How to Cut Your Document-Approval Cycle Time Using Escalation

Do your document approvers go
through  piles of files for hours,
signing off until they drop?
From SOPs and procedures to CAPAs and deviations, most regulated companies maintain document-based and form-based processes for compliance and business reasons. How do you get approval for your documents and forms? How many processes do you have and how long is your approval cycle time for each one?

Here’s an example of a scenario in a company with a paper-based process. Once a week, approvers are “sequestered” in a conference room, where they face a big pile of documents. They go over the documents, frantically signing off for several hours or until they “drop.” 

In companies without a weekly sequestration, it means someone (or maybe a team) has to route the documents, either physically or via email. This person/team is responsible for follow-up and physically chasing approvers to get their wet signatures. 

Concept of Escalation
For many companies, the days of sequestration and chasing approvers are long gone. Those companies have switched to electronic quality management systems, which manage the approval process automatically.

If you’re considering switching from a paper-based or hybrid system to an electronic system, be sure it has an escalation feature. For example, in MasterControl, escalation is a step within routing, which can be configured (1). System administrators can choose how long their escalation period is: within hours, days, or weeks, depending on the urgency of a process.

Oftentimes, different departments (QA, engineering, regulatory affairs, etc.) collaborate on a document. After collaboration has ended and the document is routed to approvers, escalation kicks in. The minute a MasterControl user receives notification to review a document, the clock begins to tick. That person must act within a specified time frame. 
With MasterControl, system administrators can utilize both routine and emergency escalation, giving them the leeway to separate processes that are truly critical. It’s not uncommon for emergency escalation to give an approver only an hour or two before it moves to the next person.

Benefits of Escalation
If your company is looking at electronic systems, be sure you choose one with a robust escalation feature. This capability offers many benefits that a paper-based or hybrid process simply can’t provide. 

Here are some of the key benefits of escalation:

  • It makes sure a document or a form is never forgotten;
  • It significantly reduces the approval cycle time by automatically moving a document or form to the next approver;
  • It makes the approval process easier and faster for everyone concerned; and
  • It gives an organization the option to choose a hierarchy of approvers that makes sense for each process or document

If your company wants to shorten its document-approval cycle time, switching from a paper-based or hybrid system to a fully automated QMS with escalation feature is an important step toward that direction.  

Marty Jackson, a professional services consultant for MasterControl, is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, area. He’s a former Deloitte consultant with over 10 years of experience providing consulting services to businesses and government agencies, including 19 of Fortune’s Top 500 companies.

For more information about MasterControl’s escalation feature, go to: