Rick Hemphill is a Senior Manager within ShineWing Australia’s Business and Private Client Advisory division. Here he shares his experience in helping to improve ShineWing’s approach to Bill Automation, and the benefits he discovered after switching from a paper-based approval process.
ShineWing Australia is an Australian owned advisory and accounting firm with an 80 year history that understands relationships make all the difference in creating opportunities and delivering great outcomes for our clients and our people. With access to a global network and a team of over 10,000 professionals in 57+ offices across 14 countries and regions, we work together to open doors to opportunity in Australia, Asia and across the world.
The growing need for accurate & timely approvals
Approvals are crucial for almost any organisation. With my own clients, I’ve seen the highest demand for approvals in organisations with the need for tight financial controls and audits. From Charities and NFPs to Fund Managers, it’s something that many businesses need to consider.
The case against paper-based systems
Today, many SMEs still rely on practices that are fundamentally locked into paper-based systems, where collecting and filing relevant data is a job of its own. It takes forever to find and collate pieces of information in order to prepare a reliable basis for time-critical finance decisions.
Important institutional knowledge resides within the minds of individuals, while key finance data is scattered across multiple paper copies.
Maintaining the paper trail – that is to say, collating and filing all of that paper-based information into some usable format – becomes an almost full-time endeavour.
The demand for quality data
Furthermore, with paper-based approvals, another issue is the inability to achieve a high quality of accounting data – data that contains the correct business context and accounting coding in place.
The reason for the low data quality is the loss of business context when finance approvals are made weeks or months after the payment has left the bank. Business approvers – who actually hold the business context – simply do their review too late to remember the details of a particular transaction and instead generalise the spending description.
So what’s the answer?
The solution to the above challenges rests squarely with implementing seamless approval management as part of the Bill Automation process.
Enhancing your Bill Automation app stack with approval management is essential in achieving sustainable efficiency. An approval management solution is primarily aimed at automating your approval process.
This includes the setup of granular review and authorisation roles, and keeping the approval process running by sending notifications, generating reports, and handling approval exceptions.
Complementing a cloud accounting platform with an approval management app to replace a manual or email-based approval process is very rewarding. It boosts productivity and helps you establish a proactive, real-time decision-making process that ensures better process efficiency and higher executive accountability.
The benefits of switching to the cloud
I first discovered the potential of cloud-based approval management when attempting to meet a client request for a more streamlined approach. Once I started using it, it seemed like a no-brainer. It was easy to use and implement with our clients, and has since formed a key part of our app stack. I also quickly realized that robust internal controls are no longer reserved for the big end of town or for those using complex ERP systems.
What’s more, the core benefits gained by switching from paper-based approval tracking to one that’s driven by a cloud approval workflow are striking:
- Improved process efficiency and productivity – More transactions are performed in less time, and less effort is spent on clarifications and the search for missing background information. The timely notifications and reminders helps to prevent costly delays.
- Total control and visibility – The approval process is kept on the surface. All finance documents have a clear approval status, so there’s no need to refer to emails. Your accounting system remains the source or truth with transactions and source documents all maintained together.
- Maintains compliance and supports the audit process – The approval workflows are configured in exact accordance with regulatory authorisation requirements. The approval history is captured in detail and presented in audit-ready form.
- Security is enhanced – The approvers are taken out of the accounting software, and guardrails are provided for approval decisions to ensure all approvals are performed in accordance with the authorisation level.
Images in this article were made by Xero for the Xero Partner Pages magazine.