Taking “You” out of the equation with automated approvals

02/01/2022 Posted by Ranasha

1-Main Banner-resize

The manual approval process is the “dinosaur” of business processes.

Saying yes is the key to accomplishing almost everything in an organization. An example is the approval of the organization’s annual budget by the board of directors or developing an idea to launch a product. These approvals are often required by other departments as well.

Work often needs to be approved by managers and directors in any organization before it can officially begin or move to the next step. In many companies, the process of approving or rejecting work is standardized.

However, these processes can be slow, outdated, and delayed if not thoughtfully created and optimized. While most companies are beginning to digitize approval processes, they are not yet actively automating them, leading to lower productivity and efficiency.

What Exactly is an Approval Process?

An approval process essentially consists of steps taken to approve work at various levels of an organization formally. Budgets, invoices, project outlines, marketing strategies, and other items requiring various departments’ approvals may fall into this category.

Think of an approval workflow as a series of sequential tasks set to complete a process. Each task allows other approvers to contribute before the process is complete.

Creating a workflow requires you to determine the goal, break down the steps and tasks, identify all the individuals that will need to contribute to its creation, and of course, provide your team with the information they need to use it.

While approvals can be asynchronous or manual, an automated approval process saves time by initiating requests immediately and then following up with reminders if necessary. As a result, all parties are notified whenever their input is required. Automated approvals also help keep everyone informed about what is happening within the company at any given moment.

Automated Approvals – Is it the Best Approval Method?

2-Automation-resize

Manual processes often take longer and do not always have centralized storage or a central location for data hosting and sharing; thus, it might be challenging to access the information required for decision making.  

As mentioned previously, automated approval workflows can save time. They can speed up and improve business processes by eliminating inefficiencies that come with manual approval management. Additionally, you can streamline even the most complicated approval procedures and make educated decisions every step of the way with an automated approval workflow. 

Let’s look at the drawbacks of a manual procedure, as well as the benefits of an automated one.

Manual Approval Process

  • Slow: Approval processes that take a long time or don’t work at all might slow down operations and have an impact on your business in a variety of ways. If you are finding that you need to repeat the same approvals repeatedly, it is time to consider automating your approval process. The more documents that need approval, the more time it takes to approve them all. This means higher costs due to lost productivity and increased frustration among employees waiting for approvals.
  • Incomplete: Without proper approvals in place, you risk making incorrect or incomplete decisions that can cost your business money.
  • Lack of Transparency: Manual approval processes often involve several different people working on varying aspects of workloads. Without centralized storage and a clear view of who is working on what at all times, transparency becomes lost. When an automated solution is in place, you can more easily identify what information needs to be updated and where.
  • Risk of non-compliance: Non-compliances or failures due to excessively long delays or incomplete information.
  • Unable to Scale: Imagine a scenario where your business booms, doubles, or triples its original size. As the business grows, so does the approval process. A slow manual approval process will likely prevent a company from scaling without help. In this scenario, it’s essential to have a system that can quickly grow with your team.

Benefits of an Automated Approval Process

  • Reduces Costs: Manual processes can be inefficient because of the high risk of incomplete information. Automated approval workflows can minimize delays, costly errors, and additional staff required to manage data manually.
  • Speed: As previously discussed, automated approval processes are far faster than manual ones. Studies have shown that automation increases productivity in various industries.
  • Accuracy: When everything is kept in one place, it is easy to track what approvals are needed for which documents. A centralized location for information storage can ensure that the entire approval process is completed on time while ensuring that all individuals involved have access to the appropriate data at all times.
  • Streamlined: No one enjoys repetitive tasks, especially not when they are significantly tedious. Automated approval processes enable you to streamline your workflow while avoiding the tedium of manual approvals. Since automation takes care of the smaller, more repetitive tasks that come with manual approval management, you will be left with time to work on other goals for your business.
  • Better Compliance and Security: Data breaches are a concern in areas that directly affect your business operations. Automating these processes guarantees compliance, security, and accuracy of the protocol.

Choosing Knack to Automate Your Approval Process

3-Choosing Knack-resize

Regardless of the purpose of your approval process, you’ll probably include some common steps. To automate the approval process, you’ll need a solution like Knack that offers what we consider essential elements in an approval process.

Submission Process

The submission process begins with data submitted by an individual or business (a request, a document, an invoice, a purchase order, etc.). Knack offers various ways to view, add, and edit data. This includes form views for submitting data and corresponding portals that allow individuals to submit their work and further track the history of the action.

Assign Approvers

To ensure a smooth approval process, identify who has the final say in your organization. You may need multiple levels of approval for different aspects of work. In Knack, you can assign individual records to other users and specify what information and functionality users can access.

Set Permission Levels

Make sure each user has the authority they need. Knack’s User Roles feature allows you to set different permissions for viewers, editors, and administrators, so you can decide who edits, rejects, or approves submissions.

Set Due Dates

Many people tend to fall into a routine and ultimately cannot keep up with their workload. Deadlines motivate them to get things done and stay on top of their work. Setting deadlines is essential to keep work moving and prevent work backlogs. Knack has various field types available, including a date field for setting due dates and reminders.

Automatic Alerts and Notifications

Automating alerts and notifications about a task’s status will improve workflow. Notification messages can take multiple forms, including approval or rejection notifications, update requests, or a simple status update alerting the user of the next step in the process. Before being accepted, submissions may undergo several rounds of editing. With automated alerts and notifications, tasks can be completed on time and everyone can be updated on their progress. Knack features like Emails and Scheduled Tasks let you easily send automated emails and manage statuses so that you can focus on more important things.

Record/Log

When it comes to ensuring consistency and increasing transparency, recording every step in the approval process is one of the most effective ways. When looking for a program with automated features, make sure it includes the following features:  

  • View users’ histories: see who made changes and what they did. In Knack, with our Pro plan, account owners can view record change history, or this can be built in the Live App for other user groups to see.
  • Record Editing: When mistakes are made or sensitive information is involved, you may need to edit the record. As mentioned earlier, the Knack platform includes a variety of features for managing your data, including forms for editing.

Mobile Responsive / Access from Anywhere

If your team is distributed, working remotely, or in the field, you may want to consider a platform that is easily accessible from any mobile device. Knack is mobile-friendly, too! As a result, distributed or remote teams will be able to keep track of any approval workflow, project, or task anywhere in the world, regardless of whether they are on a phone or a tablet.

Cut Some Work From Your Process With Automation

4-Cut the Work-resize

When it comes to approvals in your company, an automated approval process is the best way to go. While each industry will vary in its specific needs, when in doubt, seek a solution that works for you when determining how to automate your approvals.

Ultimately, automated approval systems provide faster workflows and better productivity without sacrificing accuracy.

Are you looking for a way to automate your approval process?

For more information about how to take “you” out of the equation with automated approvals, contact us at team@knack.com.