Centralised financial controls for a multi-entity organisation
This article focuses on understanding how leading approval automation solution, ApprovalMax worked alongside Wilder Coe, who also uses Xero, to support one of their clients – specifically, a group organisation in the UK made up of 53 individual companies.
“Our client is extremely happy with ApprovalMax. The software has exceeded theirs and Wilder Coe’s expectations.” – Faye Thompson, Manager – Wilder Coe
About Wilder Coe
Wilder Coe, a chartered accountancy firm with offices based in London and Stevenage, have been avid Xero users for nearly a decade and accumulated vast amounts of industry knowledge. In that time, their team have worked hard to understand how small businesses operate by nurturing relationships, while also ensuring their clients achieve their goals.
Whether those goals are maximising profits or reducing costs, Wilder Coe’s aim has always remained the same: to relieve the stresses and strains when it comes to business accounting.
About Wilder Coe’s multi-entity client
Wilder Coe acquired a new client at the beginning of 2018 – an alternative energy group made up of 53 entities representing each of the group’s windmills. Both the client and Wilder Coe required a digitised and unified approach to managing the purchase invoice approval process of such a large organisation.
One of the specific requirements was that each organisation (windmill) remained a separate financial entity (a separate Xero file in terms of the accounting software) but with shared authorisation authorities and similar approval processes across multiple Xero files.
The Challenge (pre-ApprovalMax)
A significant challenge encountered was approval management via email. It was an approach prone to errors and delays as well as requiring constant vigilance and multiple manual interventions. Also, with the accounting operating as an outsourced function shared accountability with the client’s business decision makers had to be introduced.
SharePoint was used as the document management system, however the previous accountants had created their own bespoke software solution using a database to manage this process.
When Wilder Coe took over the client account, they understood that Receipt Bank would be used for data capture, and Xero for bookkeeping. With that in mind, they needed an approval app to act as the intermediary between both systems and effectively manage the approval process.
Implementing automated financial controls
Fortunately, as the client had provided a detailed approval matrix, Wilder Coe were able to source ApprovalMax – the most suitable app for the task in hand.
To understand how ApprovalMax benefited this client after the automation software was set up, invoices are routed through the following approval logic:
- For invoices below £3k, these are sent to two authorisers. The authorisers are responsible for the general ledger (GL) code on the invoice to be approved.
- If the invoice is over £3k, then the invoice is sent to the designated Director and fellow second approver.
The authoriser is able to change the GL coding of the invoicing in ApprovalMax, if it relates to a different budget line, or assign the invoice to another approver if necessary.
As these changes are automatically documented in the audit trail report, this is beneficial for the auditors to track at year end as well as reassuring business owners over who exactly has approved the invoices.
Working with multiple Xero files: payment run and reporting
The group prepared a payment run every two weeks. When the invoices are approved in ApprovalMax, this then also triggered a notification that the invoice is approved for payment.
Whilst setting up ApprovalMax for the group, Wilder Coe studied the reporting that was available as standard within the software. However, it came to light that the reporting required was not just for one, but all 53 organisations, which at the time was not available from ApprovalMax. Although this was already part of the committed roadmap for ApprovalMax, both Wilder Coe and ApprovalMax worked together to efficiently create a bespoke report.
This designed report not only gave both Wilder Coe and the client the opportunity to see what had been approved and by whom in a given time period, but also created the ability to provide the decision makers with advance notifications by running automatically in line with the fortnightly payment run.
With a report deadline being the close of business every Wednesday, first thing on a Thursday morning Wilder Coe would find a report in their inbox for review and to share with the client to confirm who is being paid in the next payment run.
Results of the implementation
“The biggest benefit for all parties is being able to track where an invoice is in its journey. Being able to use different devices and the app to approve invoices on the go has been great.” – Faye Thompson, Manager – Wilder Coe
What’s more, seeing who has not yet approved invoices and then being able to follow-up with a chaser email has also been a huge benefit to the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.