Workflow Process Design for Specific Approval Purposes

There are two main ways to proceed with the document submission and workflow processes within a company. 

One is (1) the electronic approval processes in which approvals are processed sequentially, and approvers have ‘read only’ permissions. The second is (2) approval processes for collaboration, in which the approvers are added in parallel to the approval layer with ‘edit’ permissions to complete the document together.

1.Workflow Process for Approvals

The person who initiates (submits) a workflow process is the person who is directly responsible for the document being approved. There are many different cases of submitting approval processes like these.  For example, approval is required mainly in relation to the individual, such as personal expenses related to work or vacation. In these cases, the main purpose of the process is to approve the submitter’s request through the approval workflow. 

2. Workflow Process for Collaboration 

 If the submitter of a document needs specific directions or guidelines to complete a document, they can submit the document without completing it. This way, the approvers can provide direction and guidelines regarding the content of the document, or they can collaborate with the submitter to complete the work. When submitting the document, the submitter grants ‘edit’ permission to the people who will be editing the document together, and in the case of more than one person the submitter will put them in a parallel approval layer. For example, we use this structure for business and event plans that are difficult for an employee to work on alone.

3. Open Approval Processes and Closed Approval Processes 

When the purpose of a workflow process is solely to provide permissions and approvals, it is referred to as a closed approval process. Conversely, if the purpose of a workflow process is to collaborate and complete the contents of the document in the workflow process, the process is called an open approval process. The purpose of the open approval processes is to continue developing the document rather than keeping integrity of the approval processes. It is common practice to keep the approver’s editing permission in these situations. 

For a closed approval process, the purpose is to record approvals.Here, it is common to remove the edit permissions for the documents after the approval is completed in order to keep the document’s integrity, and to ensure the document is not altered after being approved.

4. Workflow process in which the submitter is included in the approval list.

In many cases–including developing a business plan–the submitter of the document is also the supervisor who will manage the work. In these cases the workflow process is conducted in a way that the approvers cooperate with, and complete the contents of the document that was submitted by the supervisor.

The approvers need to work on the document together, so they are added in parallel as approvers with ‘edit’ permissions. Also, because the submitter needs to finalize the document themselves, the submitter is added to the final approval layer. The person who directs, manages, and supervises the work plays the role of initiating, supervising, and confirming the workflow process. 

When the process is completed, the person in charge of the actual work must be specifically named. In general, the supervisor is the person in charge of the work, but in this case, the person approving the document becomes the person in charge of the work. Alternatively, the submitter can add the department or the person in charge of the work in the Group CC or CC field of Collavate, so that the contents are automatically delivered when the approval is completed.

5. When someone starts a workflow process on behalf of someone else.

There are cases–such as meeting recordings–where the submitter is not the person in charge of the work, or the supervisor who is managing the document, someone else can begin the workflow process on behalf of the supervisor. Generally, for management, the workflow process is started by a secretary or assistant.

When submitting a workflow process, the submitter adds the relevant person in charge of the work to the sequential approval list according to their role.They then place the final decision maker at the end, so that he/she can finalize the document when complete. Or, if the decision maker needs to establish a framework for the document, the submitter can place the decision maker at the beginning and at the end of the approval list.

6. Misunderstanding of the responsibilities of the final approver and the roles of the other approvers.

In general, the final approver is the person responsible for the main purpose specified in the approval process. In other words, they are not responsible for the specific task content, but for the task overall. For the specific details of the workflow process, the person who conducts the relevant work should be responsible for it. Therefore, even if the submitter receives the final approval for the submitted workflow process, the process and responsibility for the specific details of the work is on the submitter or the approver himself, not the final approver.

The final approver’s role is to confirm that there is no problem with the work. In other words, it is the closed approval process. The person who works on the document is responsible for making a judgment on the part that needs the work, and the submitter or approver who proceeds with the approval must be responsible for the contents of the work.

7. Reference / Publishing after approval process and workflow reprocess

If the submitted document is about a company’s business guidelines, regulations, compliance, or content that is publicly disclosed, it can be automatically posted using Collavate’s publish feature. Collavate’s publish feature publishes the document to an internal domain URL or to an external public URL address, and the address remains the same even if the document is edited. The reprocess function can be used to alter the published copy of a document, but the previously published contents of the document are kept, so the collaborators can work on the new contents to be published in the future. When an approval process is completed through reprocessing, the existing document is automatically updated with the content of the newly edited document. The approvers can see the history of existing process approvals and document revision.

External disclosure documents, internal business guidelines, and user terms and conditions can be continuously and safely updated through the reprocessing and publishing functions.

8. Reference / Application of RACI model to Workflow Submissions

The use of the RACI (responsibility assignment matrix)*[1] model for workflow processes is a good way to specify the roles of the actual person doing the work, what person is in charge, and which person who supports the work.

R = Person actually doing the work / Responsible (Workflow submitter)
A person who performs the work described in the documents in the workflow process., There is at least one (R) for all tasks. 

A = Person in Charge / Accountable (Final Approver)
As the person in charge of final approval, that is, management/supervision of the work described in the workflow process, he/she is responsible for the results. One person is responsible for the work, except in unavoidable cases. 

C = Work supporter / Consulted (Intermediate Approver)
It means a person who helps in carrying out the work described in the workflow process. It also serves to complete the electronic approval document together, and helps the working-level person in charge (R) in carrying out the work when the approval process is completed.

I = Referrer / Informed (reference/recipient)
This is the department/person in charge who is notified of the contents of the workflow process when it gets finally approved. In the case of purchase proposals, the person in charge of the accounting department for payment is added as a reference/receiver.

Depending on the role described above on the approval process, the following RACI table may be added to the workflow process content. Also, RACI Chart cards may be attached to the workflow process. In this way, (1) the role of the person in charge of the workflow process and (2) the role of the person in charge of business progress can be clearly distinguished.