Image of more ways to use the Approvals app in Microsoft Teams.

More Ways to Use Approvals in Microsoft Teams

Josh Logozar
Josh Logozar
April 15, 2021

The Approvals app can be used for more than just document approvals. Here are a few different ways that we can leverage its functionalities, all while only sticking to its out-of-the-box features.

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Last week we had an introduction into the Approvals app in Teams. Where we went over how to create a document approval for a very specific business need, which was simply to get the 'okay' on a document. Did you know this Approvals functionality is an extension of the Approvals functionality in Power Automate that has been around forever? What else can we use Approvals for? Let's look at a few examples of out of the box usage for the Approvals action in Power Automate (and Teams), and how we can use it for more than just approving documents.

Approving Leave Requests

There are many different ways to setup a leave request system, from online applications to leveraging multiple parts of Microsoft 365 and using an in-house-built Power App (like we do at Blueshift). If you have none of these solutions at your disposal, we can use the Approvals app to create leave requests.

This method will allow us to achieve the following:

  1. Get our request for time off approved,
  2. Store the request in a central location for reference, and;
  3. Attach any requested supporting documentation.

All you will need to do to create an approval for a day off is decide if you want that approval in a Teams channel, or if you want it to be done privately. After that, you will simply create an approval request with what days you want off, who will need to approve the time off, and choose if you want to add details or attach any supporting documents to the request.

Image of a new approval request in Microsoft Teams.
We can use the Approvals app in Teams to request time off from work.

Once this is done, it will show up in both your and the approver's Approvals app in Teams (they will receive an email notification as well) and you will be able to track how many days you have taken off, how often you are taking leave, and even keep relevant documentation, such as doctor’s notes. All this information housed in one location in Teams (or Power Automate), can be filtered down if you ever need to review the requests in the future.

Manage Tasks Using Approvals

We can also use Approvals to manage and assign tasks. Imagine this situation, you have an additional internal project that you would like to develop, but you are unsure of your team’s bandwidth at the time. Instead of having to go ask each team member what their availability is, we can just use the custom responses from Approvals.

We can put the approval in a Teams channel, with the title of the project, and attach any documentation that will go with it, or even attach the SharePoint site where we will house the project. The next step is to put all our team members in the "Approver" field.

Now, instead of just going with the standard 'accepted' or 'rejected' answers, we'll use "Custom responses" to say, “I can handle this” or “I'm unable to at this time”.

We can then take the team member that approves it first and assign them the project. This way, we will have a record of every time a project has been assigned, and who it was assigned to.

Image of assigning a task using the Approvals app in Microsoft Teams.
Use the Approvals app to gauge your team members' capacity to take on more workload.
Image of setting custom responses in the Approvals app in Microsoft Teams.
Set up custom responses to add context to approvers' responses.

Automate Your Approvals Using Power Apps

My favorite thing about Approvals: It is all built on the Power Platform. To show how Approvals work in Power Automate, we are going to create a flow that will automatically create an approval for you when you place a document in a specific folder in your SharePoint site.

Start by selecting "Automated Cloud Flow" in your Power Automate design studio and picking “When a file is created (properties only)”. Remember to name it something that will allow you to easily identify it.

Image of building an automated cloud flow in Power Automate.
Create automated approvals using Power Automate.

You will need to now point it to which site, library, and specific folder you want to put your files in to create your automatic approvals. Once you have created that file, simply point to it using your flow.

I have created a file in our marketing site, which has a document library simply named "Documents". Note that you will need to point it to the specific folder as well, or it will create approvals for every document in your document library, and let me tell you by experience, seeing approvals pop up every 5 seconds is intimidating.

Image of selecting a document library and folder in Power Automate.
Assign the specific document library and folder for your automated approvals.

Now we need to create our approval. Click on “New Step” and search for "Approvals". You will select the “Create an approval” option.

Image of adding a new step to a flow in Power Automate.
Add the step "Create an approval" to the flow.

From here, we need to select the kind of approval we want. You have a few options:

  • Approve/Reject – Everyone must approve.
  • Approve/Reject – First to respond.
  • Custom Responses – Wait for all responses.
  • Custom Responses – Wait for one response.

You can use whatever best suites your needs for this flow. The ability to use custom responses will allow you to use this flow for the task management scenario discussed above.

Image of selecting and approval type in Power Automate.
Select an approval type that works for your desired flow.

Once you have selected this, we simply need to put the title, who is approving the document, and a link to the item to approve. For our title, we are going to use some dynamic content, and select “Name”. This is going to pull the file name of the item from the document library.

Image of selecting a dynamic content in Power Automate.
We can use dynamic content to fill-in the fields in our approval request.

We will then pick who the approver is going to be.

Image of assigning approvers in Power Automate.
Assigning approvers in Power Automate is similar to how it's done in Teams.

The final thing we are going to do is add a link to the item. We want our approvers to be able to go in and see the documentation. Again, we are going to use our dynamic content and search for “Link to item”. This will create a link for our approver and add it to the approval.

Now, we click "Save", and test the flow to make sure it works!

Image of building an automated cloud flow in Power Automate.
Don't forget to test your flows to make sure everything is working smoothly!

Make the Approvals App Work For You

As you can see, there are many ways to leverage Approvals beyond a singular document approval. You can use it for change management if you are a Project Manager, as shown above, create a leave request app if you are in HR, and even more opportunities for different departments.

Leveraging out-of-the-box tools to achieve business goals is what we do at Blueshift. If you have a business problem, feel free to contact us to see if there are any out-of-the-box solutions that we can help you come up with for your organization.

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