Publishing unapproved content can lead to a whole host of problems; the content may provide the wrong information or be inconsistent with the brand tone and visuals. As a result, it can even harm consumer awareness and recognition of your business.
It’s almost impossible to spot every mistake or inconsistency by yourself. That’s why it’s so important that every piece of content be reviewed by others before it gets published. But how can this be done efficiently?
Approval workflow software is the solution. These tools help you set up a fast and easy approval process for all your content, ensuring that all texts, images and videos are reviewed and approved by main stakeholders before being published.
What Is An Approval Workflow?
An approval workflow is a process that a new piece of content or any other file needs to go through to receive official approval from all stakeholders.
This workflow usually consists of multiple review steps. In each review step, the file gets shared, reviewed and discussed by several stakeholders until everyone is satisfied and no further changes are needed. Then, the file proceeds to the next review step. The number of involved reviewers depends entirely on the type of file and its importance.
The approval workflow will include team members with relevant skill sets or knowledge to judge the content. This can include any internal team members, colleagues, higher management or external stakeholders like clients.
For example, a marketing campaign for a new product will involve different stakeholders from the marketing and product teams as well as the brand manager and maybe upper management and compliance team members as well. However, a single social media post might only need approval from the content manager.
After the file has received approval in every review step, it can be considered officially approved, and the content can be published.
In successful companies all over the world, approval workflows are established as core business processes, especially in content creation. Typical use cases are for marketing campaigns, video production, designs and PR content.
Although this workflow may differ slightly depending on your business and specific use case, the steps of a typical company’s document approval workflow are:
- Share the information or files with the relevant reviewers and request their feedback.
- Receive the feedback from the reviewers, and discuss the proposed changes.
- Make the agreed-upon changes.
- Circulate the document through an additional feedback and review round until there are no more changes to be made.
- Get final approval for the document.
What Is Approval Workflow Software?
Approval workflow software enables project managers to manage the approval processes for multiple files at the same time with the highest efficiency.
These tools offer cloud-based centralized platforms where users can organize their files within folders and projects. In each project, users can set up a customized approval workflow and invite reviewers to specific review steps including uploaded files.
Now, reviewers can view, comment and discuss files in their browser. With just one click, reviewers can request changes or approve a file.
Additionally, approval software offers users the following features:
- Leave comments and annotations directly on the file.
- Add time-stamped comments to videos and audio files.
- Reply to comments from other reviewers in the same review step.
- Add attachments to comments.
- Mention other reviewers and users.
- Share review links by email or chat.
- Set deadlines for files.
- Send automatic reminders to reviewers.
- Utilize automatic to-do lists.
- Keep track of a file’s status.
- Make use of project templates.
What Are The Benefits Of Using Approval Workflow Software?
Approval workflow software streamlines your entire business approval process by organizing all feedback in one place. This way, everyone is kept up to date about the progress of each file, and each individual is notified when their feedback is needed.
This can result in many benefits for your business, including:
1. Better organization
At work, when you’re managing many digital assets each day, it’s very easy for files to get lost. In fact, according to CheatSheet, 20% of workers have lost or deleted important work files by accident.
With approval workflow software, you can safely upload and store all your files in one centralized, cloud-based location. Additionally, folders and projects help you organize your files so they’re easy to find and don’t get lost or deleted.
Plus, the version management feature will help you monitor different file versions and any required changes.
2. Improved efficiency
In a recent survey undertaken by Adobe, researchers found that office workers spend 3.1 hours per day on average just sending emails and checking their inbox. This equates to 15.5 hours each week, per team member.
Tangled and complex email threads are confusing. During the approval process, you have to deal with a huge number of different inputs. This requires a lot of back and forth conversation. If this conversation is managed by email, just imagine how many different email discussions you’d have to manage!
With approval management software, you don’t need to search through long email threads anymore. Instead, you have all the feedback and discussion bundled and organized in one place. This saves a lot of time and improves workplace efficiency.
3. Meet deadlines
In any document review and approval process, one of the biggest causes of delay is the wait for feedback. It happens all the time – people forget to leave feedback, or it takes them far too long to reply.
With approval workflow software, you can add due dates to files. This way, you can ensure that people are automatically reminded of deadlines and that you receive feedback in time.
4. Keep quality consistent
One of the biggest risks that companies run by not having an approval workflow process is accidentally publishing poor quality content.
When content is not reviewed by all relevant stakeholders, it can be sloppy, off-brand, error-ridden, or just generally substandard. Naturally, this will have a negative impact on your brand image and reputation.
By ensuring each piece of content is checked and approved by the right experts, you can minimize the risk of errors and achieve a higher and more consistent level of quality.
5. Make collaboration & communication easy
From now on, all communication and collaboration can take place on the centralized approval platform. With commenting and annotation tools, reviewers can leave clear and precise feedback directly on the file. To streamline collaboration, reviewers can reply to comments, mention others and add attachments to discuss ideas or changes.
5 Tips For Creating Efficient Digital Approval Workflows
Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an influx of new studies about digital work and efficiency. In fact, according to a recent survey by FlexJobs, 51% of professionals reported that they worked more productively when using digital platforms to work remotely.
As you can see, there are many benefits to be gained from investing in digital approval workflows. To reap as many rewards as possible from your new approval workflows, these are our 5 top tips:
1. Give reviewers clear instructions.
Ensure that every reviewer knows exactly what is expected of them. It also helps to share background information about the content if reviewers were not involved in the creation process. But most importantly, you need to give reviewers details about the type, extent and nature of the feedback that they should provide.
2. Assign clear deadlines for each file.
According to a piece by Psychology it Better, the benefits of assigning deadlines include encouraging a team to rely more on intuition, improving the outcomes of negotiation, and keeping a team more organized across the board.
