How to Create Approval Workflow – 4 Easy Steps [Updated 2021 Edition]

Businesses have to deal with tons of approval processes daily. If you want a Leave of Absence, you need approval. Want to make a purchase for your department? You need approval. What about hiring a new employee? You need to submit a New Hire Request.

For many businesses, this means piles of paperwork, back and forth emails, numerous phone calls, and of course, lots of floundering.

An efficient approval management system will eliminate the miscommunication, time-wasting, and extra workload that comes with a manual approval workflow.

Workflow software simplifies the approval process and gives your organization a more efficient and faster approval management process.
In this guide, we’ll teach you how to create an approval process with workflow software. Before we delve into that, let’s start with the basics.

What Is an Approval Workflow?

An approval workflow is a business process that involves a sequence of tasks or steps to approve requests from different departments in an organization.

Such requests may include capital expenditure, new hire, document processing, contract review, leave of absence, or any other work that needs approvals from relevant departments.

In simpler terms, an approval workflow involves getting an invoice, order, or document approved before the designated department in the company can execute it.

There are lots of requests daily, and handling these processes have a direct impact on the efficiency of the firm.
Typically, workflow refers to a chain of repeatable tasks performed to achieve a specific goal. Every organization has a workflow structure – a systemic order for processing information/data.

Most traditional approval systems are grossly inefficient, potentiating problems for your workflow. Here are common loopholes of traditional approval systems:

  • Time factor: The need to send documents by hand from one person to another for approval often slows down the approval process and slows down productivity.
  • Miscommunication may occur during data/information transfer from one party to another.
  • Lack of flexibility: There may be an unavoidable obstruction of the approval process where one or more concerned parties are in different geographic locations.

Thankfully, approval workflow software helps allay these concerns, promoting a faster and more efficient approval process. When every party involved in the approval chain has clearly defined roles, time is saved, and miscommunication reduced. Besides, accurate information and data get to the right people seamlessly.
Are you ready to improve your business operations? Before we discuss the steps to creating an approval workflow management system, here are standard components of an efficient workflow process:

Elements of a Typical Approval Workflow Process

Although approval workflow structures differ across organizations, here are typical components of efficient automated workflow systems:

Task Submission Portal

Approval processes usually start with the submission of, say, an invoice, document, or purchase order. The organizational workflow system should provide a portal where functionaries submit their tasks at completion.

A submission receipt feature comes handy here to help keep individual records of such submissions to avoid discrepancies in the future.

Defined Approvers

After submissions, another officer (or officers) assesses the tasks and approves or rejects accordingly.

Where the process involves different approval stages, the workflow system should appoint independent approvers at each stage.

Established Permission Levels

A typical approval workflow should define the authority each user wields. Most automated approval systems have features that enable management to grant individual permissions to editors, viewers, and administrators. This helps dictate who has access to approve, reject, or review submissions.

Set Timelines

Deadlines are essential in every organization. They promote smooth workflows, prevent unnecessary delays, and increase overall productivity among workers.

Automated Notifications

Most approval workflow software helps send automated updates about submissions across concerned parties. This feature expedites workflow, dramatically.

Such automatic alerts are designed to inform involved persons about a rejection, approval, or/ and work progress, keeping the entire team abreast of the current status of an approval request.

Activity Log

Ideally, a workflow should have an automated record of every activity performed. This element encourages consistency and transparency.
That said, this step-by-step guide is designed to walk you through creating an efficient approval workflow system for your organization.

How to Create an Approval Workflow

Here’s how you can create an efficient approval workflow with workflow software:

Step 1: Pick a Workflow Software

The efficiency of your approval workflow system is widely dependent on the software you choose. Hence, software selection is arguably the most crucial step in the process.
An ineffective piece of software will lead you back to the problems you intend to solve.
Approval workflow management systems like Blissfully stand out with matchless Workflows and Automation Platforms.
Such workflow management platforms offer:

  • Automated Employee Workflows: Automatically handles specific employee-related functions. Notifies employees of the tasks they need to attend to with regular reminders and ensures compliance.
  • Faster Vendor Workflows: Delegates important tasks to concerned parties for execution, and provides vendor approval, renewal, and termination information at the speed of light. You get notification of contract renewals, offering ample time for evaluation.
  • Time-Saving IT Automations: Executes repetitive tasks, saving you the time and energy of reinventing the wheels.
  • Out-of-Office Delegation: What happens when you’re out of the office, probably due to illness or travel, and there’s a request that needs your approval? A reliable workflow platform promotes easy authority delegations. That way, the approval process continues even in your absence.

For approval workflow, Blissfully comes with a plethora of approval templates you’d likely need to automate the entire process. All you’ve got to do is customize these templates to your company’s specifications.
With your software ready, let’s move to the next step.

Step 2: Define Your Starting Points

You’ll need to determine what will trigger an approval process. This could be budgetary (buying a new piece of software, canceling a subscription, renewing), or organizational (transferring teams, onboarding a new employee, offboarding an employee). Once you have your starting points defined, the next step is creating a workflow for approvals.

Step 3: Define the Workflow

Determine the steps involved in every process, and who’s responsible for each approval.

Workflow structures can be anywhere from simple to complex.

Fact is, most workflows are complex and may require establishing multi-step approval processes.

Defining an approval Workflow would involve selecting the persons to give approvals before a request can pass.

Do you need the accountant’s approval?

Do you need the President’s approval?

Include everything here while customizing the approval workflow template provided by the software. Or you can design your workflow from scratch.

An Approval Workflow for Capital Expenditure will look like:

  • Employee submits Capital Expenditure Form
  • Initial Review by Reviewer
  • Director approves
  • VP approves
  • Finance Manager approves
  • CFO approves
  • President approves
  • Board approves

A Leave of Absence Workflow, for instance, would look like:

  • Employee submits a request for Leave of Absence
  • HR Manager reviews, and approves or otherwise
  • Team Lead reviews and approves or otherwise
  • HR Manager inputs in the HR software approval for the Leave of Absence
  • Everyone that needs to know of the approval receives a notification
  • Update the team calendar

Workflow automated platforms such as Blissfully, offers you an impressive range of workflow templates which allows you to automate the entire approval process smoothly.
The appropriate functionaries in the workflow for a specific task receives the document, reviews and approves, or denies it right away.
Once a particular approval level completes, it passes automatically to the next person in the workflow until the end of the approval process.

Step 4: Onboard Relevant Employees

For multi-level approval workflows, you need to bring relevant stakeholders onboard the software.

Add managers that have to give approvals to different sales reps, and HR managers for Vacation Approvals, and so on.

If approval has to be authorized by a group, determine whether the group has to give individual permission.

Also, set up backup approvers for when a person is unavailable, and the process must go on.

You can also set conditions where the CEO would have to approve if the request is beyond a specific financial benchmark.



There you have it – all you need to know about creating approval workflows.

Now, you can enhance your business operations by spending less for approvals, while reducing the mistakes and redundancy that come with the process.

Before we go, let’s do a quick run-through of the key takeaways in this guide:

  • An approval workflow includes a sequence of steps to approve requests for a job to be done in an organization.
  • Businesses have to handle many internal requests daily. Without an effective approval management system, that means tons of paperwork, long delays, and countless mistakes.
  • An efficient workflow system makes the process a lot easier by providing an automated approval process.
  • To create an approval workflow, get the right software (we recommend Blissfully), create an approval form, define the workflow, and onboard relevant employees.

To learn more about how Blissfully can help, sign up for a demo.

Request a Demo of Blissfully