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How do I create an Approval workflow (internal or external)?

Internal vs External Approval Workflow

Internal Approvals are not project specific. These approvals are strictly for company use and may contain information related to several projects. These approvals will not be visible to anyone outside your company.

External Approval Workflows can only be configured by Project Admins. These approvals are tied to a specific project, and they require review/approval from other companies. These may be schedules, certification rosters, or anything that requires approval from more than one organization. 

The process for creating and managing Approval Workflows is the same for either internal or external workflows. To create an Approval Workflow, you must be a Company or Project Admin. If the approval is internal (only your company needs to approve), then you will need to navigate to the Company Admin page to create the Approval Workflow. If the Approval will be external (other companies need to approve), you will need to navigate to the Project Admin tab to create the Approval Workflow. This distinction is important because external Approval Workflows must be visible to other companies. If not, those companies will not be able to add new documents into the correct workflow.

Navigate to the appropriate Admin page by hovering the cursor over the Admin tab to bring up the dropdown menu. Then click on either Company Admin (internal) or Project Admin (external). Find and click the Approval Workflow button on the Management box to bring up the Manage Approval Workflows pop-up window. If any Approval Workflows have already been created, they will be listed on this window. The types of Approval Workflows listed also depends on which screen you are viewing. If you are on the Company Admin screen, only internal workflows will be listed. External workflows will be listed on the Project Admin screen.

The Manage Approval Workflows window will have the following controls: New, Copy, and a Search bar. The window will list all approval workflows created for this project. Each Approval will have Edit and Deactivate buttons for each workflow listed, a Show Inactive checkbox, and a Close button. Clicking New will open a new workflow in the Workflow Editor. The Copy function allows you to use an existing Approval Workflow to create a new one. You can use the Search bar to find a specific workflow quickly. The Edit button will open the selected workflow in the Workflow Editor. The Deactivate button will remove the selected workflow from the list of available workflows but will NOT delete it. The Show Inactive checkbox will list inactive workflows when the box is checked. The only option available for inactive workflows is Reactivate. Clicking the Reactivate button will return the workflow to the active list. The Close button will close the Manage Approval Workflows window. 

If the workflow you want is listed on the Manage Approval Workflows window, you can click on the Edit button adjacent to that workflow to review/edit it. The Copy function allows you to use an existing Approval Workflow to create a new one. Clicking the Copy button brings up a list of workflows that you can copy. This list will only include active workflows. Click the Copy button next to the workflow you want to copy, and a copy of that workflow will open in the Workflow Editor window. The Workflow name will be “COPY + (the name of the copied workflow)”. If the Approval Workflow you want is not listed, click the New button to start the Workflow Editor and create the new workflow.  

The Workflow Editor will have a graphical representation of the workflow in the form of a flow chart reading from the top to the bottom of the screen. The first item at the top of the screen is the “Workflow name” box. Enter a title for the new Approval Workflow. This title will be used later to select which Approval Workflow a document will use, so make the title as descriptive as possible.

Below the Workflow name is the flowchart. There is a green Start box, followed by an Add Step button. If you click on the Add Step button, a new step will be inserted into the workflow at this point, and “New First Step” will move to the second step position. Until you edit the step names, “New Step” will appear before “New First Step”. You can add as many steps to the workflow as you want. For convenience and ease of editing, there will always be an option to add a step before and after each step represented on the flow chart. 

The New Step or New First Step box will show the parameters set up when the Approval Workflow was created, and the Reviewers who can approve a document at this step. If there is only one step in the workflow, the Delete button will not be selectable. If the workflow has more than one step, each step will have a Delete button. Each step also has an Edit button so you can change it to suit your needs.

Click the Edit button to open the Edit Workflow Step window. At the top of the window is the Name box to name the individual step. Below that is a Description box for you to describe what should happen in this step. The “Allow document revisions at this step” checkbox will be checked by default.  

Under the Rejections heading, the Rejection Step dropdown allows you to select at which step the document may be rejected, once it is in the Approval Workflow. The “Require re-approval after rejection” checkbox will NOT be checked by default. If a document is rejected, this option requires all reviewers to approve the document again when it is resubmitted. The “Process rejections first” checkbox is selected by default. This option will reject the document immediately, if a single reviewer rejects it. If you uncheck this box, all reviewers will have to review the document before it is moved to the rejection step.

Under Timeouts, the Enable Timeouts box will not be checked. If you check this box, you will have to identify the timeout step using the dropdown, then select the number of days before the document “times out”. This means that when a document has been submitted, if the reviewer takes no action to reject the document, the document will automatically be approved once the timeout days have elapsed. If the Enable Timeouts box is unchecked, the document will remain in awaiting approval status until the reviewers accept or reject it.

Under Reviewers, the “All step reviewers must approve” checkbox will be checked by default. If you uncheck the box, the number dropdown will enable, and you will need to select the number of reviewers required to approve the document and move it to the next step.

Also, under the Reviewers section is a box with a green header bar containing the list of employees who can review and approve the documents in this workflow. Only the Approval Workflow creator will be listed by default. There will be a red X in front of each name, used to delete that person from the list. The green header bar is actually an option button. If you are creating an internal workflow, only the Employee option will be present. If you are creating an external workflow, there will be three options: Employee, External, and Company.

Clicking the Employee button will bring up an additional menu where you can select other employees from your company and add them as a reviewer. A pop-up will appear listing all employees from your company. All employees (not just those assigned to the project) will be listed as potential reviewers to allow for managerial oversight. You can search the list or scroll until you find the person you want to add. Click on that person’s name, and a green Add button will appear. If you want to add more than one reviewer, you will have to add them one at a time.

The External and Company buttons are used to create an external workflow. If you click External, you can add an employee from outside your company as a reviewer for this workflow by entering their email address. If you click Company, you will get a dropdown menu to select the Company to add as an approver. If you add an individual via their email address, that person will be the only person at that company who will have access to that workflow. If you add a company as a reviewer, anyone at that company can review and approve documents in this workflow.

Once you have the workflow step configured the way you want it, click the Save button at the bottom of the window. Continue editing each step until you have configured them all. Then click the red Exit Workflow Editor button on the top right-hand side of the screen. This button will save your changes and return you to the Company Admin screen. The new workflow will appear on the list of Approval Workflows when you reopen the Manage Approval Workflows window.

Updated on September 7, 2021

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