“How do I collect approvals in JSM workflows?” Find out on this episode of Appfire Presents: The BEST IT Service Management Show by Appfire. Atlassian expert Rachel Wright gives you valuable advice on collecting approvals in Jira Service Management: things like setting who can approve, getting conditional approvals, best practices and more.

About the guest

Rachel Wright is an entrepreneur, process engineer, and Atlassian Certified Jira Administrator. She wrote “The Jira Strategy Admin Workbook,” and “The Ultimate Guide to Jira Migrations: How to Migrate from Jira Server to Data Center or Cloud”. She’s also a speaker, an Atlassian Community Leader and author of courses for new and advanced Jira admins and users.

She started using Jira and Confluence in 2011, became an administrator in 2013, and was certified in 2016 (the first year you could actually get certified). She’s the owner and founder of Industry Templates, LLC, which helps companies grow, get organized, and develop their processes.

About the show

The BEST ITSM Show by Appfire brings you expert insights for IT service delivery, so your employees and customers have what they need to succeed. Get the right tech and tips for the right job at hand. Look like you’ve come from the future with all your new ITSM smarts. Every episode is a brisk 10 minutes—less time than it takes to provision a laptop or troubleshoot a tech support issue.


For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

How to Collect Approvals in JSM

Kerry:  Today we’re going to address the question how do I collect approvals in Jira Service Management workflows. To help us with that is Rachel Wright. 

She’s an entrepreneur, process engineer, and Atlassian-certified Jira administrator. She wrote the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook and The Ultimate Guide to Jira Migrations. Right now, she’s working on The Ultimate Guide to Powering Up Your Service Desk, which will be available in January 2023, so keep an eye out for that and go grab it when it is ready. For now, stick around for 10 minutes of ITSM awesome.

Rachel, thanks so much for joining. How do I collect approvals in Jira Service Management workflows?

Rachel:  I love this topic because it has the potential to make everyone’s life easier. You may remember in Jira software it wasn’t really set up for approvals. You could certainly add that functionality, but to do it well, you need to do it with an app like Jira Miscellaneous Workflow Extensions. That was my favorite for adding approval capability.

In Jira Service Management, that is built right in. It’s not enforced, so you can have approvals or you can have automated approvals, or you can have required versus not required approvals. The point is the concept is built right in and it’s very easy to set up.

Kerry:  Who usually does approvals, and how is that reflected in Jira?

Rachel:  There’s a number of different ways to do it. Sometimes the approval comes from somebody on a CAB, a change advisory board. Sometimes it requires multiple people on that board to give approval. Other times, it’s just a team lead or a department head giving approval. Then sometimes it’s the requestor’s supervisor. 

That one is always interesting for me because you know who the CAB is, you know who is on that board, you know who the leader is of a certain team or department, but how do you know who the requestor’s manager is? For those, a lot of times we just ask the user, “Who is your manager,” fill in that field, and then use that field later in the workflow to make it require that person.

Kerry:  I could see there being a couple of complicating things there. Like if you were to just let people free text, they might enter Randy, and maybe there’s more than one Randy. 

Rachel:  Right.

Kerry:  Is there like a pulldown of everybody in the place that manages people?

Rachel:  Yes. Absolutely. Otherwise, you’ll get Santa Claus approving all of your requests and that doesn’t help.

Kerry:  I would be okay with that. What do people usually base approvals on, so what kind of things require approval and which don’t, and how do you make those distinctions visible in Jira?

Rachel:  It could be a lot of things. It could be based on the request, what the user is asking for, or the scope of their request, or even a monetary figure for that request. It could be what service is affected in your organization. For example, is it a request related to the external company website, or is it an internal request to upgrade a server? Two totally different things.

Also, your requests could be approved or not based on user input. Whatever information you’re collecting and looking for can help you determine does this even need to go through an approval, and then how you’re going to segment that and how you’re going to decide who approves when, and even when you want to automate that information.

Kerry:  So, it doesn’t have to go to approval at all, because you can automatically bypass it.

Rachel:  Right. I always use the example of a user requests a laptop, and another user requests a mouse. Well, a laptop is way more expensive than a mouse, so it probably needs to go through some sort of approval process, and maybe the IT department needs to check and see if they have any laptops in storage. But a new mouse is probably an easy, cheap fix, so that probably doesn’t need approval, and you can probably just make that sail right on by.

Kerry:  Test your automatic approvals before you run them. 

Rachel:  Absolutely. 

Kerry:  Everybody will be like, “Hot dog, I’m requesting a new laptop today.”

Rachel:  Free laptops.

Kerry:  What are some best practices for approvals, generally?

Rachel:  I always like to make sure that you provide both a positive and a negative response. As a matter of fact, Jira Service Management needs that in the workflow. For example, if you have an approved transition, you also need to have a declined transition. Don’t forget to add those.

If you’re in a really highly regulated industry, I like to log the name of the person who did the approval and the timestamp. Let me explain this a little bit. 

Jira logs this automatically in the background. If you look at an issue’s history, you can see who did the approval and when, but you can’t query on that information for multiple issues, you can just kind of look and see it manually. I want to write a report sometimes that says who did all of these approvals because I need to give it to the auditors. 

An easy way to do that is when the user clicks the approval button, you have a field that is of type username and a field that is of type date, and you automatically fill those in, and then you can see them on the issue view without having to go into the activity and you can also query on that information.

Kerry:  I can see why that would be amazing and terrifying for people who are bad or just who are hoping to get away with something, that would be a very scary report. 

What else, what other best practices for approvals, what other advice?

Rachel:  I think people forget sometimes and they create a whole lot of bottlenecks in their Jira or JSM workflows. Think about what would happen if the approver is on vacation, for example, and you need to have contingencies for that. You need to be able to let that person’s manager maybe come in and do some approvals. Make sure you build for that in your workflow. 

Also, don’t create unnecessary bottlenecks. There’s a big difference from a company that is having a third-party auditor come in and check all of the clicks, check all of the approvals, and then a company that doesn’t have all of that red tape, all of those guidelines that they have to follow. Is that process even worth doing? I like to go by the default of people will do the right thing, and then if they don’t do the right thing, then consider potentially restricting actions.

Kerry:  That’s a very generous spirit that you have. I’m a lawyer, so I would be like lock it down from the beginning because lawyers by nature are pessimistic about that sort of thing.

Rachel:  That’s interesting. I’ve flip-flopped on this over the years. When I first started, I came from a compliance heavy industry, and I was a lock it all down kind of person. Atlassian is kind of the opposite, let everybody do everything, and I didn’t understand it in the beginning. I’ve kind of evolved my strategy over the years where it’s a lot more flexible. 

The nice thing is that even if something goes wrong, Jira records the history of who did what, when, and what was the change before and after. So, it’s not like you can’t fix the problem. Also, you could try just talking to the person who is causing the problem, see if you can change it with user education. Then if there is nothing you can do to get people to do what they need to, build some bottlenecks in the workflow.

Kerry:  I have accidentally closed issues and then had to reopen them, so I appreciate the faith in humanity that you have. I am the reason you probably need to lock it down more. 

Rachel, thanks, as always, for coming by. This is The Best ITSM Show by Appfire. For more episodes, many of which feature Rachel Wright, visit Hub.Appfire.com. Be sure to get your hands on the guide she’s working on, The Ultimate Guide to Powering Up Your Service Desk, coming out from Appfire in January 2023. 

Thanks. We’ll see you next time.

Last updated: 2023-01-24

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