In order to get started with Contract Approvals as quickly as possible, this article will explain how approvals work in overview, Ideas for how to use approvals in your organisation, followed by a step-by-step guide to set up the Approvals feature.
How Do Approvals Work?
Contract approvals allows you to associate an approval status with each contract. New contracts are given a status of “pending”. Once submitted for approval, the status will change to “in progress”. At this stage the contract will be subject to a workflow (which either you or the system can decide) that can be different for each contract depending upon the type or value of the contract. Once the approval process is complete, the contract will either be “Approved” or “Rejected”
Why Should I Use Contract Approvals?
Approvals can be used to replace one or more of your current paper based processes or to introduce new controls into your contract process. The reasons and the scenarios for using approvals will differ from organisation to organisation but here some typical use scenarios
- All new contracts within an organisation over a specific value must be reviewed/approved by the legal department;
- In order to ensure no contract data is missing and all entered data is correct, each new contract must be approved by the centralised Contract Administrator before being considered “Live”;
- The commercial arrangements on all new sales contracts over £1,000 must be approved by the Sales Manager;
- All procurement contracts entered into must be reviewed and approved by the Head of Procurement before the contract is committed to.
TIP: that to be able to approve or reject a contract you will need to be set up as user. Note that Read only user have the ability to approve and reject
Setting up Approvals
If you wish to start using approvals in your account, the following quick start steps will help you get started with the least amount of effort! For more detailed information about approvals functionality you can later refer to the details Approvals articles: Approvals
TIP: You need to be an administrator user in order to complete these steps.
Step 1: Switch on Approvals
You first need to enable the approvals feature. Complete the following steps to switch on the approvals feature
- Click on “Configuration” cog
- From the configuration menu, locate “Approval” and click on "configuration"
- Change the option “contract approval active?” to "Yes"
You will now be able to see all the approval configuration options. In Step 6 we will review each of these configuration options.
Step 2: Get the Approval Status of your Existing Contracts Right
If you have existing contracts and then switch on the approvals feature, all the existing contracts will have an approval status of “Pending”. You may want to move some or all of your existing contracts into the “Approved” status. You must be an administrator to complete this step. To do this:
- On the menu, click on “Contracts” in order to view your contracts
- Select the view “All Contracts”. Because you have now switched on Approvals you will now have the column “Approval Status”. This column will show the current approval status of your contracts
- Using the select box to select each contract that you wish to set to “Approved”
- Now click on the Edit Selected button and choose “Bulk Approve”
- You will be asked to provide a note. For example, “Bulk approved. Start of use of Approvals”. This note will be added to each contract's approval record
- You will receive a message “You are about to approve 'x' contracts. Do you wish to continue?”. Click "Yes"
After a short time the process will complete and your selected contracts will be shown as approved.
Step 3: Set up Approval Groups [optional]
You are able to add one or more users to an approval group. You can include an approval group as part of your approval route. If an approval group is part of your approval route, then all the users in the approval group receive the notification to approve a contract at once. As soon as any of the users in the group have approved or rejected, it is actioned on behalf of all the users in the approval group.
You can create as many approval groups as you need. You may for example, have “Legal Approval Group” and “Directors Approval Group”.
To create a new group:
- click on the Groups option on the Approval Configuration menu
- Click New to create a new Group
- Give the group a name. For example, “Legal Approval Group” and an optional description and click Save
- With the members tab selected, click on "New"
- Search for the first user who is to be added to this new approval group and click save
- Now repeat the process to add each new member to the approval group
- When you’re done click on the back button twice to move back to the configuration menu
Step 4: Set up Approval Rules [Optional]
You are, optionally, able to set up approval rules. Approval rules can be created based on a contract type (e.g. legal, Procurement) and value (e.g. more than £10,000 annually) so that when a contract is submitted for approval, users are offered the correct approval rule based upon the contract's data.
Tip: Although Rules can be set up, you can also allow users to build their own approval route at the time they submit a contract for approval. See step 6 where configuration options are discussed
To create one or more rules:
- Click on “Rules” in order to review existing rules and to add new ones
- Click on New
The following form is presented:
Fig 1 - Approval Rule form
- Give your new rule a name. For example, “Legal Team to Approve All Contracts Over £10k”
- Choose one or more contracts type that this rule applies to. For example “Legal”. You can leave this field blank if the rule applies to all contracts
- In the contract value criteria field, specify the value criteria for this contract. For example, Annual > £10,000
Fig 2 - Approval Rule Value
- Next choose the approval route for the contracts that meet the criteria specified. You can choose “Supervisor” route (i.e. the rule will route contracts for approval to the submitters supervisor) or choose “Use [Sequential] or [Parallel] Chain” which will then allow you to specify the users/approval groups that contracts for this rule will be routed to. “sequential” = each user/approval group in turn), “parallel” = all users/approval groups are notified at once)
- Click Save
- Repeat for each Rule that is required
When a user now submits a contract the rules will be checked and the user will be able to select a rule that is appropriate for routing.
