How to Create a Custom Approval Process in Salesforce
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Custom approval processes are a powerful Salesforce feature for data process automation. Anytime that you want someone to double-check something before it goes live in your Salesforce database, an approval process can help to automate many of the manual tasks involved, taking a lot of tedious back-and-forth out of the equation.

In bigger companies, the number of stakeholders grows, and with it so do the approval processes. It can quickly become impossible to manage. A gap in your approval strategy can lead to data errors that will require fixing down the line. An automated approval process allows you to ensure that those errors never hit your database, to begin with.  

Custom Salesforce approval processes provide a simple but powerful system for seeking and providing approval on a variety of sales and data tasks including data relating to opportunities, quotes, campaigns, referrals, and custom objects.

These custom approval processes allow you to simplify the process of including stakeholders in decision-making, as it pertains to data and tasks within Salesforce. These approval processes can get pretty complex, depending on your company's needs. Luckily, the Salesforce custom approval process builder tool is easy to use and understand without sacrificing functionality.

In this article, we will walk you through specific examples of using Approval Processes, while outlining the steps for doing so. Because the different use cases for custom approval processes in Salesforce can be varied, consider how your own company may be able to use the examples in ways that make sense for your business.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is an Approval Process in Salesforce?

An approval process in Salesforce is a pre-planned series of automated and manual steps that allows records and data changes within Salesforce to be approved by individuals within your organization before those changes go live. Approval processes also identify the actions that must be taken when a record is approved, rejected, or initially submitted for approval.

Salesforce also allows you to create a dynamic approval process, where certain approval actions depend on the actions that come before them. Ultimately, the final approval step will require that certain pre-steps be met. You can also create a static approval process, which is a rigid set of approval steps.

For example, you could create a custom approval process that allows for employees to apply for a time-off request. Then, that request could be automatically delivered for approval to the specific employee’s manager, as delegated in the Salesforce system.

The paid time off approval process is the example that we will be using throughout this article. But there are many different types of approvals that you could potentially automate using custom approval processes in Salesforce.

Creating approval processes in Salesforce is simple, so long as you go into building it with a plan.

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Example Approval Processes in Salesforce

The approval processes in Salesforce are highly customizable.  There are almost an unending number of ways that you can use approval processes to ensure the right person is checking on specific actions within the Salesforce ecosystem before changes are made. Approval processes allow you to limit mistakes and catch them before they happen.

Some of the different ways in which approval processes can be used in Salesforce include:

  • Gaining approval for changing a lead stage (this could apply to leads that are housed in specific stages - such as “long-term customers)
  • Approvals for change to data for key contacts and leads
  • Requiring manager approval for applying a discount to an opportunity
  • Approving new opportunities before they are added to the system (such as opportunities over a specific dollar threshold)

Because the Salesforce approval process system allows you to use any object or record within the system to build those approval processes, the possibilities are endless. Anything that you would like to have a manager approved before it goes live in the system, you can build a custom approval process.

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Example: Create a Custom Approval Process in Salesforce for Paid Time Off Requests

A paid time-off request is a simple example of an approval process in Salesforce that nearly any company can use.

There are numerous steps that you will need to take to enact a fully functioning approval process. We'll break down these steps one by one.

Step #1: Map Your Approval Process

Before you begin making changes in your Salesforce account,  it’s important that you take the time to understand the approval process that you will be creating. We recommend that you map the approval process out in full so that you can understand what needs to happen, along with when it needs to happen throughout the approval process.

Your flowchart doesn't have to be advanced. Simply mapping the step by step process so that you can visualize it can make the entire process easier.

Custom Approval Process

Mapping out your approval process and approval steps that need to be taken for each branch in the process makes it easier for you to create an approval process in Salesforce and avoid mistakes in building the workflow. You may even want to go a step further and detail the different data fields and considerations that will be involved in each step.

