Brian Tracey, a recognized Canadian-American self-development author, once said “Every minute you spend in planning saves ten minutes in execution”. I believe this quote is accurate in the context of approval workflows in project management.
How many times has your project gotten stuck because of a pending approval? As project managers, we are responsible for a plethora of activities. From task management, resource planning, scopes of work, project plans, and time management to approvals, rapport building, and stakeholder management.
Approvals might not be the first activity we think of, but it’s definitely one that puts a strain on our timelines. Sometimes we have tasks within our plan that have dependencies on stakeholders rather than other tasks. If no approval is given, we reach an impasse and risk delaying the project.
What do I look for when I select the best approval workflow software? Here’s a summary of my evaluation criteria:
- Built-in functionality: I will find if the tools in this overview have a “native” approval functionality or if they have a feature that can be used as patchwork to adapt it to my workflow and handle approvals.
- Integrations: I look for other software that we can connect to. Maybe our tool is not the best at it, but we can import that functionality from another software.
- Customization: I want to see if the approval functionality can be adapted to any workflow.
Approval Workflow Software Key Features
- Friendly user Interface (UI): I look for good visual integration with the tool, where I can easily see who is the approver, what tasks they are responsible for, and the status of the approval.
- Automation: I look for ways of making this approval process automated. Reducing manual error is key. Whether it’s an automatic assignment of the approver to a task when it’s needed or an email notification to stakeholders when the approval is required.
- External collaboration: The ability to send notifications to a third party who is not actively using the software. This feature will allow for client approvals or other external stakeholders that we come across along the way.
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Wrike is a work management platform that lets you create automated approval workflows in a no-code environment. Eliminate time wasted chasing approvals with Wrike’s advanced customization capabilities and enable your team to create more high-quality work every day.
Wrike offers a user-friendly experience with advanced customization capabilities. For example, you can organize, see, and manage project timelines using Kanban boards, drag-and-drop Gantt charts, and detailed dashboards. Additionally, you have access to visual proofing, which allows your approvers to comment and interact with your team during the approval process.
Proofing is available in the Business Plus and Enterprise plans. If you are an approver, you will receive all your pending approval notifications in your Wrike Inbox , or you can add a widget to your dashboard to show approvals.
Wrike offers native pre-built integrations with more than 400 popular platforms, including Microsoft, Google, and Dropbox, along with sales and marketing software from Salesforce and Marketo.
Wrike starts at $9.80 per user per month and has a free version for up to five users. There is also a 14-day free trial for paid plans.
monday.com is a robust platform that has tons of modules, features, products, and functionality to solve almost any problem you have with your projects. Approvals are not the exception as the software has forms, automations, approval status fields, and independent views we can create for approvers.
Unlike dedicated approval software, where we can set up approval levels and maybe lock further activity from happening without approval, monday.com can handle more lightweight approval processes. Approvals that are more notification-based and where you want stakeholder buy-in.
Forms are the best way to handle approval submissions you may have missed in your planning phase. They let you or your team select an approver, and add notes, files, budget details, and more relevant information.
monday.com’s integrations include project management apps like Slack, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, Jira, GitHub, Trello, Dropbox, Typeform, and many more, accessible through a paid plan with Zapier.
monday.com is free for up to 2 users and paid plans start at $8/user/month.
Filestage is a GDPR-compliant review and approval platform used by marketing teams, agencies, and production companies around the world. Why? Probably because it takes minutes for you to set up approval workflows, whether that's manually or using one of the available templates.
Filestage centralizes your approval workflow into a single dashboard. From there, you can see every review step, file format, version, and reviewer in your project, with status indicators to show who’s approved what. Additionally, the platform allows you to save each comment, so you can go back and check who said what.
But it’s not until you start using the platform that the time-saving tricks really reveal themselves. Tap on videos instead of writing time codes in your comments. Compare versions side by side to provide more accurate feedback. Automatically share content with your external reviewers once it’s been approved by your internal team.
Filestage features native integrations with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Asana – plus thousands more apps through their integration partners, like Pabbly.
Pricing starts at $24/user/month and offers a 7-day free trial which is great if you want to test it out and see how it works with your workflows. You can also invite an unlimited number of reviewers and external uploaders to your account for free.
Process Street is a tool dedicated to streamlining work processes. You can use it to build approval workflows for your project and reduce some of the good old chasing around for a simple ‘yes’. If this is your first time creating workflows, it will take you a bit of time to get the hang of it.
Once you learn it though, it will improve your DPM quality of life. Their builder is drag and drop. You can create approval checklists, automate email notifications, and set independent approval stages in your process, called stops. A stop will not allow for work to continue until approval is given.
Process Street integrates with thousands of apps through Zapier, as well as Google Workspace, Jira, Salesforce, Bamboo HR, and more.
Process Street is free for one workflow. Paid plans start at $25/user/month and have a 14-day free trial.
Intelligencebank is a digital asset management (DAM) platform that recently upgraded its online proofing and approvals feature. With this update, it’s possible to collaborate on marketing campaigns and content reviews.
