From XU Magazine, 
Issue 31

Don’t get left behind Supercharge your Xero tech stack with approval automation

Embrace the future by adding approval automation to your accounting app stack

It’s never been easier to adopt new technologies and adapt your processes – automated approval processes could be your secret weapon...
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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In March, Xero’s ‘State of the Industry’ report released a series of figures supporting the move to digital accounting tools. In fact, 94% of study respondents reported that the adoption of digital tools to augment their tech stack has resulted in notable benefits, such as time-saving and efficiency improvements and better client relationships. 

And within tech adoption, it’s no secret that cloud-based accounting software has quickly become the gold standard for financial professionals. You’re probably well on your way to curating a carefully thought-out tech stack that complements your business and helps your finance team move ahead. So how far ahead of the curve are you? And what could you be implementing next to supercharge your tech stack? 

The answer? Approval automation.

At ApprovalMax, we specialise in automating approval processes for your accounts payable and accounts receivable.  If you’re looking for a simple solution to streamline processes for your financial documents, tighten up on your spend control, and accelerate your automation journey, then ApprovalMax could be for you.

What is ApprovalMax, and how can automated approvals benefit your finance team or clients?

So you’ve adopted Xero, and you’re nearly ready to start using approval automation – the benefits of time-saving, traceability, ease of use, and one universal approval system that’s easy to understand sound so appealing! 

Chasing approvals has to be one of the most time-consuming, frustrating tasks for finance professionals, so how do you revamp your approval process, and where should you start? 

That’s where ApprovalMax comes in – we’re Xero’s preferred app to get your financial documents approved quickly, with the least amount of effort required for your approvers. Our tool does all the heavy lifting by replacing paper and email approvals with fully automated multi-role and multi-tiered approval workflows. The result is a beautifully streamlined approval process: 

Once the workflows are in place, the documents that need approval are automatically routed to the right approver, along with a notification letting them know their approval is needed.

  • The approvers then log into ApprovalMax or use the mobile app to review the document. 
  • Once approved, the document is sent automatically back to Xero.

Automating the approval process saves time, money and stress. The ROI and benefits become evident once you see how quick and easy it is for teams and approvers to use. You get more done than finance professionals who are still reliant on manual paper or email approvals, and you can focus more on more important work or the projects you enjoy most! That trickles down into basic things like improved client and supplier relationships and better workplace environments, leading to better returns.

How ApprovalMax helps to amplify your finance team’s offering

ApprovalMax lets you create a transparent workflow for you and everyone in your team. Once you receive an invoice, it’s no longer your job to think about where it needs to go, simply because it’s automated based on the rules you’ve created within the workflow. And once this job is done, it will automatically feed back into your accounting software and you can make a payment. 

Accounting firms around the world who have adopted ApprovalMax are enjoying the benefits – this is what they have to say about particular features. 

How Grant Thornton uses ApprovalMax to save time, stay compliant, and manage budgets

What is Budget Checking in ApprovalMax? Sync budgets with approved and ‘awaiting approval’ invoices in real-time to track their impact on budgets. 

How could it work for a user?

Grant Thornton NZ uses ApprovalMax to make sure their clients have automated approval processes for timely approvals. They also get their clients on ApprovalMax to help them stay compliant and transparent for audit purposes. ApprovalMax is handy for large clients who have complex needs and multiple approvers on different tiers. And with strict budgets in place to mitigate over-spending and fraud risk, real-time budget checking measures are a must for their clients. 

The Grant Thornton NZ team also uses ApprovalMax to automatically check budgets and ensure there’s no risk of overspending.

“ApprovalMax has added new features recently so that it takes this to the next level with contact controls and budget checking. It means that organisations can control which suppliers are being entered into the accounting system and budget holders know how the decision or the approval that they’re about to make will impact on their budget. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from clients saying that they’re keen on these features and that they see them being really key in their business or organisation.” – Jadene Windley, Manager at Grant Thornton.

You can read about Grant Thornton’s approval automation success in our Partner Talk with Jadene Windley.

How Mazars UK streamlines bill payments with automation for their clients

What is Bill-to-PO Matching in ApprovalMax? Matching is the process of comparing information in invoices to the information in the corresponding purchase orders. If you have a high volume of bills and POs, Bill-to-PO matching makes it easy to match these documents in ApprovalMax and track them in one easy-to-manage place (in your ApprovalMax admin). This allows you to process bills and invoices quicker, without needing to ask questions retrospectively or have business discussions about the spend itself.

What are Auto-approvals in ApprovalMax? Automatically approve repeating invoices, minor expenditures, or anything that follows a defined policy, such as office expenses below $100. By adding rules to any workflow, specific documents get approved automatically without needing to be assigned or reviewed by anyone.

