is, why it is important to have an efficient one, what are some common challenges that you may face, and how you can streamline your approval process flow and overcome those challenges. We will also share some strategies to handle complex approval processes, some best practices for formal approvals, and some additional tips and insights to help you improve your approval process. Finally, we will answer some frequently asked questions that you may have about approval processes.

What is an Approval Process?

An approval process is a series of steps that a document, project, proposal, or any other type of work has to go through before it is finalized and approved by the relevant stakeholders. It can involve different levels of authority, such as managers, directors, executives, clients, or external parties. An approval process can also vary in complexity, depending on the nature, scope, and impact of the work.

The approval process typically consists of the following stages:

  • Submission: The work is submitted by the creator or requester to the approver or approvers for review and feedback.

  • Review: The approver or approvers review the work and provide feedback, comments, suggestions, or revisions.

  • Revision: The creator or requester makes changes to the work based on the feedback received from the approver or approvers.

  • Resubmission: The revised work is resubmitted by the creator or requester to the approver or approvers for another round of review and feedback.

  • Approval: The approver or approvers approve the work and give their final sign-off.

  • Completion: The approved work is completed and delivered to the end-user or customer.

Approval Process Templates

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Why is an Efficient Approval Process Important?

  • Saves time and resources: An efficient approval process reduces the number of revisions, resubmissions, and delays that can occur in a poorly managed approval process. This saves time and resources for both the creator or requester and the approver or approvers.

  • Improves quality and accuracy: An streamlined approval process ensures that the work meets the standards, expectations, and requirements of the approver or approvers. This improves the quality and accuracy of the work and reduces the risk of errors, mistakes, or rework.

  • Enhances collaboration and communication: It fosters collaboration and communication between the creator or requester and the approver or approvers. This enhances the understanding, alignment, and feedback between them and improves the outcome of the work.

  • Boosts productivity and performance: An efficient approval process boosts productivity and performance by enabling faster decision-making, smoother workflow, and better results. This increases customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and business growth.

Common Challenges in Approval Processes

Many organizations struggle with managing their approval processes effectively. Some of the common challenges that they face are:

  • Lack of clarity: There is no clear definition of who is responsible for approving what, when, how, and why. There are no clear criteria, guidelines, or standards for approving work. There are no clear expectations or goals for the work.

  • Lack of communication: There is no regular communication between the creator or requester and the approver or approvers. There is no feedback loop or mechanism for providing comments, suggestions, or revisions. There is no transparency or visibility into the status of the work.

  • Lack of consistency: There is no consistent process for submitting, reviewing, revising, resubmitting, and approving work. There are different processes for different types of work, different levels of authority, different departments, or different locations. There are frequent changes or exceptions to the process.

  • Lack of efficiency: There is too much bureaucracy, red tape, or micromanagement involved in the approval process. There are too many steps, layers, or people involved in the approval process. There are too many bottlenecks, delays, or backlogs in the approval process.

Approval Process Flow

To overcome these challenges and streamline your approval process, you need to have a clear and consistent approval process flow that defines the following elements:

  • Roles and responsibilities: Who are the creators, requesters, approvers, and end-users involved in the approval process? What are their roles and responsibilities?

  • Criteria and standards: What are the criteria and standards for approving work? What are the quality, accuracy, compliance, and security requirements for the work?

  • Stages and steps: What are the stages and steps of the approval process? What are the actions, tasks, and deliverables for each stage and step?

  • Tools and systems: What are the tools and systems that support the approval process? What are the platforms, applications, or software that facilitate the submission, review, revision, resubmission, approval, and completion of the work?

  • Metrics and measures: What are the metrics and measures that monitor the approval process? What are the indicators, targets, or benchmarks that track the time, cost, quality, and satisfaction of the approval process?

Content Approval Process FlowEdit this Template
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Strategies to Manage Complex Approval Processes

Sometimes, you may have to deal with complex approval processes that involve multiple approvers, multiple documents, multiple revisions, or multiple dependencies. In such cases, you need to apply some strategies to manage your approval process effectively. Here are some of them:

  • Prioritize your work: Prioritize your work based on the urgency, importance, and impact of the work. Focus on the work that has the highest priority and the shortest deadline. Use a tool like a priority matrix or a Gantt chart to plan and schedule your work.

  • Communicate clearly: Communicate clearly with your approvers and other stakeholders about the scope, objectives, expectations, and requirements of the work. Use a tool like an email, a chat, or a video call to communicate regularly and effectively. Use a tool like a document management system or a cloud storage service to share and store your work.

  • Solicit feedback: Solicit feedback from your approvers and other stakeholders about the quality, accuracy, and completeness of the work. Use a tool like a comment feature or a markup tool to provide and receive feedback. Use a tool like a revision history or a version control system to track and manage your changes.

  • Automate your process: Automate your process as much as possible to reduce manual work, human errors, and delays. Use a tool like an online form or a template to submit your work. Use a tool like an approval workflow or a digital signature to approve your work. Use a tool like an email notification or a reminder to alert you about the status of your work.

Best Practices for Formal Approvals

Sometimes, you may have to deal with formal approvals that require legal, regulatory, or contractual compliance. In such cases, you need to follow some best practices to ensure that your approval process is valid, reliable, and secure. Here are some of them:

  • Document your process: Document your process in detail to provide evidence, accountability, and traceability of your approval process. Use a tool like a standard operating procedure (SOP) or a policy document to document your process. Use a tool like an audit trail or a log file to record your process.

  • Verify your identity: Verify your identity and the identity of your approvers and other stakeholders to ensure that they are authorized, qualified, and trustworthy to approve your work. Use a tool like an identity verification service or a biometric authentication system to verify your identity.

  • Protect your data: Protect your data and the data of your approvers and other stakeholders from unauthorized access, modification, or deletion. Use a tool like an encryption service or a firewall to protect your data. Use a tool like a backup service or a disaster recovery plan to recover your data.

Conclusion

An approval process is an essential part of any organization that deals with documents, projects, proposals, or any other type of work that requires review and feedback from others. An efficient approval process can save time and resources, improve quality and accuracy, enhance collaboration and communication, and boost productivity and performance.

However, many organizations face challenges in managing their approval processes effectively due to lack of clarity, communication, consistency, or efficiency. To streamline their approval processes, they need to have a clear and consistent approval process flow that defines the roles and responsibilities, criteria and standards, stages and steps, tools and systems, and metrics and measures of their approval process.

By following these tips, you can streamline your approval process and save time, improve quality, enhance collaboration, and boost productivity.

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Author

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Hansani Bandara Content Specialist

Hansani has a background in journalism and marketing communications. She loves reading and writing about tech innovations. She enjoys writing poetry, travelling and photography.

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