Approval Templates – Forms in Teams
In Microsoft Teams, there is a way to create quick and easy forms to run through simple approval processes. This is done in the built in “Approvals” app in Teams, and it uses Microsoft Forms. In this post, I’ll show you how to use the approval templates, and how to create your own templates and share them with your whole organization or just specific teams.
First, to get to the Approvals app, go to Microsoft Teams, click the ellipsis on the left side, and choose (or search for) Approvals.
On this screen, you’ll be presented at first with any approvals that you’ve received in the past. This includes approvals that have come from flows. At the top, you can click the Sent tab, if you would like to see approvals that you have sent to others for approval. On the left, if your company has purchased the Adobe Sign integration, you can click Adobe Sign, and see the list of files you’ve sent and received for eSignatures. At the top right, there is a big button for New approval request, and there is also a small ellipsis next to it where you can Manage approval templates.
When clicking New approval request at the top right, a basic approval request will be displayed, with some simple fields like the name of the request, who the approvers should be, and the ability to add attachments. Notice that there is a tab at the top, “Templates”.
When the Templates tab is selected, if no templates have been created in your organization or in any teams that you are a member of, there will not be any templates shown, and you’ll see the message “No templates available at the moment, contact your manager to set up new approval templates”.
Who can create approval templates? If you are a Microsoft Teams administrator at the tenant level, you may create organization-wide templates, and if you are in the owner role of any Teams, you may create templates in those Teams.
Click the little ellipsis on the far right, and click Manage templates.
On the template management screen, if you are a Teams Administrator, you’ll see Org wide in the drop-down box. Otherwise, you’ll see the names of any teams you’re the owner of.
Click New template to get started, and either select from a pre-created approval template (form) that you can modify, or just click Create from scratch. These are just Microsoft Forms. So, if you’ve ever gone to forms.microsoft.com and created one, it’s the same thing.
Here are the current names of all of the templates to pick from, which are listed in categories on the screen: Activity funds application, Discount application, Field trips, Gift application, Business card, Item application, Maintenance, Official seal application, Vehicle application, Business trip, leave, Overtime, Swap shift, Work from home, Direct deposit request, Payment request, Reimbursement, Purchase order, Refund, Sales order.
If a template is selected, or if creating from scratch, either way you will be able to edit and add fields to the form.
I selected the overtime request in this example:
Step 1: Preview
This is a preview of what the form / approval template looks like by default:
Step 2: Select the scope / instance type
If you are a Teams Administrator, you’ll be presented with this:
If you are a Teams Administrator choosing Org wide, the first time this is done in your organization, you’ll be presented with a screen letting you know that a special Teams team will automatically be generated in order to house the org wide templates. On this screen, click Create. A new team will then be generated for you, it will be called “Approvals App Admin team”, and all global admins and Teams admins will automatically be added as owners of this new team. Note that any new M365 admins from this point on will need to be manually added as owners of this team if you’d like them to be able to manage the org-wide approval templates.
If you are not a Teams Admin, but you are the owner of one or more Teams, OR if you select Team wide at step 2, you’ll be presented with a list of teams you own, with the ability to select one with a radio button.
Step 3: Basic settings for the new template
Pick a category for the new template, and give it a description. When end users are selecting from a list of forms/templates, they will be listed in categories along with the description that is typed here.
Step 4: Form design
Presented with the list of fields/questions on your new form, optionally modify /delete the existing ones or add new ones with the Add new button.
In this screenshot, I clicked to select the “End date” field, and notice that there is the ability to delete it, move it up or down, duplicate it, or set it to required.
When done, click Next.
Step 5: Workflow settings
Decide if an attachment should be required when people fill out this form. For the approvers, is there a specific group or list of individuals who should be the approvers, or would you like the requester to decide who the approvers are each time they fill out a form? If you are specifying the approvers, and not letting the requester decide, you’ll be presented with a people-picker. If in a team (not org-wide), you will not be able to pick people who are not already in that team (I mean, how are they are going to approve something that they don’t have access to, right). You’ll also be able to decide if ALL recipients need to make a decision. If not, then as long as one of them picks an outcome, the approval will be considered complete.
For the responses / outcomes, would you like Approve and Reject to be the approvers’ options, or would you like to use two other (different) outcomes?
Click Preview at the top.
Step 6: Preview again
The form will be shown as it is going to be seen by end users filling it out, and you can decide if it’s ready to Publish. Click Publish.
Step 7: Optionally edit later
Once several templates have been created, they will be listed here in the template management interface. Click the ellipsis on the right side in order to edit or disable any form, and click the drop-down in order to switch to see the list of forms for org wide versus specific teams.
