Stop Using Email and Start Using JIRA for Approvals

Posted by Joanna Thurmann on September 24, 2014

by Joanna Thurman (@jthurmann)

jira approvals

Don't you just love those handy Sign Here stickers that make signatures foolproof?

Or the red rubber stamp that screams Approved?

They're great! But they just don't scale, or travel well over satellite.

Trying to get approvals can be madness. Those handy Sign Here stickers and rub rubber stamps for marking documents Approved are cute, but they don’t scale in a globally dispersed marketplace. We live in email for contacts, calendaring, communication and collaboration. So it’s natural to want to use it for approvals, too. At first glance, it seems a more obvious choice than JIRA, which is why we find a lot of enterprise approval processes in email, for better or worse. From system change requests and customer proposals to time-sheets or expense reports. The common thread is that you just need a few thumbs up from a few people, and the order doesn’t matter. So long as you’ve reached a quorum from the right head honchos, you’re good to go.

But once you click send in email, you’ve lost all control. You either receive a bunch of out-of-office responses or none at all. Or you get irrelevant feedback on a different issue. And navigating email threads is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Pretty soon, your approval request is lying at the bottom of the inbox graveyard. And don’t even mention due dates or audit trail. Isn’t there a better way to simplify approvals? Yes!

Once you click send in email, you’ve lost all control. You either receive a bunch of out-of-office responses or none at all.

JIRA approval workflows

JIRA to the Rescue

JIRA can easily accommodate workflow processes that require parallel approvers.

Add a custom Approvers field to a request screen in JIRA and make it required when the request is submitted. This can be either a list of individual usernames or group(s) from the user directories set up in JIRA. JIRA will even send scheduled reminders and store approver history. The best part is that it’s really straight-forward. Here’s how.

  • Customize JIRA’s workflow to contain the appropriate transitions and statuses, such as Submit for Approval, Approvals Pending, Approved, Approvals Completed, etc.
  • Set the notification scheme so that the potential approvers are notified via email when the request is submitted.
  • Add hidden custom fields to track who has already approved and how many total approvals have been completed. Keep the status as Pending Approvals until the total number of approvers has been satisfied
  • Create dashboards to show outstanding requests which have not yet been fully approved
  • Create JIRA subscriptions to send periodic email reminders to those who have not yet signed
  • Once the final John Hancock is added, set status to Approved and hence drop the request from the dashboards and reminders

Kick it up a Notch

Of course, you can also add further improvements and nuances to the base solution above to accommodate varying needs. For example:

  • Instead of having the requester manually select the list of possible approvers, you can pre-populate the valid approval list based on other parameters such as the request type, priority, etc.
  • You can use multiple project roles to add varying tiers of parallel approvals, for example Level1 Approvers, Level2 Approvers, etc.
  • You can add workflow actions to reject the request, clear all the fields and restart the process
  • You can add Escalation capability for requests that are still pending approval after their due date has passed

And the best part is that this solution can be configured using a majority of features that come out of the box with JIRA, including custom user and group picker fields, customizable workflows, email notifications, subscriptions, dashboards and reports. However, you will likely need a few common and trustworthy add-ons from the Atlassian Marketplace such as JIRA Suite Utilities, JIRA Misc Workflow Extensions, JIRA Workflow Toolbox or Script Runner.

Submitting a request for multiple approvals can be painless, and almost as fun as using a yellow stickie or a red rubber stamp.

Just click submit and grab a tall latte. Your request is in good hands with JIRA.


Ready for your team to use JIRA for approvals?

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Call for Comments

  1. How do you get things approved in your organization today? Is it handled by email?
  2. How do you track approvals? Whether they are from the right people or pending approval or late?

Topics: Jira, Jira Tips, Atlassian

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