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Workflows & Approvals

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Workflows & Approvals

Approvals sit at the Division level and Divisions are designed to be flexible, but are really the natural groupings of people in your organisation. If you are a typical business with Marketing, Sales, HR then the Divisions would be perfect for this. If you are a retail chain then perhaps each Division will be a store with the respective users assigned accordingly. So first off, create your Divisions and assign the users. Then set your “Head of Division”. This is useful as it’s a variable in Zahara and can allow you to create the perfect approval process in one Division and then copy it over to other Divisions.

Here is an overview video explaining Workflows: 

The important takeaways at this early stage of understanding approvals are: 

  • You can have multiple workflows per division 
  • Each workflow can have a condition to decide whether it’s used
  • Each step in the workflow can have a condition to decide if its used or not 
  • You start at the top of the workflow 
  • You end up at the bottom of the workflow 
  • A “Reject” action will stop the workflow and it will show as Rejected 
  • A completed workflow will show green – approved 

Workflow Steps 

Below are the possible workflow steps you can use: 

  • Approval Step – ask a user or group of users to Approve or Reject 
  • Send an email – send an email to a colleague or supplier to advise them about the approval 
  • Send a purchase order to the supplier – Sends a PO (PDF / CSV or JSON) to the supplier 
  • Change field value – Change the value of a custom field or the approval status 
  • Convert an order to an invoice 
  • Archive the document into FileDirector (third party document management system)
  • Export an invoice – send an invoice into an integrated finance system (Xero, QuickBooks, Sage 50, MYOB)
  • Check for a GRN – wait for a GRN on a purchase order 

Typical Purchase Approval

A typical purchase approval is usually layered on the values. As the value of the order or invoice increases, more people are involved in the approval. Here is a typical approval process that we use in our demonstrations:


Step 1
Head of Division
Step 2
Business Unit Head
> £1000
Step 3
> £10000
Step 4
> £25000
Step 5

Send confirmation email
Step 6

Send PO to supplier


The above example is a good approval process where you simply use the Net or Gross conditions on the steps. You can also apply a condition to the “send PO to supplier” step. Perhaps create a custom field of “Type” and only do Step 6 if the field value is “Purchase Order” as opposed to Amazon or Credit Card or Online.



Inclusive & Exclusive Approvals

What do we mean by this? If you have 3 approval steps and the third step is for say the CEO, and she is only to approve if the value is over $100,000, then you would typically add a condition on the step of Gross Value > $100,000.

If you wanted to jump straight to that approver for a $100,000 approval, then that might be called exclusive – ie – we don’t care for the opinion of the approvers at steps 1 and 2. So to cut out the Steps 1 & 2, we would simply add an AND to their condition as shown below:

workflow step

This step is evaluated and skipped if it returns false. The workflow then goes onto the next step in the process and evaluates that one. You could have a workflow with 10 steps and each one is evaluated as false. It would still succeed and reach the end of the workflow and be treated as complete. This means you should be able to achieve any outcome you desire.

Our advice is to try to keep the workflows to a minimum per Division, but be efficient with the steps and use all of the logic that’s available to you and build up your conditions to suit.


Invoice Approvals

Invoice approvals can be different in that there are two distinct types – Order and No Order. Zahara can allow you to create two separate invoice approval processes. Each one would have a condition set at the top. Remember, if you use a condition to select the approval process, you need to set the default approval to Automatic.

Zahara Screen Shot


"No Order" - Invoice Approval

Zahara Screen Shot

With the “No Order” approval, set the condition to Order – “Order Not Exists” as shown above.

You might then create an approval process for this Division that largely copies the approval from the Order, with the same approvers and thresholds.


Order Exists - Handling Exceptions

Zahara Screen Shot

In the above example, the approval will only trigger if the Order invoice difference is Greater than £10 or more than 5% of the order value. This difference approval can mean that all invoices that match the order can be approved straight away and even exported into the accounts system as a step (Xero / QuickBooks Online / Sage Sync). There is also a condition of Invoice Exceed Order which can be very effective. 


Ad Hoc Invoice Approvals

The approvals above are rules based. A new invoice lands in Zahara, it is evaluated for an approval process (based on its Division and any approvals set) and the choice of approval or approver is pre-set as the rules and logic kick in. This is the road to automation. You need to think of the rules you need now and possibly in the future if you are to work towards hands-free processing.

