Our Blog

Tips and tools to improve your document approval workflow

document approval
By Drazen Vujovic. Reviewed by: James Rose. Last Updated June 21, 2024

Document approvals are just a small segment of the overall document management process, but they can still cause major bottlenecks. This is particularly common in organizations that still rely on manual workflows.

If this sounds a bit too familiar, it’s time to build an efficient document approval system using modern tools and communication best practices. In this post, we’ll show you:

  • The basics of document approvals
  • Common stages of this process
  • The problems with manual approvals
  • Some of the best practices in this field

Let’s take a look!

Note: Just looking for the tips? Go straight to the best document approval practices.

What is document approval?

Document approval is the process of getting formal sign-off from collaborators on the status of a document. Documents can be almost anything — business reports, proposals, policies, plans, contracts, presentations, or any other written materials.

All parties involved in the process must review and accept the material before it’s considered complete. Businesses that value efficiency use automation software to speed up document approvals and make them more accurate.

Related: Accounting automation software: Industry experts reveal their favorites

What’s wrong with manual document approvals? 

Imagine a digital agency preparing to launch a marketing campaign. It’s a huge project that involves an entire creative team, SEO specialists, PR agents, and copywriters. Now all of them await the green light from the client and each other. But in this critical phase, making manual corrections and waiting for hard copies of files poses too many risks to the campaign. 

Relying on traditional, paper-based approval processes often results in inefficiencies, delays, and a higher likelihood of errors. That’s just one example of how manual document approvals hinder the productivity of modern businesses.

The situation is not much better if you rely on emails for document approval. Even a small team will soon get stuck in endless back-and-forth email threads this way. That’s why your document approval workflow should be based on a dedicated online tool.

Related: 3 modern client communication tools that put email to shame

Typical stages of the document approval workflow

Every organization can build a unique document approval process, but it’s still likely to follow a few key principles:

1. Drafting: You’ll first create the initial version of the file that needs to be reviewed and revised.

2. Review: Once a draft is ready, all parties involved in the project ought to review the document to check for accuracy, completeness, adherence to guidelines, and overall quality. This stage is critical because it often involves multiple rounds of feedback and revisions.

3. Approval request: Once the document is deemed ready, you’ll send a formal approval request to designated approvers. They need to re-evaluate the document and either approve it, request further revisions, or reject it. If there are changes, you go backwards a step to the review stage.

4. Final approval: Once all necessary approvals are obtained, the document is considered final.

5. Distribution or implementation: Now you can distribute the approved document to the relevant parties or implement it according to the guidelines outlined in the file.

Who needs efficient document approval?

The bigger the team/project, the more important it is to develop solid document approval workflows. However, a well-structured approval process is a must for pretty much all types of organizations and team sizes:

  • Businesses of all sizes: Efficient document approval is fundamental for businesses to maintain consistency and accuracy.
  • Compliance-driven industries: These industries need a rigorous document approval process to meet regulatory standards while ensuring adherence to legal requirements.
  • Cross-functional teams: Document approval is critical for cross-functional teams in marketing, IT, event planning, and so on. It facilitates collaboration to successfully harmonize diverse perspectives.
  • Remote teams: Timely document approval is also paramount for remote teams because it’s the only way to overcome the challenges posed by dispersed work environments.

The list can go on, but this is more than enough to figure out the importance of document approval processes.

Best practices to improve your document approval workflow

Some practices prove to be highly efficient for the review and approval of documents. We picked seven tips that will make your business operations much easier. 

1. Use a dedicated document collection and approval tool

The most important step in document approvals is to eliminate manual processes from your workflow. This means investing in automated document approval systems to reduce processing times and eliminate the risks associated with manual processes. Automation tools provide a centralized platform for collaboration, ensuring real-time tracking and accountability.

Our recommendation: Content Snare

Content Snare is a feature-packed document collection software that you can use to gather relevant files and information from clients. With this single tool, you can bypass annoying emails, client portals, and attachments.

Our platform enables clients to upload documents to your data-gathering form. That way, all parties involved can see and access files within the same request. Secondly, you can approve or reject your client’s inputs and ask them to make revisions:

This allows you to manage approvals all within a single dashboard — no need for sending emails. 

On the other hand, clients can leave a comment for any given field in your data collection request. This is a simple way to gather feedback without ever leaving Content Snare. The entire communication is based on automated reminders and notifications. We do the heavy lifting, so you and your clients don’t have to do anything manually.

What’s best, our platform allows users to upload documents of up to 16 GB per file. But even if you’re on a free trial, your clients can still upload files of up to 20 MB. 

Simplify your document approval system with Content Snare

More efficient than a client portal, our platform turns what used to be a tangled mess into a smooth document collection and approval process. 

Start your free trial

2. Integrate document approval with collaboration tools

Tip number two is to integrate document approval processes with collaboration tools such as project management platforms. This integration enhances the visibility of document approval status within the broader context of project management.

Content Snare is once again a good option in this field because it integrates with thousands of third-party apps via Zapier. Whether it’s Asana, ClickUp, or another project management platform, you can integrate it with Content Snare in minutes. 

3. Define approval workflows and provide training

It’s important to establish well-defined approval workflows that clearly outline the sequence of steps, responsible parties, and approval criteria. This applies to both internal and external documents. In addition, you should train employees on the document approval guidelines to make sure they understand their roles and responsibilities. 

4. Make use of electronic signatures

Electronic signatures are one of the easiest ways to expedite approval processes, especially in remote or distributed teams. E-signatures not only boost productivity but also provide a secure method for validating document approvals.

5. Establish role-based access controls

Another critical tip is to implement role-based access controls. That way, only authorized individuals will get access to specific documents at each stage of the approval process. This approach maintains confidentiality, security, and compliance with data protection regulations.

6. Regularly review and update the process

Document approval workflows aren’t set in stone. That’s why you should periodically review and update your process to adapt to changing business needs or technological advancements. You don’t need to do this every month, but it would be great to review the approval process once a year or similar. 

7. Stay compliant with regulatory standards

Last but not least, double-check whether your document approval processes adhere to relevant regulatory standards and compliance requirements. This is important because your workflows must reflect changes in regulations, reducing the risk of non-compliance and associated penalties.

Solidify your document approval process with Content Snare

A manual document approval process is no longer an option for contemporary businesses. If you want to streamline internal procedures and build successful client relationships, using a dedicated document review and approval platform is a must. 

Content Snare is one of the great options in this field — it automatically sends document collection reminders, features a superior system of approvals/rejections, and gives you full control over team access and permissions. 

You can take a free 14-day trial to check these and many other advanced functionalities. 

Are you ready?

Collect and approve documents through Content Snare

More efficient than a client portal, our platform turns what used to be a tangled mess into a smooth document collection and approval process. 

Start your free trial


Drazen Vujovic

Dražen Vujović is a journalist and content writer. More importantly, he is a father of two and a long-distance runner.