Document approval can seem like a complex process. But once you understand the various stages of a streamlined document workflow, along with the opportunities for automation, approval becomes a fast and straightforward task.
This article shows you how to set up a document approval workflow in an app like PandaDoc. You’ll learn about the different steps involved, including creating your document, setting approvers, and following up with clients. You’ll also find tips for speeding up the approval process by reducing friction for both internal approvers and recipients.
What Is a Document Approval Workflow?
A document approval workflow is a sequential system, often relying on automation, used to create, approve and send business documents. Document types include contracts, invoices, proposals, and so on.
Well-designed approval workflows are important because document management is typically a resource-intensive task for companies. It consumes many hours of employee time per week. This is likely also true in your case. As a result, improving your document approval workflow can lead to substantial cost savings.
Modern apps like PandaDoc offer out-of-the-box solutions for streamlining entire document workflows. Document management solutions also provide the easiest way to access powerful automation and analytics tools.
What Benefits Will Automating Your Approval Workflow Have?
What tangible benefits will automating your approval workflow have? Here’s a quick overview of the main reasons to use a document management solution like PandaDoc to streamline your day-to-day document tasks:
- Saves employee time: An automated approval workflow saves time at every stage of the document lifecycle. For example, pre-set notifications alert managers, accountants, and legal experts when a document is ready for review without a minimum of human input required.
- Ensures document quality: Automation rules guarantee that all relevant individuals are involved in the review process. This makes it easier to spot mistakes, check legal compliance, and confirm financial information.
- Increases client conversions: Tools like PandaDoc provide an array of features that reduce friction during the client-facing stage of the approval process. These include electronic signatures, payment buttons, and documents that can be viewed in a browser or email client, without downloading an attachment.
Step 1: Create a Document Using the Document Editor
The PandaDoc document editor enables you to create detailed, well-designed documents in a fraction of the time it might otherwise take. Approval settings are also configured from the document editor.
Here is an overview of the main time-saving features of the PandaDoc editor:
- Pre-written templates: You have access to an extensive library of professionally written templates that can be used as the basis of documents.
- A feature-rich document editor: The intuitive document editor includes drag-and-drop sections, payment buttons, electronic signature fields, and more.
- Collaboration tools: A commenting feature, which also has a private setting, makesit easy for multiple people to edit a document and suggest improvements.
- Reusable content: If you have reusable blocks of legal text or financial data, you can store these in a private library and add them to a document with a few clicks.
Step 2: Set Approvers for the Documents
After you have created a document, it’s time to determine who needs to approve it. Use the in-editor approval function to do this.
Generally speaking, you can set internal approvers in three ways:
- One approver: Designate the individual that is required to approve the document.
- Multiple approvers: List all the people involved in the approval process.
- Representatives: Create a group of approvers for whom one individual can act on behalf of. It is possible to save groups for future use.
Step 3: Send Documents for Approval
Once the document is finished, you simply need to hit the “Send for Approval” button. After this is done, the document status will change to “To Approve.”
All approvers will receive an email letting them know that the document is ready for review. They can either approve or reject the document and will have the option to provide feedback.
Internal recipients can also provide conditional approval, in which case the document will be ready for sending after the specified changes have been made.
Step 4: Follow Up and Make Adjustments
Not all requests will receive an immediate response. Take the following three steps to ensure the fastest possible approval times
- Check the status of pending documents using your analytics tools.
- Follow up with individuals that haven’t approved documents in the usual time period.
- Ensure that your notifications are turned on so that you know when an approver responds to your request.
- Set alerts for new private notes on your document.
Step 5: Send Documents and Automate Follow-Up
Your approval process doesn’t end once you’ve sent a document to a client. Internal approval is only half of the process. The client side of the cycle is equally as important, if not more so.
There are three things you can do to encourage clients to read and sign documents quickly:
- Send an email link: Attachments are cumbersome. An email link, such as the one provided by PandaDoc, allows recipients to view documents quickly without downloading an attachment.
- Automate follow-up: With a tool like PandaDoc, you can send automated follow-up correspondence after a specified period of recipient inactivity. This encourages recipients to respond to document-related requests and boosts conversions.
- Offer fast communication options: Ensure that recipients can contact you quickly, either via email, phone, or live chat, if they have any issues. Clearly display communication options in the document.
Step 6: Reduce Friction as Much as Possible
The following PandaDoc features help reduce friction during the approval process:
- Electronic signatures: E-signatures make it possible to approve documents in a fraction of the time it takes with handwritten signatures. This applies both internally and from the client side.
- Payment buttons: When sending invoices or sales proposals (or similar documents), include embedded payment buttons to allow clients to send money easily.
- Easy-access links: Add document links to emails to remove the need to download attachments.
- A specific step-by-step guide to setting up a document approval workflow in PandaDoc.