Haines Watts is one of the largest accounting firms in the UK, and now one of the Top 15 in the country. It has 60 offices around the UK from the South East to the West and Scotland. Its client base is very diverse, including A-listed clients. They come from all walks of life and all industries, ranging in size from really small ones to those with a 10 to 20 million pound turnaround.
The need for procurement transparency and spend control
At the Haines Watts’ client – a large hotel – numerous procurement requests get initiated by various operations personnel. With the hotel operating 24/7, people work in shifts and are away from their desks & computers most of the time. This used to cause big problems in terms of authorising and coordinating procurement decisions because with this type of business it’s impossible for the finance team to leave their office location and ask, for instance, the chefs in their kitchen about purchase orders and approval-related information.
Purchase orders and bills were being processed using a combination of manual approvals and emails. Paper clutter, lack of transparency, the inability to trace back approval decisions – those were the significant drawbacks of this former process. There was not enough control in place, everyone could just order what they wanted. But, of course, it would not have been an option to just halt operations while collecting approvals.
The client needed a solution that can do both: put spending under control and keep the business running at a pace.
Bill automation as key for spend control
The automation of the purchase order approval process was essential for introducing efficient spend control. Today, all of the hotel’s purchase orders go through ApprovalMax. Both their creation and approval can be done either on the go using the mobile app, or via the web interface.
Firstly, purchase orders are created outside of Xero. This protects financial data from unauthorised access and also enables Haines Watts to define certain rules for specific purchase order requesters to restrict them regarding the suppliers they can use and items they can order.
Purchase orders are then run through a business-defined authorisation process, making sure that purchases of a certain size or type get authorised by the responsible budget holders. All approvals can be done on mobile devices, helping approvers to review and authorise (or reject) on the fly, making the whole process much faster and a lot more efficient than before.
Finally, after having been authorised properly, purchase orders are synched to Xero for further processing. This includes emailing purchase orders to the supplier and making them available for the “Bill to purchase order” matching at a later stage.
Bill to purchase order matching
An additional layer of control is enabled by the ApprovalMax capability for matching supplier bills and the respective purchase orders that have been created and approved beforehand. Two scenarios for “Bill to purchase order” matching are supported: either multiple bills to a single purchase order, or one bill to multiple purchase orders. During this procedure, proper checks and validations take place.
Once a bill has been matched with the correct purchase order(s) and the coding has been reviewed and validated, the bill authorisation process as set up by the finance manager will start. All fully approved bills are then synched to Xero.
ApprovalMax enables Haines Watts to embed the client’s approval process into a proper system, gather all approval-related information and route each purchasing document to the required authorisation levels. It implements the necessary layer of control; and makes the process efficient, standardised and therefore audit-ready.