What are Approval Processes in Project Management?

Juliet Luciol
October 20, 2022
min read
January 22, 2024
Photo credit
The approval process includes all the steps required to approve work from various levels of the organization. Learn more about the types of the approval process and managing workflow approval process.
Create Step-by-Step Guides in Seconds


Change control refers to managing changes to projects, programs, and policies. The goal of change control is to ensure that the project has a plan to address any changes that may occur during its lifecycle. Project managers and their teams need to understand this process to implement it successfully.

Change controls and approval processes are a crucial part of project management.

This article will explore the elements of a change control process, best practices for managing workflow approval processes, and types of approval processes. We'll also discuss how to streamline your approval process more effectively.


What is an approval process?

A standardized workflow process is a crucial requirement for any business wishing to operate efficiently and achieve its objectives. It requires multiple departments to collaborate on various tasks and initiatives that may impact the entire company. To achieve this, you need to employ the approval process, in which work items go through multiple approvals before being finalized.

An approval process is, in short, the way you get project stakeholders to approve your project plan and have their expectations included in your project scope. It's a series of meetings and discussions where you get stakeholders to discuss schedules, budgets, and other project deliverables.

An approval process in project management will most likely involve documenting your workflow and the communication process. This is to ensure that everyone who needs to approve certain decisions about the project has the chance to do so without being left out.

The approval process is typically used at the start of a project when stakeholders need to approve its objectives, goals, and the project plan itself. It's common for organizations to use an approval process for changes that require stakeholder approval.

The elements of the approval process

As a project manager, you need to know the approval process elements, how to approve projects and navigate the common risks of project management. Here is a look at the elements that constitute a standard workflow approval process.

1. A request for approval & document submission

An approval request may require more than one document. This could be anything ranging from a budget plan, an invoice, or a marketing plan. The request and submission of documents is the first element of the approval process because anything that needs approval has to be submitted as a document.

2. Approvers

Approvers decide whether the submitted documents should be approved or disallowed. An approver could be the company manager, or the project team leader, depending on the level of management approval required.

3. Permission levels

Setting distinct permission levels for each user is essential in managing who can access and change submitted documents and reject or approve them. They are more than the degree of control a person can exert over the workflow and approval process.

4. Logs

This is a crucial element of the approval process that aims at preserving transparency. Log monitoring makes it easier to monitor and follow all activities by recording each step of the approval process. They also help identify bottlenecks and remove them if there is a process record.

5. Due dates

An approval process requires a deadline highlighting when to start and finish on time. Without a set due date, approvals may take a very long time. The result will be a delay in the launch of projects and late payment of invoices.

Types of approval processes

Different types of approval processes have essential elements that change depending on the type of approved work. Let's take a look at some of the common approval processes.

Invoice approval

An invoice must first go through a quick approval process with one or more approvers before it can be accepted. Since organizations frequently receive invoices, the approval procedure for this work is typically consistent across all businesses and can be streamlined with an invoice management platform.

Content approval

Content approval involves at least an editor and other approvers reviewing a writer’s work. A writer creates the content either on their own or following a set of guidelines. They then submit the content to the approvers, who review it and send it back for any possible corrections.

Budget approval

A budget helps businesses understand how much cash is available to manage ongoing projects. Before approval, a possible budget created by those in charge of the budget-making process must pass through several evaluations and revisions.

How to streamline the approval process

You can only succeed with your approval process if you learn the best ways to streamline the entire exercise. Let’s take a closer look at the best practices you can leverage to streamline approval processes for all your creative projects.

1. Define the scope of your approval process

When defining the scope of your approval process, it's essential to consider what's important to you and your team. For example, what steps should you take to get a product or project approved?

Identifying these critical steps will help you create a more streamlined and efficient process. You'll also want to make sure that everyone who needs to be involved in the approval process is clear on their role and responsibilities.

Creating a process for approvals can seem like a daunting task. However, it’s easier if you have a tool such as Scribe and Scribe pages that helps you standardize workflows and have everyone on board.

Scribe is an AI-powered extension and desktop app that documents processes for you — making it so much easier to create and share materials for your entire team. Never have to record your screen or spend hours building docs ever again.

Here's a Scribe in action.

And with Pages, you can combine Scribes with images, video and more to create extensive onboarding and training docs. Like this one!

2. Understand the needs of all stakeholders

Regarding approvals, it's important to remember that you're not just dealing with one stakeholder. As the person in charge of approvals, it's your job to understand each stakeholder’s needs and ensure everyone is happy.

Sometimes that means bending over backward and giving people what they want, even if it's not the best thing for the project. Other times it means being firm and standing your ground. But either way, it's important to remember that an approval process is a balancing act and that you can't please everyone all the time.

3. Identify key challenges in your process

The best way to identify challenges in your approval process is to map them out. Creating a flowchart of your process allows you to see where the holdups are happening. Once you know where the bottlenecks are, you can start to address them.

Maybe you need more people on your team to handle the workload, or some steps in the process need a little more streamlining. Whatever the case, addressing the challenges will help speed up your approval process and make life easier for everyone involved.

4. Automate where possible

You can automate your approval process by creating templates for reviewers. This will help them understand what is expected of them and make the process more efficient. You can also automate the way that you track approvals. This keeps you on top of each job status and will help you to identify any potential bottlenecks in the process.


5. Continuously review & improve

You can't just set up your approval process and never touch it again. Processes need to be continually reviewed and improved. For example, can you eliminate some steps or automate others?

The key is to look for ways to improve constantly. And the best way to do that is by talking to the people using the process. Get their feedback and see what they think can be done better.

Overall, the approval process can be tedious and time-consuming, but it doesn't have to be. If you learn to use the right tools, you can easily streamline your process and save yourself time.

📌 Learn more about how to write project documentation

Importance of process documentation

Here are the key benefits of process documentation:

You can easily create custom templates

Instead of starting from scratch, you can quickly construct new workflows for the approval process by altering the built-in templates. Check out Scribe's free template gallery below to get started.

This allows you to save time and expedite the approval process. Scribe Pages is one feature that lets you combine Scribes with images, video, and more for extensive training materials and software onboarding documentation.

The criteria or practices that were initially in place may need to be changed once a workflow for an approval process is used. Instead of building a new automatic approval procedure, you can change an existing one using the software tools such as Scribe and Scribe Pages.


Better collaboration

Monitoring every member's activity and maintaining a good information flow can be time-consuming for large approval initiatives. When the processes are automated, keeping track of the various approval levels, updating the many users involved, and meeting deadlines can all become much more straightforward.

Scribe allows for easy sharing and collaboration on the approval process steps. You can share it as a link, embed it in an email, or export it as HTML.

Final thoughts: The importance of the approval process

The approval process is an integral part of your project management process. It allows you to make sure that everyone who needs to approve decisions regarding your project has the chance to do so. It ensures that everyone who has the power to support something in the project has the opportunity to do so and have their expectations included in the project's scope.

📌 Check out our free project scope template

The approval process can also ensure that meetings don't turn into general discussion sessions, where people talk a lot but don't get to decide anything.

Ready to try Scribe?

Scribe automatically generates how-to guides and serves them to your team when they need them most. Save time, stay focused, help others.