Now from this point on, when end users click the big purple New approval request button and go to the Templates tab, they’ll be presented with all of the templates that have been created that are either org wide or were created in a team that they are a member of. The org wide ones will show by default, and then the drop-down can be used to get to the forms for different teams. Only the teams that have forms will show in this drop-down.
Where does the data go? So far, we have seen a very simplistic interface for creating forms and approvals, but what about the actual information that was filled out in the forms? Since all of these forms are actually Microsoft forms, you have the ability to create flows in Power Automate, to create any automation that you’d like, around forms being submitted.
Go to forms.microsoft.com and take a look at all of the approval templates you have created. The name of each form will start with “Teams Approval Template – “. In this screenshot, you can see that some of the forms in my list are forms that I created directly here in Forms with the “new form” button, and there are several that were created from within Teams approvals.
Click on any form, and click the Responses tab, to see the list of responses to that form so far. Click to view results or click to Open in Excel to see a static list of what has been submitted so far.
It’s most likely not the most robust or feasible enterprise solution, having to manually go to forms and click to look at the list of results. Usually there’s more that needs to be done with that data. This is where Power Automate comes in, where you have the ability to create flows that are triggered when each form is submitted. If you need to build a more complex approval process other than what you’ve seen so far from these out-of-box approvals, and you still do want to use MS Forms, you can use the Forms trigger in a flow. Here’s what makes it sort of a pain… when you create a form from within the Approvals interface, it already has that simple approval process built in, and other than what I’ve shown you in that wizard, nothing can be changed. If you create a flow that is triggered when the form is filled out, it will be running simultaneously with the built in approval that is going to happen, and it won’t know anything about the actual approval and outcomes.
If your requirements are outside of the scope of what you’ve seen so far, I don’t recommend using Teams Approvals Templates for your business solution.
IF would like to proceed and use a Microsoft form, but would like to have the ability to customize the workflow further, I recommend creating your form from scratch in forms.microsoft.com and creating your flow from scratch at flow.microsoft.com
Here’s how to create a flow that runs when a form is filled out:
Go to flow.microsoft.com
1. When creating a new automated cloud flow, When a new response is submitted is the trigger to pick.
The drop-down list of forms is only going to show forms that you created within the main forms.microsoft.com screen, and as of the time of this writing, it does not show forms that were created as shared with you or forms associated with a Team. Here’s the hack to get around that.
2. In another browser tab, go to forms.microsoft.com and click the form if you don’t see it in the drop-down list, so that you can manually get the ID of it.
3. Take a look at the URL in the address bar of your browser. Find the part after FormId= and copy that whole thing to the clipboard. That’s what you’ll need in the flow.
4. Go back to the flow you started at 1. Click the drop-down to pick a form, and choose Enter custom value.
5. Paste the FormId that you copied to the clipboard.
6. Click New Step.
7. Add the Forms action called Get response details.
8. For the Form Id, choose Enter custom value again, and paste that same thing in again. For the response Id, select it from the dynamic content.
Now from this point on, it’s up to you to gather requirements and decide what you’d like your flow to do. In my online Advanced Power Automate course, I teach about 9 hours of how to create flows, with tons of examples, labs and quizzes. Here is an hour long video where I demonstrated everything that has been described this blog post. Additionally, I show a flow that has been built out further, using data submitted in a form, adding it to a SharePoint list, and creating a condition to have the workflow do different actions depending on whether the item is approved. I also demonstrate the Adobe Sign integration in Teams.
Here are some resources around this technology:
- For end users: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/discover-templates-in-approvals-c33ecf9f-b745-4287-b104-ac69469745e0
- For admins: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/approval-admin
- Microsoft’s blog post about it: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-teams-blog/get-faster-results-with-approvals-in-microsoft-teams/ba-p/1680743
- The approvals look book: https://cdn.techcommunity.microsoft.com/assets/MicrosoftTeams/ApprovalsLookbook.pdf
- How to create Microsoft Forms: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/forms
With all of that said, now you know how the approval templates work. BUT, I don’t ever use Microsoft Forms or any of this in real world approval processes that I build. These are very simplistic and very easy for typical end users to quickly whip up some forms with approvals, but it is usually not feasible considering the more complex requirements of most business solutions for customers. I usually use Power Apps and Power Automate. Here is a power hour where I demonstrated my method of building an approval panel inside of a Power App: https://youtu.be/uR46EYGQ0hA
Here’s a link to my FREE Power Apps Basics online class.