- Feb 5, 2019,
Approvals – Finance Requires Them. Managers Detest Them.
I recently met with a large European telecommunications company in Palo Alto. They sent a very senior team: country managers, general managers, the EVP of Sales, and the CFO. When the subject of approvals came up, people started grousing about how as soon as they got back to their hotel rooms that evening, they’d have to start their laptops, log in to the VPN, and then process a myriad of approvals across multiple systems, “If I can even remember my passwords for all of them,” said one country manager. “There goes my evening,” said another. The other execs were grumbling and nodding knowingly.
The CFO was trying to stay cool, but he actually interrupted the grumbling and stood up to make his point. “We are a publicly-traded company. We have shareholders, auditors, controls, and a compliance regime. We don’t make you process all of those approvals for our amusement. They are fundamental and necessary for our ability to legally run an organization at this scale.”
Of course, approvals aren’t just a matter of compliance and controls. Some are actually critical to executing important business processes – approving a sales discount quickly to win a customer’s business, expense reports for end of quarter reporting, or a purchase requisition needed for expedient time to market. A clunky approvals process that doesn’t move at the pace of the business creates real operational drag and can impact a competitive advantage.
But why does it have to be so hard?
Here are 3 top tips for improving your approval processes – to make your organization more agile and your users happier, while ensuring that Finance has the visibility and control needed to support the organization.
Tip #1 – Simplify the Workflows
Most ERP-based approval processes are engineered with a lowest-common-denominator approach. They tend to expose all of the fields and steps that might be required for the most complex approval, even though most approvals don’t require that many steps or nearly that much information.
There are easy ways to adapt approval workflows with a “minimalist” approach, displaying just the necessary information and steps, depending on the type of approval.
Tip #2 – Consolidate the Approval Requests
Large organizations typically have multiple back office applications, whether from line of business specialty applications, or from mergers and acquisitions. These applications cover many forms of approvals – expenses, timesheets, purchase orders, purchase requisitions, credit memos, vacations, and more.
Instead of processing approvals from different systems via different processes, user interfaces and workflows, what if you could give your business users a single integrated queue of approvals so they could quickly and easily process them all in one place? It’s a bit like the “unified inbox” concept that many smartphones use – you don’t need to put in separate passwords or worry about which account a given email came from. It’s all in one place, shielding the users from the complexity and nuances of each of the individual applications.
Tip #3 – Leverage the Mobile Devices All Managers Have and Push Notification Functionality
Your business moves too fast to have critical approval processes available solely via PC. And your managers don’t want to have to boot up their laptop, get on a network, log in to the VPN, and access and navigate a system to complete an approval, especially when they’re on-the-go or outside of the office.
It’s worth noting that automated email-based approvals are only a partial solution. Email-based approvals will tend to clutter an already-cluttered mailbox for busy managers. Beyond that, the “flat” nature of emails and differences across systems can leave Finance wondering whether an approval was properly reviewed prior to approval.
By making all of your business-critical approval processes available on one worklist that’s on the mobile devices your managers carry at all times, you eliminate time-consuming steps. Plus, by leveraging push notifications, managers can approve or deny directly from their smartphone.
Putting it All Together
At Capriza, we offer a cloud-based solution called ApproveSimple that consolidates critical approval workflows from all of your ERP, operational, and financial applications (including Ariba, Concur, ServiceNow, Workday, Oracle and others) into a quick, simple and consistent experience. With this approach, we’ve seen customers shrink approval process times from an average of 10 days to less than one day.
Approvals are too important to your business to leave in a disjointed, inefficient state. By simplifying and consolidating your approvals, you’ll improve your organization’s agility, while maintaining compliance, in a way that’s simple and convenient for your business users.