Elliott Carter

Elliott Carter

Experience Executive

Customer proposals, quotes, invoices, budgets, marketing assets and company-wide comms are just some examples of items that may require sign off within your organisation. However, without the tools or processes to support, the entire process of getting approval can be cumbersome, long winded, risky and hard to track.

It is a surprisingly frequent problem. But, with a few steps, streamlining this process can not only make work better for your colleagues but improve your colleague, customer and organisation experience. So, without further ado, here is how to standardise approvals within your organisation.

1. Draw up existing processes – expose friction

If you were to ask any colleague within your team “What’s our approval process for [X]?” would they know? Does your organisation have a published process for approvals or is there a more informal approach e.g., a quick glance over the shoulder or a knock on your manager’s door?

Without having the foundations in place, you become more exposed to human error or approvals becoming lost or slipping the expected journey. We recommend going through each team (Finance, Sales, Marketing etc) and drawing up how you currently source approvals.

An example for Sales if you are in the services business could look like this:

[Asset – Customer Proposal]

Approval #1 [Technical Review] – Issue to Lead Consultant

Approval #2 [Sales Review] – Issue to Head of Sales

Approval #3 [Legal Review] – Issue for legal review

Issue to customer – [Once the approvals completed]

Once you have created a few, you will start to notice that the process is cumbersome. Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Do you often find there is a delay? Which brings us nicely on to…

2. Streamline and define list of approvers

When looking at the processes you have mapped out, do you find there is a lot of ground to cover? Can you remove a couple steps that could be deemed unnecessary to help speed up the delivery of the approved asset? Colleagues can still be kept informed at certain stages to remove issues of information being siloed but they may not need to input on certain assets.

Having a defined list of colleagues that can sign off certain assets is key to eliminating single points of failure. If Head of Sales is on annual leave, who can cover as a backup? You will need to designate first and second call points for each stage within your approval process.

3. Review tooling available

Issuing assets for approval via email can be extremely messy. Avoid attaching the asset to an email as it can quickly get lost, outdated, and mixed versions can occur. At the very least, store assets centrally – like in a Microsoft Team or SharePoint site. Avoid personal OneDrives due to permission inconsistency.

Within the Microsoft stack, you may already be licensed to use tools like Planner, Microsoft Lists and Microsoft Forms which can be helpful in designing and implementing a modern approval process. Again, varying on licensing you could go further with some automation in Power Automate or you could even build a Power App. All these tools mentioned can help modernise the way you centrally store and manage approvals. Speaking of which…

4. Capture and store requests centrally

One of the key issues with managing document approvals through your mailbox is that there is no central space to review all pending and historic requests. By building out your processes and using the appropriate tools you can get visibility across your business of what’s pending approval, what has been approved and begin to identify trends. Are there certain days in the week that marketing issue more assets? Do sales have peak times within the year when approvals begin to spike? You can ensure as an organisation, you have the right resource at the right time to cope with demand.

You can also start gaining insight into issues within your own process. Does the consultant review take more time? Are you finding Legal often need a nudge or seem to lose assets? Centralising approvals is key to ensuring your processes are efficient.

5. Automate processes to streamline next steps

Once an asset is approved, what next? If it’s an invoice, can it automatically be filed away in a ‘To be Paid’ folder within the ‘Finance Team’ in Teams? If it’s a customer proposal, should it be sent to a centralised mailbox for the E-Signature team to issue to customers?

Think about your entire process, not just the approval itself. You can apply tooling to automate what would have been a manual process including the notifications every step of the approval.

Reminders, so simple, but can be a pain for the receiver and the person having to chase and send the reminder. By automating overdue follow ups you are taking away wasted time from a colleague’s day. Automation should be seen to help take away the manual day-to-day. It can work in harmony, not replace, your colleagues, so they can spend more time doing the stuff they are great at.

Begin automating today with Percy Approve!

We believe we have built the perfect tool to sit within Microsoft 365, taking advantage of M365 licences already owned, to help every organisation with approvals. Percy Approve centrally stores all approvals from any department, it takes away the manual day-to-day with automated follow ups, document filing and best of all, it works within SharePoint. But less of me talking about, why don’t you discover it for yourself?

Originally published March 22 2022, Updated March 22, 2022

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