How could it work for a user?

It tends to be that the larger the client, the more complicated their approval processes are; the more people involved in an approval process, the longer it takes. For example, in one instance, a Mazars client has more than 40 approvers and multiple authorisation levels in just one approval workflow. With such a widespread client, it’s easy for bills and purchase orders to be stored in different places. This is where Bill-to-PO matching will make things much easier for Mazar’s big client by ensuring that bills and POs are a 100% match before they are paid because matching is only possible if the following conditions are fulfilled:  

  • The purchase order is approved, but the bill is not yet approved. 
  • The bill and the purchase order are from the same vendor. 
  • The purchase order date is earlier than the bill date.

Bill-to-PO Matching allows Mazars’ client to add rules that ensure their automated workflows for bill payments run smoothly, and there are no discrepancies between documents. 

So what about auto-approvals? 

Dealing with repetitive tasks like approving the same invoice for the same amount over and over again each month isn’t a good use of anyone’s time. Auto-approval workflows allow predictable, frequent and consistent bills to be paid automatically. If the bill meets all the predefined rules (e.g. total amount, supplier, code etc.), it travels through the workflow and auto-approves easily. If there’s anything amiss, ApprovalMax flags the bill instantly, letting all the right parties know that there needs to be a manual approval. 

Here’s what Mazars had to say about using ApprovalMax:

“Using ApprovalMax to automatically pick up and route new supplier invoices for approval eliminates manual work and human errors. It also ensures that all proper authorisations are in place before an invoice is paid. We now have clear, real-time visibility into our clients’ invoices, and our clients really appreciate the ease and convenience of using the ApprovalMax mobile app while away from their desk, or whilst travelling on business around the world.

We love ApprovalMax! It’s one of the easiest apps to share the benefits with our clients because it works, our clients immediately see the positive impact of the increased control and time-saving for their business, and it’s so easy to implement.” – Fay Bordbar, Operations Manager, Accounting and Outsourcing at Mazars UK.

How Wilder Coe streamlined the financial controls of a multi-entity power company 

What are Batch Payment Approvals in ApprovalMax? Save time, finalise payments faster and track bill payments by grouping together unpaid bills to create one financial document for partial or complete payment.

Batch Payment Approvals give organisations more control over the payment totals paid toward specific bills within a batch payment. Every detail and change is tracked, creating seamless audit visibility within ApprovalMax.

How could it work for a user?

Thanks to batch payment approvals, it’s easy to find and select relevant outstanding bills (for example, filtered by most urgent), group them, and specify the amount to be paid against each of the ‘batched’ bills.

Details like total amounts due, supplier etc., are populated automatically, making it easy for the requester to either pay bills in full or partially, select payment dates, and input the correct account details. Once the document is approved and sent to Xero, all relevant information and changes are visible within the document’s audit history, accessible in ApprovalMax.

Wilder Coe, a long-time ApprovalMax partner, has found enormous benefits in approval automation for their clients. One of Wilder Coe’s many clients includes a multi-entity energy group. With 53 entities in total, Wilder Coe’s client needed to lay solid foundations to set up an efficient, comprehensive approval process with a digitised and unified approach that met their client’s needs. 

So how would batch payment approvals benefit an multi-entity client?

In the case of Wilder Coe’s client, batch payment approvals help them efficiently implement partial or complete bill payments while tracking everything for compliance and fraud mitigation. To use batch payment approvals, Wilder Coe’s client would simply complete the following steps:

  • Create a batch payment in ApprovalMax (this is linked to Xero’s batch payments).
  • Add the chosen outstanding bills.
  • Check the existing details (like due amount, supplier details, etc.). 
  • Edit the payment totals to suit how they would like to make the payments.
  • Send the complete document of batched bills to be approved for payment.

Once approved, the document syncs to Xero where the clients would be able to track the payment history of these bills. And in the event of an audit, they’d simply need to navigate to the document’s notes and select the provided audit link, which will direct them back to ApprovalMax. Simple!

“The biggest benefit for all parties is being able to track at any given time where exactly each invoice is in its journey. It’s also most convenient that we can use different devices and approve invoices on the go via the mobile app.” - Faye Thompson, Head of Cloud Accounting at Wilder Coe.  

Wrapping up

Why spend your days manually pushing paper and pursuing approvals when you can move the needle easily with approval automation? Every day, over 100,000 users worldwide use ApprovalMax to streamline their accounts payable process, tighten up on spend control, and accelerate their automation journey. Join the future of approval automation with ApprovalMax.

Interested to learn more? Register for one of our weekly product demos.

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