As you automate your approvals, create brand checklists to make sure that the person responsible for the review knows the steps required from a compliance standpoint. Have a section you want to highlight? You can draw on top of the content so you make sure no one misses the spot you are discussing.
Intelligencebank has connectors built to integrate with Adobe Creative Cloud, Salesforce, Google Workspace, Drupal, and more.
Intelligencebank pricing is given upon request and grouped into 5 tiers.
Admation is a tool that focuses on creative projects. This software can handle routine approvals where you need one person to give a yes or no answer, and complex approvals that require four levels of approvals. Program your pathways and let the approval process run on its own!
The user interface is not the friendliest but it has the tools you need to handle approvals. Attach documents, add comments to a revision, and see approval paths in just a couple of clicks.
If you need a tool where your content lives, helps with compliance and acts as a collaboration tool between stakeholders in your digital marketing projects, try Admation.
Admation’s integrations include Box.com, Amazon, AWS Storage, and Google Drive.
Pricing is given upon request and is grouped in 4 packages to accommodate small teams and enterprise teams.
Gain is an approval software focused on making the approvers and your team collaborate in one place. Load content, send it for approval, receive comments on it, and get that green light you’ve been waiting for - in minutes. Your email inbox will thank you for it.
Gain has the option to define single approval workflows or complex approvals that require 2 or 3 rounds of approvals. Once you create a workflow for your type of content, whether financial management, purchasing, or digital marketing, you can save it as a template.
Ready to send your work? Click on ‘send to approve’ and select the workflow that better suits your needs.
Gain integrates with Canva and accepts uploads and imports from apps such as Google Drive, Box, Illustrator, Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and more.
Gain’s price is a $99/month flat fee for up to 10 users. $10 extra per user after user #10 and comes with a 14-day trial.
In Tallyfy, your mapped processes are called blueprints. These blueprints outline the steps needed for that process, from the input information required from the user to the approval decision-making trees.
This software can work for you if you have a very well-understood logic behind your process and little variation. Not the friendliest tool to look at, but it can definitely help you automate workflows for your projects.
I think it will take time to learn how to use it properly, but if you have previous experience with mapping processes, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Tallyfy integrations include native Slack and Google Workspace, a Zapier connector, and offers a REST API and webhooks.
Tallyfy costs $30/user/month (4 users minimum) and has a 14-day free trial.
Moxo is a platform that is focused on digitally transforming client interactions by bringing them to the software. Because of this, they have created a workflow client-centric tool that serves all interactions within a company.
What’s interesting to you? They have a document approval workflow builder that can help you get a ‘yes’ from your client without having to chase them with emails and phone calls. Because there’s collaboration integrated into the tool, the back-and-forth can be minimized by centralizing all communications in the tool.
Moxo can connect to thousands of apps through Zapier.
Moxo pricing starts at $12/user/month (10 minimum). Be aware that there is a one-time setup fee on top of it.
Smartsheet is one of our favorite platforms for project management. This is a powerful software that has approval workflow automation capabilities within its automations module. Start with a trigger and follow with the notification required for the approver to view.
In Smartsheet, not every person involved in the approval process has to be a user of the platform. Smartsheet lets you send notifications outside of your organization to anyone with a valid email address.
Smartsheet integrations include Microsoft and Google apps, as well as development essentials like Jira, and useful business apps like Salesforce, ServiceNow, Slack, Box, and Tableau. The platform is extensible through a REST API and webhooks.
Smartsheet pricing starts at $7/user/month and has a 30-day free trial
The 10 Best Approval Workflow Software Summary
14-day free trial
|From $9.80/user/month||Visit Website|
14-day free trial + freemium plan available
|From $10/user/month||Visit Website|
7-day free trial
|From $24/user/month||Visit Website|
14 days free trial for paid plans
|From $12.50/user/month||Visit Website|
|Pricing upon request||Visit Website|
|From $30/user/month||Visit Website|
14 days free trial
|From $99/month flat fee for up to 10 users||Visit Website|
14 days free trial
|From $30/user/month (4 users minimum)||Visit Website|
|From $90/month||Visit Website|
30-day free trial
|From $9/user/month||Visit Website|
Here are a few more tools that didn’t make the top list. Let me know if you have any more that are worthy of mention in the comments!
Clear decision making to get faster sign-off on creative projects
Build workflows or customize templates with no code.
Workflow product dedicated to business processes and approvals.
Visual process designer to assist your approval automations
Project management software with proofing capabilities
No code AI-powered automations
Integrates 3rd party apps with dynamic forms
Data collection through customizable online forms
- Process Plan
Workflow software with an AI analyzer that improves your workflows
What Is An Approval Workflow?
Also referred to as the approval process, the approval workflow is the series of steps that a unit of work must go through to get formally approved. Approval workflow software helps project managers automate those processes by defining the steps and approvers required in a specific scenario.
What Do You Think About This List?
I hope you like the list. As always, the perfect software is difficult to find and all you can do is try and make an informed decision on what is the best tool for your operations.
Most of the software on this list requires you to have previous experience with workflows. If you are just starting, check out our Guide to Workflow Diagrams for PMs where you can learn the basics to start building great processes and even better automations!
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