The Approval activity is used to create document routes. It represents those steps of a process where an employee (for example, a manager) approves or rejects a document. ELMA365 automatically creates a task to review the document and creates an approval sheet which contains the name of the approver and the decision. Tip: not only documents but also app items and files can be sent for approval.
Set up the Approval activity
All the settings are managed in three tabs: General, Deadline, Schedule in Calendar, Connectors, and Signature Settings. Here you can name the task, set a deadline, define the approval logic, add the task to the executor's calendar, enable the signature, etc.
To open the settings, double-click on the Approval shape on the process diagram.
Make sure that you have added a process context variable that will store the object sent for approval.
The General tab features general information about the approval task:
- Name*. Enter a name that will be displayed in the process diagram. We recommend choosing a short yet informative name to make the process diagram easy to read.
- Task name*. Enter a text that the task executor will see in their task list or on the task page. You can add a context variable to the name to make it more detailed. To do that, click on the + sign in the right corner of the field.
- Item to send for approval*. Specify the context variable that will store the file or app item that is sent for approval.
- Approval type. This option appears only if a user group or a department is specified as executor in swimlane settings. The task will be assigned to all the users who belong to the user group or department, and the system's behavior will depend on how you set up the connectors and the approval type:
- Parallel. The approval task will be simultaneously assigned to all executors included in the swimlane. Depending on connector settings, ELMA365 will either wait until every executor reviews the document or the process will go to the next step as soon as one of the executors approved or rejected the document.
- Sequential. The task will be assigned consequently to all the executors one by one. The process will go to the next step only when all the employees will accomplish the task. With connector settings, you can define how the system must behave if someone rejects the document.
Please note that in a dynamic swimlane the tasks will be assigned in the same order as users were specified in the user-type variable. In a static swimlane, the sequence is random.
- Leave only actual participants. Remove from the approval sheet those users who were assigned with the approval task but had neither approved nor rejected the document.
- Write the output variable. Specify a String type variable that will be used to store the output of the current operation.
The following examples will help you understand how to use approval types in different cases.
In a certain company, every new contract has to be approved by the accountant, legal officer, and security officer. It is important not to delay the process, so the approval task must be assigned to all the approvers at the same time. In order for the process to continue, the decision of every approver is required. Select the Parallel approval type, then set up the connector, specifying the approval percentage equal to 100. In this case, all the approvers will receive the Approve contract task, and the process won't go further until all of them complete the task.
Let's take a look at the work of the Legal Department. Any legal employee can verify customer contracts and analyze the legal effects of the contract's clauses. It does not matter who exactly verifies and approves the contract, but it is important to start work as soon as possible. Select the Parallel approval type. In connector settings, set the approval and rejection percentage more than zero. The approval task will be assigned to each employee of the Legal Department. The person who is free at the moment will start working on it. As soon as this person approves or rejects the contract and clicks a corresponding button on the task form, ELMA365 will cancel this task for all the other employees. You can read more about connector settings further down below.
Let's say, at a certain step of a process several managers have to read and approve a report before the process will go further. Select Sequential approval. ELMA365 will assign the approval task to one manager, and as soon as he or she completes it, the system will assign the task to the next manager. In connector settings, you can specify how you want the system to behave in case one of the managers rejects the report
On this tab, you can set the due date for the task as well as specify the system behavior in case the task is not completed on time.
There are two ways to set the deadline:
- Exact time. Specify the number of days, hours or minutes that the executor has to complete the task. The business calendar can be taken into account;
If the approval task belongs to a swimlane with multiple executors, each of the executors will have the specified number of days, hours, and minutes to complete the task.
- Variable. Sometimes it is needed to complete the approval by a certain moment, for example, by the date when an employee has to get back to the customer with a reviewed document. By this time all the approvers have to either approve or reject the document. In this case, you can use a context variable of the date/time type to define the deadline for the approval task.
If the approval task belongs to a swimlane with multiple executors, and a variable is used to define the deadline, all the executors will have to complete their tasks by this moment, otherwise, the task will be overdue.
In the Notification field, you can select users who will be notified if the executor fails to complete the approval task on time. You can select the current user, a context variable (for example, the process initiator), a user group or an org chart item.