Step 5: Set up Users’ Supervisor [Optional]
If in your organisation you wish each user’s supervisor to approve contracts that they submit then you should use the supervisor approval route. You can set the option to allow users to select their supervisor when submitting for approval (see step 6) but must ensure each user has a specified Supervisor. The steps to set up a user’s supervisor is as follows:
- Click on “Configuration” cog
- Click on the Users option
- Click on the user who you want to set up a supervisor for
- On the approval section, edit the “My Supervisor is” field
- You can now choose “should be submitted for approval to” and select a user who is this person’s supervisor
Fig 3 - Supervisor settings in user profile
- Click save
You should repeat this for each user that needs to be able to submit contracts for approval.
Step 6: Review the configuration Options
There are a number of options relating to Approvals that should be reviewed to be sure the feature works best for your organisation. The settings page is accessed from the approval configuration menu.
Fig 4 - Approval Configuration screen
The usage of each of the approval settings is described in the table below:
|Contract approval Active?||If set to 'No' then all components of approvals are hidden from users and none of the other settings, rules, approval groups can be altered.|
When set to 'Yes' then all components are made active.
Note: that switching approvals off will not lose rules, groups or any of the current approval status of contracts. These will be restored as they were before when approvals are switched back on
|Allow user to build approval chain at submission?||If set to 'Yes' then when a user submits a contract for approval the user will be presented with an option that allows them to create an approval chain of their own choosing.|
This is useful if you don’t have any approval rules set up (or very few). The setting facilitates flexible approval.
|Allow Self Approval…||If set to 'Yes', this option will allow a user to self-approve a contract if either:|
|Only Approved Contracts.....||If set to 'Yes' then only contracts that have an Approval status of 'Approved' can use the Electronic Signature functionality|
|Allow users to choose their Supervisor as approver||If set to 'Yes', this option gives the submitter the ability to submit a contract for approval via the 'supervisor' hierarchy.|
Note: If the user submitting has no supervisor configured then the although it will still be shown to the user it will be greyed and can not be used
For more information about how to configure the supervisor for a user click here
|Allow submitter to change approval chain after submission||This option can enable or disable the ability of the user that originally submits a contract for approval to subsequently edit the list of Approvers.|
At all times, admin users will have the ability to alter the approval chain after submission
Note: approvers can never be edited once they have approved or rejected a contract.
|Allow assigned users to update submitted entities|
By Default, this setting will be set to “No” so any existing approval requests are unaffected – an 'In Progress' contract approval cannot be edited.
If you set the option to “Yes”, any 'In Progress' contract can be edited by the person who is currently assigned to review/approve the contract. Any users not part of the approval request will be locked out and unable to make changes. For parallel approvals this will result in all people part of the approval request being able to edit the contract at once.
|Auto change Approval status to pending when||This option controls what happens to an approved contract, if the contract is subsequently amended.|
|Approval Portal Enabled||If set to 'Yes' then when the Approval email is received and actioned, the user will be presented with a portal detailing summary information about the contract to enable them to make a decision to Approve or Reject. |
There is also an option to 'Review' the contract, if selected, this option will open up the users intelligentcontract account open at that contract
|Approve or reject from email link requires user to login||When a user is next to action (i.e. approve or reject) a contract, they will receive an email. The email contains links to [Review] the contract.|
If this option is set to No, when a user clicks on [Review], they will not be required to login to their intelligentcontract account in order to review the summary data and then subsequently confirm their approval or rejection.
By requiring a user to login before accepting or rejecting a contract will ensure that, even if emails are not intercepted by a 3rd party, they will not get access to be able to see summary data and/or be able to maliciously approve or reject a contract on behalf of a user.
By not requiring a user to login you are making the system of approval by email much simpler for your users
|Confirmation required||If set to 'Yes' the then when the User approves the contract then they are prompted with an Approval Confirmation screen for completion|
|Confirmation dialog title||Field to appropriately name the Approval Confirmation screen|
|Confirmation dialog text||Field to enter Approval Confirmation text, such as a disclaimer|
|User must check confirmation box||If set to 'Yes' then a tickbox will be displayed in the screen that must be checked to confirm the approval|
|Days to wait before sending Approval notification again||This option allows you set the number of days before the system will send a reminder to a user that has not yet approved or rejected a contract assigned to them.|
This can be set a minimum of 1 day. i.e. send a approval notification each day that an approval transaction is outstanding.
Days to wait before sending Approval notification again
Number of hours between Approval notifications sent to users
|This setting controls the number of hours that must elapse before the submitter of a contract can request that a notification be sent to the user that is currently assigned to approve or reject the contract they submitted.|
Only the person that submitted the contract (or an administrator) can request to send additional approval notifications.
Step 7: Review the Approval Template
The approval template is where administrators can control which fields are visible to users that approve or reject transactions through their email notification. When a user clicks the “review” link from the email that they receive will be directed to a page. The fields that have been selected here will be presented to the user along with a “reject” and “approve” button.
Fig 5 - Approval Template field selection
The approval template form allows you to change which fields are selected to display to users that approve and reject contracts.
Click the arrows to move the fields of data into the “selected fields” area. You should choose the data fields you would like your approvers to see in order for them to make an informed choice as to whether to Approve or Reject a contract