You can achieve these benefits by simply adding a due date for each file in each review step. Reviewers will automatically receive reminders from the tool when each due date is approaching. This clarity about deadlines is also beneficial for reviewers since it helps them structure their work.
3. Set up review steps for different stakeholder groups.
Creating separate review steps for different stakeholder groups helps you structure your approval workflow and makes it easier to manage. Plus, each reviewer group can focus on specific criteria based on their expertise, which means that feedback will be clearer and more precise. Also, review rounds with less people can be completed faster.
For example, if you are creating a visual asset to promote a product, the different stakeholder groups could include:
- The marketing team (to check the text, slogan and design)
- The product team (to check if the listed product facts are correct)
- The brand manager (to check for brand consistency)
4. Think about the right timing.
Will you need certain reviewers to leave their feedback before others? It’s important to think of the order in which you want your reviewer groups to check your content. For example, before sending the work to a client, you may wish to have your internal team review and edit the document first.
5. Automate manual tasks.
In a study conducted by SmartSheet, nearly 60 percent of participants estimated that they could save six or more hours a week if the repetitive aspects of their jobs were automated.
Approval workflow tools offer multiple features that help automate repetitive tasks. For example, instead of manually sending emails to all reviewers, you just need to add their email addresses to the right review step. Then, all further information can be sent to them through automatically generated emails.
Automation also works for due dates, new comments, mentions, approvals or request changes. In the tools settings, you can decide if and how often project collaborators and reviewers get automatically notified about any changes to a file.
8 Great Approval Workflow Software Options for Your Team
The next step is to help you find the best fit approval software for your team’s needs.
Below, we’ve rounded up 8 of the best pieces of approval software on the market. Read on to discover each tool’s features and identify which would work best for your unique context.
Filestage – review and approval software
Filestage is an intuitive, easy-to-use review and approval tool. It offers users a centralized cloud-based platform where any kind of file can be shared, reviewed and approved. In fact, reviewers can leave their feedback directly on the file and even discuss it with other reviewers in real-time. The approval workflow can be fully customized, and manual repetitive tasks can be automated.
- Leave comments and annotations directly on the file
- Add attachments to comments
- Real-time collaboration
- One-click approvals
- Invite reviewers via email or chat
- Create custom approval workflows
- Automatic version control
- Automatically created to-do list
- Add due dates to files
- In-app notification center
- No mobile app
Integrify – low-code approval process solution
Integrify is a versatile piece of approval management software, offering a low-code tool that can be applied to any business processes. This software then collects and stores the historical data of your previous approval workflows in order to create an audit with all information about the approval.
- Approval audit trails
- Accessible on different devices
- Customizable reports
- Document storage
- Version control
- Visual workflow management
- The low-code aspect of the tool may still prove challenging for some users, particularly if they have no former experience with coding.
Kissflow – end-to-end workflow software
Kissflow is a no-code online platform that allows teams to automate their processes, create project boards, manage their workflow, and collaborate on the approval process.
- Accessible on different devices devices, including phones and tablets
- Provides alerts and notifications
- Gives users the opportunity to assign roles and permissions
- Is no-code, so it’s easier for those without tech backgrounds
- It does not offer a document management module.
Frevvo – visualized forms and workflows
Frevvo‘s approval workflows enable users to create highly visual, automated forms and workflows. This software works by combining pre-made workflow designs with point-and-click wizard tools.
- Offers multiple customizable fields
- Provides users with a range of templates to build an approval process
- Users have praised its user interface and user experience.
- Drag-and-drop functionality makes the customization of an approval process easier.
- Some users (with no IT background) have found it difficult to operate.
- The rules-based workflow may feel restrictive for some users.
Process.st – a one-click approval workflow
Process.st allows you to create standardized approval processes using customized, automated approval workflow templates. Users can grant quick one-click approvals, build customized task management lists, and create approval checklists for each workflow.
- Provides a range of collaboration tools
- Email management functions
- Activity dashboard
- Can be accessed from mobile devices and external applications (such as Slack)
- Checklist dashboard
- Task progress tracking tools
- Some users have found the pre-set functionality restrictive.
Approval Donkey – approval management software
Approval Donkey allows users to submit and approve requests that have been submitted through email, apps or online forms. Then, through this centralized location, the approval requests can be gathered and converted into digital, automated workflows.
- Provides a single, centralized location for all approval requests
- Allows users to create custom roles
- Allows you to set status updates
- Can be integrated with external applications, such as Google Docs, Trello and Slack
- Some users have found the tool to be too costly.
- Currently not available as an Android or iOS application
ApprovalMax – create bill and purchase order approvals
ApprovalMax is a cloud-based tool designed for small and medium-sized businesses. With it, users can create approval workflow solutions for their accounting and business finance needs.
- Set notifications
- Create multi-level approvals
- Access your approval workflows through a mobile app
- Specifically designed for finance, some users may find this niche restrictive.
- Offers a smaller range and number of tools than its competitors
Procurify – an online purchase management platform
Procurify is designed to assist with the operations of finance teams. With it, they can create an approval workflow that provides them with greater transparency in regards to their company finances.
- Access data in real time
- Offers integrations with a number of external Enterprise Resource Planning systems, such as NetSuite and QuickBooks
- Users can create customizable reports
- Access specialized invoice and inventory management tools
- Specifically geared for finance use (this niche may be limiting)
- Reported issues with the software’s filtering function
We hope that this guide to approval workflow software will help you to take the reins and bring a much-needed boost to your workplace efficiency.
With these specialized software tools, plus our top tips on how to use them, you’re more than ready to create a workflow that best supports your team.