Understanding the critical functions and capabilities of an approval workflow will give you a deeper appreciation for the world of efficient task management — but it won’t necessarily help you put the concept into practice.
A manual approval workflow can be a significant undertaking. For example, if you receive every invoice via email, and you have to download and open each file to review it, you’ll waste a lot of time and energy if you’re managing a high volume of invoices.
And that doesn’t account for the additional time it takes to drag or print each attachment to file invoices into the proper folders. If a mistake happens, scrolling through your email account to determine what went wrong can be even more of a nightmare.
Approval workflows prevent things from slipping through the cracks, but as you’ve seen, they can generate a lot of tasks and be a beast to manage. Some of the tasks are so repetitive, it’s almost like a robot could do them. But what if that were possible? That’s where approval workflow software comes in.
Cloud-based workflow management to the rescue
Many workflow management platforms can track and approve tasks, making them the perfect tools to streamline accounting processes, such as invoice and budget approvals, as well as complicated workflows like product launches and marketing projects.
You can install workflow management programs directly on a computer or use web-based apps that live in the cloud to keep your team connected for seamless collaboration.
There are numerous options for approval workflow software, and they all have some basic benefits in common.
First, many of the tasks involved in managing an approval workflow can and should be automated. Workflow software can automatically send notifications to gatekeepers. The gatekeeper can add feedback and reassign the task to another actor if needed. Ultimately, approvals can be granted with the click of a button, triggering an alert for the next gatekeeper.
When a task passes its deadline, most workflow management platforms automatically send an email or in-app notification to remind the user that an item is overdue. If a subordinate goes too long without completing a task, most systems notify their manager to make them aware of the issue.
Another benefit is that the system can log all actions and communication about a workflow. Most will record the date and time when the status of the workflow changes (such as when it was marked complete or assigned to a new user) and which user is responsible for the change. That way, if a mistake happens, it’s easy to audit the workflow, see what went wrong, and figure out how to prevent it from happening again.
The most popular workflow software
Kissflow has emerged as one of the leading workflow software solutions on the market, offering considerably more capabilities than competitor platforms like Pipefy and Process Street. The tool is entirely cloud-based and provides organizations with everything they need for task, project, and workflow management — including approval workflows.
Despite its broad functionality, creating approval workflows is one of the best uses of the platform. The company claims that users can set up an approval workflow in as little as 15 minutes.
Get your approval workflows into top form with Jotform
The basis for most approval workflows is the humble form — and that’s Jotform’s specialty. We’ve got templates for purchase orders, invoice submissions, reimbursement requests, project proposals, and even catch-all approval request forms.
These forms save time since users are notified of each submission. Plus, users can review them all at once in Jotform Tables.
Jotform Approvals gives users the power to build efficient approval flows. It works with the forms in your Jotform account — and rivals products like Kissflow and Process Street. Just use one of your forms as a starting point and add approval steps using the drag-and-drop Approval Builder.
Here are some of the key features that enable approval workflows:
- Gatekeepers can hide fields so that users don’t have to deal with irrelevant questions.
- Conditional logic enables automatic actions or multiple pathways based on form responses.
- Automated email notifications alert gatekeepers each time a form is submitted or modified.
- Autoresponders eliminate the tedious task of responding to each submission by automatically generating a response.
- Jotform can even collect e-signatures for contracts and other approval tasks.
If you have a team of approvers, however, it can be difficult to parse through a complicated workflow full of individual approvals. That’s where Jotform Group Approvals can help.
Not only can you add more than one person to an approval, but you can also select the completion rules. For instance, if you choose to have a majority of 10 people decide the outcome, then the approval will finish once six have responded.
You can intuitively build approval workflows with complex conditions for nonlinear processes, such as coordinating multiple sign-offs. With conditional branching, if-else conditions, and branch merging, you can program every aspect of your organization’s approval matrix into the approval flow, so tasks are automatically routed to the right gatekeepers.
You can assign approvers manually or select specific email fields within a form to assign approvers. Approvers can access their approvals through Jotform Inbox, Jotform Tables, and the Jotform mobile app.
You can even track what’s happening with the various approvals you’ve assigned. If someone is taking too long to approve or deny a request, you can take over and complete the task yourself.
Approval workflows are here to stay
Approval workflows power the world, but that doesn’t mean they have to be difficult to manage. Now that you understand how workflows operate, what differentiates approval workflows, and all of the necessary components, it will be easier than ever to pinpoint how approval workflows function in your life.
Armed with the tools to build an efficient approval workflow, you’re in a position to streamline every process in your organization — no matter how big and complex a project is. In many ways, creating and implementing these processes will set the stage for your company’s growth. Isn’t that worth saying “yes” to?