Reasons why email approval workflows are a let-down for your organization

Apr 05, 2024

Gone are the days when approval workflows meant chasing down approver after approver to get the necessary signatures and stamps on paper. Nowadays, companies can adopt an email approval workflow to quicken the whole process.

However, even email approval workflows are not without their downsides. As your business scales, so will your staff’s email inboxes. This could lead to issues in your organization’s email approval workflow over time.

Half the day could be spent sorting through emails, resulting in a loss of business productivity. A better solution to your approval workflow problem is to automate your processes using the correct approval workflow automation tools. 

What is email approval workflow?

Email approval workflow refers to the process of getting approval for business actions through email.

This means communicating with approvers through email, stating your request, and waiting for them to get back to you with the approval or rejection written through email.

In a multi-level approval process workflow, this would include CC and BCC email recipients and waiting to get approval from every level.

At a glance, having an email approval workflow seems like it’s a lot more efficient than written or printed request letters and stamps on paper.

Doing your approval process workflow digitally is faster than having your employees’ request letters cross many desks before they have the go-ahead.

Despite its initial speed and efficiency, however, an email approval workflow in place can grow inefficient and become a pain point for your business, especially when your staff receives hundreds of emails each day.

Why email approval workflows are inefficient for a business?

1. A multitude of business emails to check

Many business owners and employees alike receive tens if not hundreds of emails each day. It’s not uncommon for business users to spend up to half of their day just tending to emails, sorting through them, and drafting out replies.

Given the volume of emails in your staff’s inboxes, an email approval workflow, which adds more email workload, can end up demotivating your staff.

Not only is there a possibility that approval requests get lost in between other emails, but approvers may not feel up to sift through emails to check their approval requests. 

2. Difficult to stay on top of essential approval requests

There are only so many labels that you could utilize in your email inbox. Even the most organized email inboxes can get cluttered when it receives close to a hundred emails per day.

You could get automated email notifications of your many meetings, customer inquiry messages, conversation email chains, and many more alongside your approval requests. 


With an email approval workflow, it can get difficult to sort out which emails are approval requests that demand your immediate attention.

Thus, you may end up overwhelmed by the number of emails that you have to tend to, and even end up missing some approval request emails along the way.

3. Delayed payment processing if not approved instantly

The last thing that you want is to make delayed payments to your vendors and end up incurring late payment fees.

However, having an email approval workflow could land you in these situations more often than you think. As a result of emails that are not tended to, your approval process workflow could be slowed down.

This is especially detrimental for time-sensitive approval requests that need to be approved immediately, or requests that require multi-level approvals but can’t progress to the next level due to not getting the first level of approval.

By the time the request gets all necessary approvals, it could be past the payment due date.

4. Send multiple emails to loop in all the stakeholders

Your company policies might state that certain transactions require multi-level approval. You could also want to loop in certain personnel and make them aware of the approval chain even if they don’t have to act as approvers in the process. 

For example, if your company is looking to purchase a new piece of equipment, the request might have to go through four or five levels of approval, with the CFO being the highest approver.

Other C-level executives might not have to directly approve the purchase, but they want to be kept informed. Your employees have to ensure that they CC and BCC everyone in every email.

If they forget to do so, they’ll have to then send multiple emails and restate the same information over and over again. It’s not only time-consuming, but some details could end up getting missed in different emails.

5. Following up for approval is time-consuming

When email approvals get delayed for one reason or another, the people who put in the request will have to follow up to make sure that the initial approval request has been received.

In an email approval workflow, this means shooting another email, ensuring that every involved personnel has been looped in, and sitting around waiting for a reply again.

The chain of emails for following up on approval requests can be very slow-moving, and it’s especially inefficient when it comes to time-sensitive requests. 

6. Approver can’t review all the payment terms and details

The problem with an email approval workflow is that, unlike traditional paper forms, an email isn’t pre-formatted.

You might have set out a format to copy and paste onto all approval request emails, but there isn’t a mandatory form that your staff has to fill out before sending the email.

Some details could get missed in the email drafting process. When a payment request email arrives in the approver’s inbox, they might have minimal details and find it unclear what exactly the payment terms are.

As a result, the approver will often have to send a follow-up email asking for information that should otherwise be stated already. All this does is lengthen the approval process workflow. 

How to create an efficient approval workflow for your business?

1. Pick an integrated solution for approval management

An email approval workflow is no longer the correct solution for growing businesses. One fix to the problems caused by email approval workflows is using a platform that helps you automate your approval process.

You can create and manage approval workflows depending on your business needs and access all approval-related processes on a centralized platform. It’s much more efficient than sorting through the many unread emails in your inbox.

2. Define approval policies

Automation is a tool you need to mold to fit your business needs better.

Regardless of whether you utilize an email approval workflow or an automated approval workflow, you won’t be able to streamline your processes if you don’t have defined approval policies.

