How to create a form with multiple approvers on Cognito Form

Last time, I mentioned that one of the best online form builder tools is Cognito Form. It is an underrated platform. Its flexibility allows for multiple use cases! I discovered that you can use Cognito Form to create a multiple approver workflow. It is actually easy! This tutorial is made for Cognito Form users making a single form go through multiple approvers.

The Requirements:

Here, we have a requisition form (ex. An employee wants a certain equipment or supply purchased) which would be passed on to 3 levels of approvals in the workflow.

A team member would fill out the form, which would be passed to Approver Number 1. Then if approved, the same form is passed to Approver No. 2 for input and comments, and finally to Approver No. 3. Each Approver receives an email notification when a form has been assigned to them. For security purposes, specific fields should not be editable by the Approvers, and sepcific fields should only be seen by Approvers in the workflow upon getting the form.

With a flexible tool like Cognito Form, there could be several ways to do this, however, I found one that was the simplest and most efficient to execute. I used Cognito Form’s calculations feature, and the Entry.Version syntax.

What is the calculation feature?

If you’ve been using Cognito Form at its fullest, you should be familiar with this feature. But in an nutshell, the calculations feature can be used to compute field values, control visibility of sections and fields, and implement complex data validation. Read more here.

There are dozens of formulas you can use in the calculations field, but the Entry.Version formula isn’t on any support articles on Cognito Form (as of writing this article) so I found it by accident.

Here’s how you can use this formula for multiple approvers.

How does Entry.Version work?

  1. When a data in the form is first created into the database, the entry’s version is one. This will be Entry.Version=1.
  2. When the same entry is edited or updated, this becomes a new version of the entry. Hence, this will be Entry.Version=2.
  3. If the same entry is edited or updated again for the second time, this is now a new version, hence, Entry.Version=3. And so on and so forth.

To start:

Create your form as usual. Make sure to include the fields that will be filled in by the Approvers (ex. Approver #1, #2, #3). Remember their parts in the workflow.

How to make fields read-only for Approvers:

1. Click on the field(s) that should not be editable by the Approvers. On the left panel, go to Read-Only.

2. Click on When. On the pop-up window, go to Advanced Editor tab.

3. Inside the text box, type in =Entry.Version>1 (or =Entry.Version>2 depending on the workflow). This means that when the form is opened by the Approvers, this field will only be read only.

4. Click Save.

How to show fields only for Approvers:

1. Click on the fields that will only display by designated Approvers in the workflow. On the left panel, go to Show This Field setting.

2. Click on When. On the pop-up window, go to Advanced Editor. Inside the text box, put in =Entry.Version=2 (or =Entry.Version=3, depending on the part of the workflow). This means that this field will only be displayed when the form is passed to the appropriate Approver in the workflow.

4. Click Save.

How to enable notification for Approvers:

1. Click on Submission Settings. On the left panel, turn on Notification Emails.

2. On the popup, configure the email addresses, subject and message of the email notification. On the left side, go to Send When Updated. Click When.

3. On the Basic Editor tab, select the last field entered by the previous Approver. On the dropdown, choose is filled out. Then click save. The email notification is triggered when the field is filled out by the previous Approver.

4. Save your form and do not forget to test before using the form.

Reminders:

  • Understand and use Entry.Version formula in the calculation fields.
  • Maximize the Read onlyWhen or Show this fieldWhen features for fields. For notifications, use Send When Updated feature.
  • Test, test, and test the form before officially using.

There you have it. If you have any questions on the process, feel free to reach out or comment below.

6 responses to “How to create a form with multiple approvers on Cognito Form”

  1. How do I create a form that requires multiple approvers? The approvers will not have Cognito privileges. They will be asked to approve stipends for their staff.

    1. Hi Barbara! When you say multiple approvers, do you mean that the staff has different approvers, depending on a certain category? If yes, you need to add a field that will set the email address and name of the approver. This field can be automatically filled out or the staff can enter in the email address and name of their approver, depending on your preference.

      Then in the Notifications under “Submission Settings”, you can set up that the approver will receive the stipend request upon submission of the form by the staff. Then the approver can approve or reject the request by clicking on the form link and updating the form. Make sure that the “Approve/Reject” fields are only editable by the approver. You can use “Entry.Version = 1” in the field’s settings. Let me know if this is clear….

  2. Hi, Jessica! Thanks so much for this – very helpful and exactly what I’ve been looking for. Just one question… Is there a way to do this exact same workflow but where the order or approvals doesn’t matter? In other words, if I have 3 approvers, and I don’t care which one signs first, can I still set up the workflow to allow any one of the three to sign/approve at any time rather than having a defined order? Thanks a million!

    1. Hi Tiffany. One way to do this is to set up the notifications in the “Submission Settings” tab > “Notification Emails”, and add the approvers’ emails there. You need to enable “Edit Link” under “Include Sharing Link”. Note that you need a pro account to have this feature. As for the fields that will only be editable and visible by the approver, you need to edit the “Show This Field” > “When” settings. I hope this helps.

      1. Excellent! I figured out how to do that, and I think it’ll work out great. However, for some reason the Entry.Version text is not working in the advanced editor. When I set it up as you instructed, I can save it without any problem. But when I re-open the Advanced Editor, it shows an error message. And when I test out the form, the fields still always show despite my restricting the Entry.Version. It opens on the Basic Editor tab and shows “A referenced field is no longer available.” I try to click over to the Advanced Editor tab, and it won’t allow me to. Clicking the tab does nothing – it just stays on the Basic Editor. Any ideas?

        1. Hmm, I think this is an issue from CognitoForm side. I suggest to send a message to their Support team, if you haven’t yet. Do come back and let us know how your issue was resolved. Future readers might have the same issue. 😊

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