There comes a time though when you need to take over. The rules have worked but you need someone to take a look at an invoice as well. Make sure Ad Hoc invoice approvals are enabled in your business settings. (Business Settings > Workflows) –  You can then select approvers from a list and choose the outcome of the approval. 

Zahara Screen Shot

Multiple select your finance users from the list that can use this feature and send invoices out for approval. Set the “Reply To” address – perhaps this will be the email address for the finance team or a particular user in finance. Set the from address, as per your SMTP settings – so if you use Zahara’s SMTP make sure this is an email address.

Then set the subject for your Ad Hoc invoice approvals – Save your settings

Using Ad Hoc Approvals

You can only send an invoice out for an Ad Hoc approval when it isn’t currently in a workflow or it has completed a workflow. This means you are looking for a Grey – “no workflow” icon or Green – “Approved” icon.

Click into an invoice to view it. Click the Actions menu. Click the Adhoc Approval link: 

V3 screen shot

Now complete the fields by choosing the Approver.

Final Approval – If you send an invoice to Tony for approval and he approves it- is that the end of it or are you wanting to send it on to other people afterwards? Perhaps there are multiple lines to approve. “Final Approval” means that if Tony approves it, and you set it as  this, then you will see the Green approve icon. If however, you don’t tick this, you will see a flashing orange icon. The flashing icon means its been actioned so you now need to look at it.

Finalising the approval 

If you didn’t click “Final Approval” you can manually change the invoice status to Green when you are happy that the invoice has been approved. Select the invoice from the List view and click the Update button as shown below. You can then manually set the approval status. 

V3 screen shot


Approval Email Template

The wording of your  Emails including the approval email is edited in the Approval template as shown below. You access this under the Business Settings and the HTML templates section as shown below.

Zahara Screen Shot


You can change the wording and drop in any placeholders you need from the Insert menu. 

The Approve and Reject buttons are preset and styled to work with both Outlook and the rest of the mail systems like Gmail / Office 365 that support later versions of HTML and CSS. You can also display line items inside the email – to show the approver the breakdown of the order or invoice. 

Zahara Screen Shot
Please read the dedicated article on Template editing to fully understand how these work

Choosing a workflow from the list

By default, the user wouldn’t usually choose a workflow. We recommend they have the approval process pre-set for them. However, by providing them with the Admin role, the approval list will be accessible. If you want the users to be able to choose a workflow from the drop-down list, they have to have the Admin role. This is set in Admin Settings. On the right panel, expand the Divisions and see the roles the user can have. 

So to get to this…

workflow dropdown

The user needs to have this …

admin role



Default Workflow Explained

In the Division you can set the default workflow for both the Purchase and the Invoice. This could be a specific workflow or you will notice the option of Automatic. Usually, you would specify one workflow and all Purchases or invoice will use that workflow. 
If you have more than one workflow available then you can automatically select the best workflow based on the conditional entry point to start the workflow – as in the example below: 
Zahara Screen Shot
So in the event that there were two or more Invoice workflows with the Conditional Start enabled, you would use Automatic Invoice Workflow – as shown below. 
Zahara Screen Shot
For this to work perfectly, you cannot have an overlap in the conditions. If that is the case, the first Workflow that matches the condition will be used. 

Group Approvals

With approvals you usually want somebody to take ownership and to take action. Group Approvals are for those who have a team of people where anyone in the team can approve. Perhaps it’s a project team or a flat authority. You can create a workflow step where you select “Group Approval”. This means you can send an approval to a group of people and choose how to allocate it in the group.

The options are:

  • “Broadcast” – everyone gets the approval email and the first one to approve does the approval. This is literally “Broadcast” to everyone in the group.
  • “Round Robin” –  which means we send in an order. So if you have Bob, Dave & Sue in the Group, the order would be Bob to get the first one, then Dave to get the second approval request and Sue to get the third one. Bob would then get the fourth one and so on.
  • “Dynamic”  – This is where we take into account who is the fastest approver, who is actually working and not set on absence, and who has the least approvals to do. We created an intelligent algorithm to decide the best person to approve it in the group.


For the Round Robin & Dynamic options, you must also select a “Time Out” in hours – this means that if the approver hasn’t taken action in the allotted amount of hours then it will go onto the next person in the group until approved. Do not leave as 0 as this will cause endless approval emails to be generated. 

Epic Fail 
There are handlers in the Group approval for things like everybody being off and anything to avoid a perpetual loop. In one of these circumstances, we will fail the approval and leave you with a warning so you can take action.


Next Approval Article – click here 

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