Document Management

How to automate document approval workflows

November 8, 2023
Deepak Dhanak

Deepak Dhanak

Co-Founder & CEO at | CA, HBS, IIM-A
6 min read

Are operational bottlenecks keeping you from meeting your growth goals? You are not alone. As many as 1/3rd of organizations want to prioritize efficiency.

In this context, streamlining document approval workflows is a game changer.

Never run into an approval loop again. 

Quickly move ahead with new decisions and business deals by getting all stakeholders to:

  1. Swiftly agree on clauses within a single file 
  2. Sign documents and contracts digitally

Some of the top reasons your competitors are automating approval workflows include:

  • Hassle-free document management
  • Secure signing and storage  
  • More employee bandwidth for high-value tasks

Your step-wise guide to automating document approval workflows 

You don’t need to involve coding expertise to automate your document approval workflows.

Simply opt for an end-to-end document approval management platform that is big on collaboration and secure controls. 

Automate document approval workflows swiftly and securely:

How you can set up an automated document approval workflow: an example
Imagine you need to automate a document approval workflow for hiring and vendor contracts. Here, you want a platform and plan that offers flexibility on the number of esigns and users; you don’t want to go back to the management for budget approval each time you run out of signatures or need to add more users.

Once you pick a plan, map the stages in your current workflow to the ideal automation workflow – creators leverage templates with standard clauses vetted by legal, make custom edits if any, and forward it for approvals and signing to relevant folks. Stakeholders at both ends get automated alerts when the signing process is complete.

Alternatively, employees and vendor partners can add their comments to the draft, requesting edits. This sets off automated alerts to creators, decision-makers as well as legal; relevant stakeholders can review, collaborate and close on the requests online, saving the hassle of manual follow-ups and version tracking.

You can also set custom rules for review alerts in case where hiring is related to a newly created position or when vendor retainer fees run into six figures and above.

After defining the workflow stages, make sure you set adequate user controls in place. Depending on how responsibilities are divided within the team, you can choose to give creator rights to everyone on the hiring and procurement team or limit them to team leads. Employees and vendor partners can be given signing rights, with commenting rights at your discretion.

Top ways you can maximize the efficiency of your digital approval workflows 

Make sure you adopt the right framework and approach at the planning stage. This is key to finding success with implementation. At DocuX, we recommend these best practices to boost your automation efficiency: 

Opt for secure encryption  

Approvals often get stuck at the desk of busy stakeholders when they are out of office. Invest in a platform that offers enterprise-level security. It should enable secure in-cloud signing and approvals. 

This helps you speed up closures without compromising secure access. It also saves you the hassle of filing and retrieving documents from offline folders. Audits, document updates, and contract renewals get easy.  

Let everyone get alerts  

To get the most out of automation, make it inclusive. Enable visibility on document progress for internal and external stakeholders. This way, they are likely to cause minimal delays. It will also give them clarity on related tasks. 

Use an automation platform to create a culture of high ownership and greater productivity. Compare your options to scale the number of users without impacting costs. 

Consider bulk management 

Once you have set the automation ball in motion, use it for all your document approvals. As you scale your business, invest in plans with features such as templates and bulk downloads. This way, in case of compliance needs or future migration, you don’t have to worry about any operational or budgetary nightmare. 

Build in user simplicity 

Multi-tool fatigue and discrepancies take a toll on even the most efficient workers. Opt for an end-to-end document management platform to make the creation-to-approval lifecycle seamless. You may also want to consider platforms that integrate well with top workflow management systems.  

Use add-on tools and features 

Don’t let your best people struggle with pre approval stage challenges. Speed up the entire document management lifecycle by offering everyone a demo of features such as templates, no-code customization, and more.

Top platforms to automate document approval workflows 

While most top platforms offer extensive features and functionality, consider which features are a priority for your company. 

Here is a broad overview of what the top platforms offer: 

PlatformDocuSign CLMPandaDoc DocuX
Online collaboration  
Enterprise-level security
Role-based authentication
(only for enterprise users)
✔(only for enterprise users)
Tracking and analyticsX (Coming soon)
Templates and pre-configured workflows
Free trial X
Business pricing starts atOnly for enterprises. Pricing undisclosed.$49 per seat$29 per creator

Request a free demo of DocuX to see approvals in action.

5 features that make your document approval workflows more secure  

Secure cloud storage

You can only rely on automation even for the most critical document approvals when you are confident of your storage infrastructure. Prioritize a document workflow management platform that is invested in enhanced cloud security. 

For instance, the DocuX platform and data are hosted on ISO 27001 certified data centers and the cloud infrastructure is based on Microsoft Azure. 

Custom user controls

Often the biggest data breaches take place because of unaware users with compromised systems. Make sure your automation platform allows you to give users custom control based on roles and relevance. This ensures a) document sensitivity b) limited access for external stakeholders where you don’t have control over systems

Make it a point to build in robust system security for internal stakeholders with creator and collaborator rights. 

Digital encryption layer  

This ensures your documents and data are only accessed by those you have authorized. By digitally encrypting every document and signature, top platforms protect your documents from being wrongly accessed, even in case of a breach. 

Identity proofing

You wouldn’t want to risk someone wrongly accessing the intended approver’s system to send you an approval. With identity proofing, platforms use a digital signature certificate to verify the origin of your approved document. This way, you can be rest assured about authenticity. 

FAQs: Document approval workflow automation 

How much does it cost to automate document approval workflows?

Most platforms offer a customized quote. Depending on your requirements, costs can start as low as USD 29 per month, per creator

Is the RoI on automating document approval workflow worth the software cost?

Yes, automating document approval workflows has tangible business benefits for companies of all sizes. You can expect faster deal-to-revenue timeline, swift contract renewals, prompt talent onboarding, faster document creation, and freed-up resource bandwidth. 

Are automation-based approved documents legally valid? 

Absolutely, electronically or digitally signed and approved documents are legally valid in most economies. In fact, they are not only admissible in a court of law but in the case of digital signatures, they are also protected by non-repudiation.

Is automating document approval workflows ideal only for big organizations? 

Automating document approval workflows is a great way to enhance efficiency for everyone – whether you are a start-up, mid-sized business, or a large enterprise. Depending on the volume of approvals and nature of your workflows, you can negotiate a platform fee that works for your budget. 

How to make a case for automating document approval workflows?

If you are a mid-management professional, it can be tough to convince senior management about investing in automation. In this case, arrange a group demo, followed by a free trial. Make sure you set up a review process to capture the benefits experienced during the trial; use them to highlight the potential advantages for your company’s top challenges and goals with a deck.

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