Once you have picked the right automation tool for your approval process workflow, set up the parameters for your requests.

Define which approval policy is applicable to which kind of request and make sure that everyone in your business is aware of what your approval workflow looks like. 

3. Onboard the defined approvers

To start utilizing your automated approval management platform, you’ll need to ensure that every approver knows their responsibilities.

Then, you’ll have to onboard them onto the platform and assign them the approver roles. When an approval request is made, your approvers will be notified of it and they’ll have to approve or reject the request.

The upside of automating your approval workflow for approvers is that they don’t have to scroll through their inbox to find the approval request, unlike in an email approval workflow.  

4. Establish permission levels

Different approval requests may need different kinds of approvals. For a high-value purchase, for example, it wouldn't be enough for one manager to approve the request before the purchase is made.

It might have to go through several levels of managers, department heads, and even the CFO as the highest level of approval.

To streamline your automated approval workflow, you’ll need to establish which approver is on which level and who needs to approve a request first before it is sent to the next level of approvers. 

5. Set timelines

The entire point of an automated approval workflow is to streamline and speed up your approval processes.

To ensure that everyone in your company is on the same page with your newly automated efficient approval workflow, you want to set timelines.

For example, make it a target that a certain approval request has to be not only approved but also processed within a fixed amount of time. This way, everyone will be paying attention to approval requests instead of putting them off.

Key benefits of automating your approval workflow process

Increased productivity

Relying on an email approval workflow could lead you to spend half your day drafting and checking your emails. When you automate your approval workflow, however, you could approach the process with a more hands-off style.

Allow you and your staff to spend less time checking email inboxes and redirect your attention to other tasks. As a result, you’ll achieve higher productivity within your business.

Automated notifications

Emails asking for approval can easily get missed, especially in email inboxes with upwards of 100 unread emails. An automated approval workflow solves this issue by notifying the respective approvers of any request that comes through.

It ensures that the necessary approvals don’t get buried and are tended to in a timely manner. Once a request has been approved, the request maker will be notified of the approval too.

Transparency and more control

With an email approval workflow, you have to rely on your employees to make sure that all their request emails have CC and BCC sent to all the relevant personnel.

It’s not out of the question that at some point, someone might forget to do so, especially when they have many emails to tend to. When this happens, people who need to be in the know could be left out of the loop by accident.

With a centralized dashboard that has all the involved personnel automatically in the loop, you can make sure that everyone knows what is going on and hold both the requesters and approvers accountable for their approved requests. 

Ensures maximum compliance

Approval workflow automation helps you flag suspicious activities or possible company violations during the approval process. Approvers could ask for more details on a request if they feel like it’s necessary to do so.

An automated approval workflow helps you maintain that all requests are in compliance with your company policies in a way that an email approval workflow can’t do. 

Boosts audit readiness

Another benefit of automating your approval workflow is that, unlike having an email approval workflow, you’ll have all your approval data easily accessible in one place.

You don’t need to scour through hundreds or thousands of emails to sort out which payment approval is for which purchase, or put together five different emails as one approval chain.

With the help of a platform that automates your approval processes, you can view and access all your approvals in just a few clicks. It helps you ensure that you’re always equipped with the necessary data to be audit-ready.

Customize your workflows as per your business needs

With the right automation tool, you can tailor your automated approval workflow based on your company policies and business needs.

You don’t have to stick with a preset approval workflow template and can instead edit it to fit what your business may need.

Automation could help you realize multi-level approval workflows for requests that you deem necessary to be approved by people at different levels. All of this can be accomplished hassle-free.

No more delays in payment processing

When you shift from an email approval workflow to a smarter approval workflow with the help of automation, you can save yourself from payment processing delays by cutting down time spent chasing approvals.

Although emails are undoubtedly faster than the traditional approval workflow that relies on request letters crossing many desks, sifting through emails also takes time. 

Not to mention that some of the request emails could get missed by some approvers, meaning that the request maker would have to chase down the approvers again via email.

In some cases, it could be the difference between a timely and late payment. Ensure that you don’t make late payments because of a missed approval by automating your approval workflow.

Work with smart approval workflows to boost your business productivity!

Relying on an email approval workflow in the modern age where businesses are fast-moving and growing rapidly is no longer enough.

To keep up with the pace, you want software that could help you streamline your approval workflow. Gone are the days of having to sift through a mountain of emails.

Volopay is a centralized platform for managing all your expenses and finance-related needs. With Volopay, you can empower your team and simplify the payment approval process workflow by automating it.

Set approval policies and define parameters for your future purchases, onboard approvers onto the platform, and automate your approval workflow whenever payment approval requests come in.

You can even pre-approve certain payment types depending on your company policies. An automated approval workflow with Volopay simplifies and speeds up your payment process.

Get started with Volopay’s automated accounts payable process