Multi-tier Approval is a workflow process initiated by a request that requires approval by multiple users at different levels of authority before action is taken on the request.
AssetSonar enables you to set up multi-tier approval workflows. Each request moves through defined approval levels – each level has a specific approver that reviews and approves the request before moving to the next approval level. Requests can be approved or denied based on defined criteria such as budget limits, vendor details, or delivery locations.
For example, an employee wants to purchase a software license. They will submit a request that is approved by their manager, IT department, and finance department before the purchase can be made.
1. Benefits of using Multi-tier Approval
- Enhanced efficiency: In major organizations, requests are often held up due to missing information which results in delayed approvals. Multi-tier approvals help requestors reduce the time and effort required to obtain approvals by consolidating all required data in a single sequence and presenting it to the manager for approval.
- Improved accuracy: Multi-tier approval ensures that requests and actions are carried out accurately. Each approver verifies and approves the information provided to reduce the risk of inaccuracies in purchase orders.
- Increased control and accountability: Clearly identify specific approvers responsible for approving requests, improving transparency, and preventing unauthorized actions.
- Greater visibility and communication: Track approval status and progress of workflows to identify bottlenecks and take prompt actions to complete the task on time.
2. Set up workflows
To get started with Multi-tier approval, go to Add Ons → Custom Workflows and enable the setting.
2.1. Set up members’ permissions
The existing roles in the app can work for all system roles. If you want to make changes to a custom role, please see below:
Requester: You can permit any role to be a requester. Simply turn on the ability to view, update, and delete their Purchase Requests. This setting is turned on by default when you start a custom role with any baseline. You can turn off this setting if you don’t want anyone in particular to request it.
Approver: Any user added as an approver in the Multi-Tier approval workflow can approve or deny the purchase request by default. This is because users need special permission to be added to the flow. Admins are able to give this permission by default. If you would like to change or specify these permissions in a custom role, you can turn off the settings by checking the permissions below:
Backup Approver: If an Approver is out sick, on vacation, or no longer in the system, the backup approvers can approve on his behalf.
- Active Backup approver (company settings): The user will receive an email notification if a Multi-tier approver is unavailable. You can assign an active backup approver in the default purchase request approver field above.
- Passive backup approver: These are all admins and account owners. In addition, any custom role given an ‘Approver’ role can also be a passive backup approver. Since these are passive backup approvers, they won’t receive email notifications. However, they will be able to view the number of approvals required in the notification bell on the Dashboard in the app.
Using these baseline permissions, we will use the following individual examples to explain the workflows in this document:
- Requester: Roland John
- Approvers: Amanda Mayer – PM, Mark – Manager PM, Martin – Executive Manager.
3. Create Workflows
To get started, go to the side Navigation bar → More → Workflows → Add Workflow. An overlay will appear to add in Workflow Title and details.
You will now be directed to the Workflow Details page, where you can enter the Approver’s details. Purchase Orders can be requested by a certain employee, team, or role.
Further, you can set different conditions for your approval request. It can have a specific delivery location, vendor, or amount set as conditions. Here we will set two conditions for our workflow:
We have set the conditions as “Total Amount less than 500” and “Delivery location equals Corporate HQ.” This means any approval workflow that meets both these criteria will be approved by the approver assigned in this workflow.
The AND/OR criteria can be changed by clicking on the toggle between the conditions. Similarly, you also have the option to edit the Filters Criteria by moving the brackets as shown below:
After adding relevant criteria, select an Approver. You can either select a specific name or role from the dropdown or you can choose the option to Auto-Approve or Auto-Deny.
The completed workflow looks like this:
You can view a list of workflows on the Workflow Listing page. You can also prioritize the order of workflows by shifting up or down as per their position in the workflow chain.
The order of workflows can be based on the set criteria. For example:
- Small to Medium value order has a condition “Total amount less than $10,000” and two approvers – Amanda Mayer and Manager.
2. High-value purchase request has a condition “Total amount greater than $10,000” and three approvers: PM, Manager PM, and Executive.
4. Multi-tier approvals for Purchase Orders
4.1. Creating a purchase request
Roland John (Requester) makes a purchase request.
The purchase order has one item amounting to $50 and the delivery location is set to Corporate HQ. This approval falls under ‘Small Order to Corporate HQ’ and that’s why the approver is Amanda Mayer(PM).
