Decorative pattern

The ABC of approval workflows: a comprehensive guide for beginners

March 2024

Workflow Approval Platform


The benefits of approval workflows are widely recognised in many industries. They bring efficiency, quality assurance and timely decision-making to the process of approving marketing and business-critical documents.

For anyone unfamiliar with an approval workflow, it is reasonable to ask what it does and how best to use it. In this blog, we will endeavour to answer these questions.


What does an approval workflow do?

An approval workflow is a logically structured process for managing document approvals. It systemises collaborating, reviewing, approving, and managing documents by defining the sequence of steps and tasks required for approval. The approval of an authorised stakeholder at a designated stage moves the document onto the next stage of the process. Stakeholders can be internal or external, depending on whether client review and approval are required.

Approval workflows can be created for every type of document and factors in business-critical considerations such as urgency and risk level. The sequence can entail several stages, but the basic pattern consists of three elements: submittal, approval, and progression.


Submittal: the person or team that originates the document submits it into the process. The nature of the content and the company itself will determine who should review the document.
Review: the document is assigned to one or more reviewers for approval or rejection. If the document is rejected, it is usually returned to the originator to be revised and re-submitted;
Progression: if the document is approved, it moves on to the next stage of the workflow for review. This can be to a different department in the organisation, such as the marketing, compliance, or legal teams. The workflow will define the order in which different departments review the document. Once all key parties have approved the document it is ready to be published.

Different workflows can be set up for different types of documents. For instance, HR and marketing documents can be reviewed by different individuals and departments. A typical marketing document will need to be approved for creative design, brand compliance, and content. Content will be reviewed for its adherence to tone, language, and messaging. Some marketing documents may require the approval of the company’s compliance department to ensure it satisfies the regulatory authority’s requirements. The adaptability of an approval workflow makes it simple to set up the appropriate number of reviewers and departments for each type of document.

Approval workflows can be manual or automated, but with the development of automated digital technology, automated workflow systems are largely replacing manual systems. Automating approval systems and their associated tasks can improve productivity and teamwork, streamline approval processes, increase document quality and production efficiency, and ensure marketing and regulatory compliance.


How to use an approval workflow

To maximise the benefits of an approval system it is essential to establish best process practice with a clear understanding of an approval workflow’s capabilities. The company’s approval processes need to be efficient and cover every eventuality, so they can be replicated in the automated system. An automated workflow typically has features and tools that facilitates collaboration and decision-making, and reduces marketing admin. We will look at how to make best use of an approval workflow system below.


Define the approval process and create a workflow: this involves identifying the types of documents that require approval and determining the approval criteria for each type. The sequence of steps in the specific workflow for each document type needs to be clearly defined. Mapping every workflow is essential so they can be reused for future approvals.
Implement an automated approval workflow: the software should be set up to follow the workflows as defined by the company. Because of the sensitivity of the content being approved the software should comply with legal and regulatory requirements to ensure the security and confidentiality of content.
Identifying stakeholders and assigning responsibilities: individuals and teams should be assigned to each workflow with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The clear definition of roles prevents confusion and muddled decision-making.
The key roles are administrators, creators, reviewers, and approvers. Administrators are responsible for managing the workflow and ensuring its efficient running. Creators submit the document and make it available for review. Reviewers can edit content and provide feedback for changes to be made. Approvers sign off the document once corrections have been made. These roles can be assigned to different individuals at each stage of the process.
An automated approval workflow will enable administrators to allocate different roles and authorities quickly and easily.
Internal and external stakeholders: An automated approval workflow will enable internal and external stakeholders to participate as required. Marketing content must satisfy brand and marketing compliance criteria even if it has been created by an external agency. Marketing content that contains financial promotions will need also to be approved by the company’s compliance department. Annual report and accounts, if designed by an external agency, will require review and approval by the client.   
Set timelines: setting precise timelines for each stage of every workflow helps to prevent delays and are essential for time sensitive tasks. Setting deadlines and a due date for publication focuses team efforts and increases productivity.
Submission portal: approval processes begin with a document being submitted for approval. An automated approval workflow will provide a portal for this.
Automated notifications: when a task is submitted for approval, the relevant stakeholders will receive an automated request notification prompting them to review the document. They will be able to access the document online. Stakeholders will be alerted at each stage when it is their turn to review a document. Notifications enable teams to keep abreast of approval statuses, rejections, and project progress.
Monitoring, tracking, and reporting: an automated approval workflow enables the progress of each project to be tracked and monitored. Every action and change to a document will be automatically recorded. Logging activities ensure that deadlines are being met at every stage of the process and the document is published on time. It helps to ensure transparency, consistency and accountability in the process and can be used to highlight issues that may need to be improved. It also provides an audit trail of actions and content amendments that are required by some regulatory authorities for some types of documents, such as financial promotions documents by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).


The benefits of approval workflows

Combining well-considered approval processes with automated approval workflows provides considerable benefits. These include process efficiency, improved speed and quality of production, increased transparency and accountability, conformity with marketing and brand requirements, and compliance with statutory regulations.


Ready to streamline your approval workflows effortlessly? Explore Perivan’s Workflow Approval Platform today! Click here to discover how our customisable solution can revolutionise your business processes: Explore Now

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