Reliable cash flow forecasting and minimisation of unauthorised spending in the agriculture sector

bdk Software Solutions is a South African company that specialises in offering consulting services on cloud accounting solutions. They strive to maximise their clients’ productivity and aim to change the industry by automating routine tasks using best-of-breed accounting software. 

What kind of services do you provide?

We ourselves don’t offer accounting services. But we work for several accounting and audit firms who refer clients to us when their processes need to be optimised to make them more productive. For that, we employ an app stack we have lots of experience with. Our service includes selecting the suitable software for the client’s requirements and its subsequent implementation. A good example for this is how we help them to get rid of a paper-based purchase order system by automating it all. Such a transition project for a big client can last up to four months. After all, when you do a migration to a new system, the client wants to make sure that everything is going to work as intended.

Who are your clients and why do you recommend approval automation to them?

Most of our clients operate in the agriculture environment but we have found that Approval Max works for any industry that requires digital approvals. In my view, approval automation is crucial as soon as there are more than three people who need to collaborate in the approval process.

In your experience, what kind of issues can be successfully resolved by implementing ApprovalMax?

Recently we took on a new client, an agriculture group, who had about 6 million South African rand worth of unauthorised spending in just a year. Thanks to ApprovalMax, this was brought down to zero.

This client also needs a reliable cash flow forecasting as it takes supplier invoices about 3 to 4 weeks to reach the finance manager’s office, and then payments are due 3 days after the invoice has been processed. Using the built-in reporting capabilities of ApprovalMax gives us an invaluable insight into the company’s cash flow status. We can very accurately forecast the cash flow requirements a month or two in advance, even before the supplier invoices have been issued. They find it very helpful to know exactly how much has to be paid when, and how much cash is required for that.

On the technical side, how is the cash flow forecast done exactly?

For the creation of forecasts we use the information on contacts and dates of the outstanding approved purchase orders that ApprovalMax provides us with. That’s how we know what amounts have to be paid in 30 or 60 days. Our clients usually have a 30-day account with their suppliers, so for today’s purchases the invoices will be sent at the end of the month and need to be paid at the end of the following month. Getting the contacts and dates of authorised purchase orders from ApprovalMax makes it easy for us to manually prepare cash flow forecasts in advance. 

What kind of categories are being used in the agriculture sector?

For this big agriculture group, we have set up two tracking categories – Farm and Commodity. This provides our client with accurate information on specific expenses per farm or commodity. A commodity is a type of fruit or other produce they are growing on the farm, e.g. tomatoes on one farm, butternuts and peppers on another. The farm manager has access to ApprovalMax and knows which commodity a specific expense has to be assigned to. They never had such data before, meaning they were never able to pinpoint how much their tomatoes or peppers are actually costing them. Now, it’s really simple to create an expense report at the end of the day.

The same applies to the individual farms – based on the respective tracking category (one for each farm), managers can track the daily spending. Previously, the company struggled to get accurate data for each farm, or data capture was delayed because they had to wait for someone to provide the information on where to post the purchases. Since we implemented ApprovalMax, the purchaser can enter amounts under the correct expense and tracking category straight away, without a third person having to repost entries after receiving the supplier invoices. 

So, what does the whole process look like now?

The purchase order requester creates a purchase order in Approval Max and adds the required information. If the purchase order amount is below a certain limit, the requester can approve himself. If it is over a certain limit, the request goes directly to a manager for approval. The manager gets a notification both via email and on the mobile phone app. He only needs to click the Approve button if he’s happy with it to go ahead, and the requester has the purchase order authorised. When the supplier invoice arrives at the office, the creditors clerk converts the purchase order into a bill. As the necessary data has been captured before, this is fast and easy. All the clerk needs to do is check that there is corresponding purchase order for the invoice and then match bill and purchase order in Approval Max. 

What benefits of implementing ApprovalMax would you and your clients point out? 

By combining Xero with ApprovalMax and the data entry tool Hubdoc, we created a powerful app ecosystem that improves productivity and enhances the accuracy of data significantly to enable reliable cash flow forecasts with little effort. Approval Max also delivers a paperless environment for a fully automated approval process. And the collaboration between different departments has never been easier, now that employees don’t have to email each other for manual approvals any more.