4.2. Approving the purchase request
Let’s take a look at how the three workflows we created above can be used to approve or deny purchase requests:
- For ‘Small Order to Corporate HQ’ workflow
Roland has submitted a purchase request that can be viewed on the Listings Page of Admin.
The request shows Approval Pending (1of1) which means the request has a single approver. The approver can open the purchase request and choose to accept or deny the request.
The Approver has denied the request and the status has been updated.
- For ‘Small to medium value orders’ workflow
Roland has created another purchase request amounting to $8,000 and the delivery location is Corporate HQ. This criteria falls under small to medium value order and has an Approval Pending state (1 of 2)
Amanda – the first approver has approved the Purchase Request. Once the first set of approvals is complete, the Purchase Request status shows ‘Approval Pending on Manager (2 of 2) in Workflow # 19.
For the second approval, the manager goes to the listing page, opens the purchase request, and chooses to approve or deny the request.
The purchase request status changes to ‘Confirmed: Items Pending’ after the manager has approved.
- For ‘High-value Purchase requests’ workflow
Roland creates another purchase request for an amount greater than $10,000. Since this criterion falls under high-value purchase requests, it will go through three levels of approval: PM → Manager→ Executive Manager.
The first approver Amanda Mayer (PM) received the request for approval and the request was approved.
The request is now pending approval by the second approver – Mark (Manager PM). He also approves the request.
The purchase request is now received by the third approver – Martin (Executive Manager). He has requested revisions in the request. For this, he goes to More → Request Revision.
The Executive manager adds a comment to the request and the status is updated to Review Required.
This will automatically alert the PM so they can timely address the revision comments. For this purchase order, Mark has edited the quantity and the total amount of the request is now $65.
In order to edit the Purchase Request, please enable the following permissions in your account
The edited purchase request is again sent into the chain of workflows for approval. Once the revised request has been approved, you can view the history of all actions in the Events tab on the Purchase Order details page. Here you can also view changes in the approval workflow after the quantity was revised in the purchase request.
Note: The approval workflow is completed when all approvers have approved the request. If any approver has denied or requested revision, the workflow ends there. The revised request is again sent for approval in the workflow chain.
5. Actions on multi-tier workflows
5.1. Deactivating a workflow
Let’s say a high value purchase request workflow has to be deactivated. Go to More → Workflows → High-value purchase workflow details page → Click ‘Deactivate’
A warning message will appear highlighting Purchase Orders associated with the workflow. All associated requests must be completed in order to deactivate this workflow.
5.2. Editing a workflow
The Account Owner has edited the workflow from the Workflow Details Page → Edit. The approver’s list has been changed to ‘Roles’ instead of ‘Users’
These changes can be viewed in the history of workflows. Go to the Workflow Details page → Events tab.
As shown above, the previous workflow #6 has been deactivated and the new edited workflow #20 is activated. Any purchase order requested in workflow # 6 will be completed as per the previous sequence of approvals. All new purchase orders will follow the new chain of workflows edited in workflow # 20.
Note: If the workflow has no PR pending in it, it will simply Edit without a new version.
6. Troubleshooting FAQs
6.1. What if the Approver for workflows is on leave or needs to be deactivated?
There can be situations where the set approver is unavailable (due to being deactivated, deleted, or non-login). An active backup approver can be set up in such cases by going to Settings → Add Ons →Purchase Orders. The default approver will be notified when the set approver is unavailable.
6.2. Can a request be auto-approved/denied based on certain criteria and no approvers involved?
Yes, you can auto-approve or deny requests. Small purchases for amounts less than $10 can be set for auto-approvals. Here’s how you can set an auto-approver:
6.3. I submitted my request 10 days ago. Why isn’t the request approved yet?
If an approval is pending on any approver, the system will continue to wait. You can look up the person upon whom the request might be waiting. There are two ways to view this:
- On the PO listings or details page, the purchase request will show the approval status pending and the approver’s name it is pending.
2. On the Workflow Details page, the Executions tab shows all Purchase requests and which step of the workflow they are at with approver details.
6.4. A wrong Purchase Request (PR) was approved by the wrong approver. How can I trace why this happened?
The system will follow the chain of approvers as set in the workflow. To check why a PR was approved any other way, you can view the history of the PO and see the entire approval history. You can also look at the history of the workflow created to know how it was set up.
By following these simple steps, you are all set to create Multi-tier Approval workflows to review and verify purchase order requests and expedite the approval process.
Read more: Purchase Order Management in AssetSonar