Step #2: Create a Custom Object and Custom Fields

If you do not already have a custom object in Salesforce for tracking your PTO request, you will need to create a custom object along with the tab titled “PTO Requests.”  there, you can add the appropriate fields for your PTO request. The different types of fields that might be appropriate for this type of approval process include:

  • PTO Start Date
  • PTO End Date
  • Employee Name
  • Manager Name

The way that you create a custom object in Salesforce can differ depending on the version and plan that you are running. If you need help accessing the object manager screen, you can find instructions here.

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Step #3: Create An Email Template to Notify Managers of Request

In order for an approval process to take place, your Approver needs to know that the approval is in the queue. A simple way to make sure that this happens is to create an email template within Salesforce that is triggered when an employee submits a new approval request. This email will be delivered directly to the manager.

You can use approval process merge fields to include a link directly to the paid time off request and approval process directly in the Salesforce system.

There are also other email templates that you may want to consider. An employee could receive a confirmation notification as soon as their request is submitted. You may want them to receive an automated notification of a PTO denial so that they can plan accordingly while they wait for the written explanation from management.

Step #4: Create the Custom Salesforce Approval Process

Use the “Standard Setup Wizard” to create your approval process. There will be multiple components that you will need to enter at this stage, including:

  1. The name of your approval process. This is important for working on the approval process in the future. Name it something that everyone in your organization will be able to readily identify.
  2. Entry criteria. For paid time off requests, we likely do not want to enter any filter criteria, that way all requests move through the system regardless of the attributes that are applied to the request.
  3. Set the approver and editability of the requests. Who will the request be forwarded to? Who has the ability to edit the request whether it has been approved yet or not? Select the “Automatically assign an approver using a standard or custom hierarchy field” option, then choose “Manager.”
  4. Set the email template. This way, the email is delivered to the approval when the request is submitted.
  5. Set the approval page layout. What fields will the approver see on the page when they go to approve the record?
  6. Set Initial submitters. Who is able to submit these types of records for review? With the PTO example, it will be any employee within your organization that qualifies for PTO.

These are specific to our example but are great examples of the types of considerations that need to be made when building any approval process in Salesforce. Consider all of the different components and steps that will be required.

The Salesforce approval process wizard will walk you through each of the steps one by one. Using the flowchart that you created earlier, you can help yourself to visualize the process and how it will work within the existing objects and records within your Salesforce database.

This is an example of a very simple approval process within the system. Often, the approval processes that businesses employ are more complicated. They may require that certain criteria be met before the approval process moves forward. For instance, a manager may want to approve the addition of a new opportunity that is above $100,000. This would require that you add the $100,000 criteria to the approval process so that only opportunities above that amount trigger the approval processes.

Custom Approval Processes are Critical for Data Management

Custom approval processes in Salesforce are a critical tool for managing your data.  Approval processes allow companies to ensure that managers and overseers are able to double-check changes to data within the system that could have a big impact on the business.

For example, an approval process that allows managers to approve new opportunities above $100,000, helps them to ensure that no new opportunities enter the system that are inaccurate. If opportunities were to enter the system and were inaccurate (such as an employee adding an extra zero to an opportunity total)  it could potentially throw off the company's forecasting and future planning.

Approval processes are critical for ensuring accuracy within your Salesforce system, and ensuring that the most important aspects of your customer data are being double-checked by the right people.

Creating a custom approval process is a small part of a larger data maintenance and data management strategy. Implementing effective approval processes can help your teams to improve productivity by focusing their time on the right records, help you to weed out bad data before it hits your database, and give your team a bird’s-eye-view of important records that are entering your system.

Insycle delivers a complete data management system for Salesforce. Insycle can help you to take control of your data management processes and deduplicate, cleanse, and standardize your data in bulk, and automatically at set intervals. With Insycle, you can do advanced tasks such as merging duplicate accounts, fixing non-standard country and state fields, formatting phone numbers, and standardizing job titles.

Insycle is a complete customer data management solution that improves productivity across your organization and puts you in position to effectively execute data driven strategies with confidence.

Learn more about ways to automate your Salesforce data maintenance to improve data quality in the CRM.

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