This escalation connector is marked with the timer icon on the process diagram. The process takes this path if the set time is over but the executor hadn't marked the task as completed. The other connectors will not be activated.
For example, let's say that the employee from the Legal Department didn't close the contract approval task on time. The process flow will take the escalation connector and assign the next task to the CEO.
Schedule in Calendar tab
To avoid overscheduling, you can schedule the task only for some of the days. Let's say that the approval deadline is in a week. You can schedule the task to appear in the calendar only on the last three days of the week:
- Add Date/Time variables to the context. They will store the start and end days of the period the task will be displayed in the calender.
- Add a script on the process diagram to calculate the values of these variables.
- On the Schedule in Calendar tab, select the variables in the Start date and End date fields.
Here you can define the approval logic: specify the conditions that define which connector the process flow should take. Do not forget to specify a default connector, it is necessary to avoid creating a bottleneck. If none of the specified conditions is met, the process still needs to go further using the default connector.
Note that if an escalation connector is set up, the other connectors can be activated only before the task's deadline is reached.
The approval task form has only two buttons: Approve and Reject, regardless of how many outgoing connectors the activity has on the process diagram.
To open the connector’s settings, click on its name.
- Name. We recommend giving a short and clear name since it will be displayed on the transition button on the task form.
- Description. In this field, enter the text of the tooltip.
Specify the conditions under which the process should go down this connector.
- You can set up multiple conditions and use a Logical operator to check them. If the result is True, then the process flow will follow this connector:
- AND. The result is True if both conditions are met.
- OR. The result is True if at least one condition is met.
- AND NOT. The result is True if at least one of the conditions is not met.
- OR NOT. The result is True if both conditions are not met.
Please note that the conditions are checked in the same order as they are listed in the connector's settings.
- Operand 1, 2. Here you have to select a process context variable or enter a value (for example, the approval or rejection percentage).
- Operation. Here you can define the comparison operator that will be used to check the conditions by comparing the operands.
Signature Settings tab
On this tab, you can enable and set up the use of digital signatures in the Approval task. If a user clicks Approve, a pop-up appears with the following options: Sign attributes, Sign document file, Sign decision.
Set up these options.
Enable signing. You can disable it by selecting Do not use. Then the user completing the task will only need to click Approve without having to sign the document.
To enable signing after a user clicks Approve, select one of the following options:
- Optional. The Sign option is by default disabled. Instead of Next, the user sees the Approve button, and can approve the document without signing it. However, if needed, the user can check the Sign box and then click Next to sign the document;
- Preferred. The Sign option is by default enabled but the user can disable it;
- Required. The Sign option is by default enabled, and the user cannot disable it. The task cannot be completed without signing.
Next, select the option for signing document attributes.
Sign attributes. Defines whether the approver needs to sign the app item’s attributes:
- Do not use. The option is disabled. It is not displayed in the Approval task.
- Optional. The option is displayed in the approval window, but it is not selected by default. The user can select it if needed.
- Preferred. The option is displayed in the approval window, and it is selected by default. The user can deselect it if needed.
- Required. The option is selected by default and cannot be disabled. The user cannot approve the document without singing its attributes.
Sign document file. The settings for this field are the same as for Sign attributes.
Sign decision. The settings for this field are the same as for Sign attributes. If the user signs the decision, the system will generate a text file with information about the approval task, the item sent for approval, the approver’s decision and comment, and the user who was approving the document.
For illustration, let's take a look at the following contract approval route.
Here is a list of all process steps and their executors:
As you can see from the diagram, the approval in this process is done in two stages. The approval logic is different on each stage, so the settings of outgoing connectors will also be different.
The first task, Approve contract, has four outgoing connectors:
We have selected parallel execution, so all the legal department employees will receive the contract for approval at the same time. Once an employee reviews the contract and makes a decision, we want ELMA365 to cancel the task for the rest of the users. We can achieve this by configuring the connector settings.
The second Approve contract task is located in a swimlane with only one executor. This means that the Parallel or Sequential approval types are not applied here.
The condition for the Approved connector is Approval percentage > 0, therefore, the process will take this path only if the Head of Sales approves the document. The Rejected connector is the default connector.
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