What are approval workflows and where are they needed?
Approval processes are among the central procedures in all departments in the company. They should ensure that internal (compliance) rules, data protection and budgets are adhered to, and that decisions can be made on the basis of all relevant information by the authorised persons. A well-structured approval process has clearly structured responsibilities, is transparently traceable and efficiently organised.
Document-related approvals are required within and between numerous departments, including for invoices, orders, contracts, applications (e.g. HR, business trips), delivery notes, order confirmations, financial documents, offers, tickets or even letters. The individual processes and their concrete requirements are correspondingly diverse.
Especially with a paper-based implementation of approval processes, problems occur again and again. Documents can get broken or lost on their way through different departments. Sometimes they are forgotten and there is no clarity about where the process got stuck. The manual transfer of information to Excel files or mails, for example, is error-prone and time-consuming. Work steps that are easy to automate, such as reconciliations, formal checks or calculations, are carried out manually at great resource cost. As a result of all these delays, deadlines are ultimately not met, orders are delayed, potential customers are lost or cash discount periods expire unused. In addition, the issues of sustainability and environmental protection are also playing an increasingly important role in many companies, but these can hardly be reconciled with the sometimes immense amount of paper, printing and storage. The good news is: processes can be easily digitised and the aforementioned points can thus be eliminated.
The digitalisation of approval processes brings a significant savings potential in terms of costs and time. A suitable solution automates the first comparison and checking steps even before the document enters the actual approval process. The workflow itself corresponds to the document-specific processes or company-specific logics, is multi-client capable and offers simple tools for queries and feedback loops. Multi-level approval processes enable the separation of content-related and formal approval by at least two different bodies. This means that approval is only granted after confirmation by all parties involved according to a dual control principle – an important compliance and quality management feature.
Good software supports the process with a sensible display of information, appropriate notifications, reminders for any deadlines and more. This way, the process stays on track and is not unnecessarily delayed or held up. Clear dashboards, mail approvals, mobile approvals, mass approvals and similar functions give the individual person support for a fast and timely processing of all tasks.
Workflow can also be made much more flexible, for example through location-independent and mobile working, deputy arrangements or directly integrated communication options. As a result, the processing times per document are less dependent on (the presence of) individual persons and can be significantly reduced overall.
Instead of linear manual processing of individual documents, electronic workflows can enable a significantly higher output with less effort for the employees. This is a double benefit: in addition to the savings in resource expenditure, there are also positive effects from meeting cash discount deadlines and similar important deadlines.