Systems and methods for automating and increasing the efficiency of business processes using a role structure which is preferably hierarchical. The hierarchical role structure defines a plurality of roles within several hierarchical levels. Various rights are associated with the different roles to enable positions which are associated with the roles to have access to particular business processes. Access rights can thereby be consistently administered across equivalent or similar positions. In one embodiment, the role structure is used in conjunction with a hierarchical organization structure to allow the organization structure to be searched for positions which are associated with a particular role. As a result, automatic signature loops which are not restricted to direct superiors can be implemented. The hierarchical role structure can also be used in conjunction with a hierarchical content structure to enable employees having different roles within the organization to access different information.