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ApprovalMax & Spotlight Reporting: Sharesies’ secret to agile growth

October 28, 2022

This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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Have you seen our webinar with Sharesies and Spotlight Reporting? It’s never too late to watch the recording. We chatted to Hannah Korner, Corporate Accountant at Sharesies, about how their cloud accounting app stack has helped them create airtight, efficient AP processes and reports, and how those efficiencies allow them to scale.

Watch the webinar to get exclusive content

Watch now

We discussed topics like

  • What does Sharesies do?
  • How is their finance team structured?
  • What are some of the key challenges Sharesies’ finance team have faced?
  • How do they benefit from automated spend control and AP processes?
  • How do they use tools like ApprovalMax and Spotlight Reporting to improve their processes?
  • How does Sharesies app stack set them up for agile growth?

Download our case study to learn about Sharesies’ complete accounting app stack and how ApprovalMax has helped to change their accounting systems and processes for the better.

Webinar roundup: what will you learn?

If you’re yet to watch the webinar or read the case study, Sharesies are a New Zealand-born fintech company. They operate a platform that allows their users (across Australia and New Zealand) to buy and sell shares in companies across NZ, Australia and the US.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, Sharesies saw remarkable growth. Hannah and the rest of the Sharesies finance team knew they needed to redesign their finance processes to support the company’s continued growth. They needed tools that would automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks and allow the finance team and approvers to focus on tasks that bring real value to the business and the board. As Hannah put it in the webinar

At the end of the day, you want computers doing computer work, and people doing valuable and interesting tasks.

Sharesies’ finance team is small – they have three full-time members and two part-timers. Efficiency, value, and timeliness are key elements of success for their team. Since using ApprovalMax to implement an automated approval process and streamlined EOFY audits, Sharesies have adopted Spotlight Reporting to dig into their financial data and provide real-time insights that bring real value to the board and the wider business. With automated processes, they have automated their approval processes, streamlined their annual consolidation processes, and improved their data accuracy. Automation has also led to high-quality data which drives the reliability of their reporting, helping Hannah and the team gain trustworthy insight into their business performance.

If you can strip out repetitive tasks, then you can use that person’s time to do more ad hoc project work, analysis, and business partnering.

From approval matrixes and spend control, to streamlined board reports and financial tracking, Sharsies’ app stack is a recipe for success. In fact, they’ve now cut the time it takes them to produce board reports from hours to mere minutes. Now, they’re able to spend more time on in-depth analysis and commentary, bringing even more value to the wider business with a robust report that aids informed business decisions from their board.

Watch the webinar to learn how Sharesie’s journey to automated approvals and data-driven reporting has helped their business scale quickly with minimum manual effort.

Webinar: how Sharesies’ tech stack enables their growth - Watch now

What are the biggest challenges for accountants, bookkeepers and finance professionals?

We asked webinar attendees to tell us the biggest challenges they face in their jobs at the moment. The results were overwhelmingly clear – 30% of respondents stated that reporting for board meetings takes too much time and 25% said that the reporting process is too manual/error-prone.

See all the results from webinar respondents in the chart below:

When it comes to managing your finance systems, what are your biggest challenges right now?

  • Reporting for board meetings takes too much time
  • Reporting process is too manual/error-prone
  • Our AP processes are slow, manual, and inefficient
  • Average invoice approval times are too long
  • Policies for spend control are loose and need tightening
  • Data that is used for reporting is not completely accurate

How to know if approval automation is right for your business or clients

It can be difficult to know when it’s the right time to change or upgrade your accounting tools. Instead of weighing up if now is the right time, think about how any new tool will add value to your business or toolkit. Ask yourself how many times each week, month, year, or two years you repeat tasks and spend time on them.

From accounts payable processes, to spend control and streamlined audits – approval automation is so much more than getting your financial documents approved on time. Here are our five top tips for adopting automation and improving your AP processes.

  1. If you haven’t already, adopt cloud accounting - with cloud accounting tools (like Xero), you open the door to a whole ecosystem of partner apps that could improve your business processes. And by combining your chosen accounting platform with an integrated app stack, you can close the loop and streamline your finance function so that it operates like a well-oiled machine.
  2. Use digital invoices and an OCR tool - OCR tools (like Dext Prepare) help remove bottlenecks, improve data quality, and pave the way for paperless invoicing. After connecting your OCR tool to your cloud accounting platform, you can scan your invoices and feed that data directly into your accounting system. And by integrating your OCR tool with ApprovalMax (which integrates seamlessly with Xero and Dext), you can skip managing invoice approvals and chasing approvers because ApprovalMax takes care of the entire approval process for you through your automated approval matrix.
  3. Define your DFA and establish an automated approval matrix - your delegation of authority (also called a delegated financial authority or DFA) will define the limits and structure of your approval matrix, so it’s important that you have this outlined before making the move to automating your approvals. Once you have your delegation of authority policy in place, you can set up your approval matrix to automatically implement your DFA, reducing fraud risks and improving spend control. And this matrix is really simple to set up within ApprovalMax and you can edit it at any stage to fit your business as you scale.
  4. Use a reporting tool to deep-dive into your data - reliable data and accessible reporting are non-negotiables when it comes to tracking business performance, monitoring spend, forecasting for the future, informed decision-making and implementing improvements. Sharesies have opted to use Spotlight Reporting since it integrates with Xero and ApprovalMax – it’s important to choose an app that will work cohesively within your app stack, so take the time to understand what you need it to do and if your preferred tool will work with the other tools you use.
  5. Automate repetitive tasks and focus on high-value opportunities - Hannah phrased it perfectly when she said “[…] you want computers doing computer work, and people doing valuable and interesting tasks”. Automation is a major stepping stone to achieving this. By automating the tasks that a computer can manage, your finance team can focus on diving into your data and implementing high-value projects. You’ll also see faster approval times, improved data quality, error elimination, bottleneck reductions, and real-time reporting that you can trust.

Why leave it there?

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