Simple rules for a remote approval process

To attempt an agile product development without a formal and organized approval process can prove disastrous, and for teams that operate away, from the home office, getting a reliable approval is incredibly important. Getting the approvers in one room (and a virtual one works as well any) is the ideal way to move the approval process forward. There are some potential barriers to the approval process for remote teams, which include disorganization, including the wrong “players” and not having all the supporting materials complete.

For the approval process, we outlined the barriers using a Who, When, Why, Where and How scenario.

Approval Barriers

Approval barriers

People

First, the “who”.

These “who” need to be defined before the start of each project.

In a visual project, marketing and designers needs to sign off. Accounting and Finance need to look at any online payment and processing components, and Customer Success needs to be included at every step of a process that involves the customer experience.

Don’t forget about including external groups! Partners, vendors and clients can be even more critical to the approval process. Enable them to view and provide feedback without giving them access to private or proprietary material.

Process

The process of approval relies on When and Why. Collecting an on-time approval from cross-functional teams, through an online approval process is the project manager’s primary focus, and the biggest challenge at the same time. There is a fine balance between getting an official sign-off and overloading the organization with non-pertinent information. If team members are overwhelmed with notifications that don’t apply to them, they will lose interest and miss important updates. The flip side of not including them can mean major retractions, fixes and a project slow down.

So, to build the right process you need to answer these questions: when does each team approve and why are they involved? This timeline should be investigated before the project kicks off.

Tools

Finally, Where and How. Choosing an approval platform for cross-functional teams that improves approval process versus impeding progress can be a big barrier to overcome. The ability to house all functionality, like deadlines reminders, ability for approvers to comment or ask for additional supporting materials within one platform, is critical to a smooth approval process. And don’t forget to set transparent guidelines on how an approved project should be marked by approvers.  

Approval rules

Rule 1. Involve the stakeholders

Don’t bother scheduling a meeting to get approval on the project without making sure the right stakeholders are present. Cross-functional teams and leadership all need to be present at the meeting to ensure the accuracy of the process.

Rule 2. Be prepared

Project iterations require approval every step of the way. Prior to scheduling an official approval meeting, make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. It is important to set everyone’s expectations prior to the meeting if the goal is to walk out the door with an official approval.

Rule 3. Follow a process

Approval meetings work best when there is a process in place. Each phase should be discussed and approved linearly to make sure nothing is missed or forgotten.

Approval Tips

Approval tips

Tip 1. Take it online and make it visual

Rule 1 suggested above can be pretty challenging in some cases. Gathering cross-functional teams, remote collaborators and stakeholders in one room or at one meeting is probably not always going to happen. Travel, illness, and a busy schedule limit the ability to meet. Providing an option to approve a portion of the project online is an ideal alternative to get an approval and keep the project on-time.

Housing all the supporting materials and approvals in one tool helps with accountability, tracking and history.

Tip 2. Set a deadline and approval guidelines

Remember, it is necessary to clearly communicate a deadline for approval and provide guidelines for the approval process. For example, if an approval is needed for an item within an online whiteboard, the stakeholder should know what they need to mark as approved. Rely on a visual “switch” or “ok” as the official approval, so everyone can see and understand who made the approval when.

The potential barriers of approval meeting can be overcome easily with remote teams if they are educated on how to proceed. In order to run an organized approval meeting and achieve the ultimate goal, feel free to follow the rules and tips that we collected above.

Learn how to build and scale best-in-class teams
Product Management Today