Successful businesses understand that time is money. Regardless of the type of organization or service it provides, time efficiency is a huge driver of a business’s productivity. Where businesses tend to get stuck however, is very often in their purchasing process. Growing organizations in particular experience increasingly complex purchases, and without a fast-moving process in place, fall victim to bottlenecks and silos.
In this article we’ll explore exactly what an efficient approval system is, and how to easily automate your purchasing approval process with approval software. Speed and efficiency are definitely within reach.
What is an Approval System?
An approval system is any official and recognized process an organization has in place to handle the approval of purchase requests. This can include an approval workflow which outlines the steps of the company’s approval process. It’s often designed according to their approval matrix and works to ensure compliance. Because approval processes can be complex and change many times throughout an organization’s lifetime, businesses are wise to adopt an approval workflow software that consolidates their approval processes, can be easily amended and updated if they change management, and makes the process of approvals smoother overall.
Benefits of Approval Software
There are numerous benefits of implementing approval software in your organization. With the need to approve a request comes the process of selecting the right person as the approver, outlining and sticking to due dates, and making sure any approval workflows happening in conjunction are kept clear and orgnanized. Approval software can help teams take care of all the organizational, time sensitive matters that come with an approval request, while helping to expedite every part of the process for a smoother and faster end result. The following are some of the benefits you can expect to enjoy with an approval software system:
Approvals Become Streamlined
Submitting approval requests via your approval software system ensures a consistently clear picture of where your approval stands. As soon as approval requests are submitted, you’ll be able to see with which approver it’s waiting, and have the ability to send messages and reminders. This true visibility supports better communication and teamwork, allowing you to keep an eye on the process without needing to monitor it constantly but knowing you’ll be able to step in if anyone needs a little push.
Like we mentioned above, streamlined approvals support a smooth and expedited process. Approval software equates to far fewer delays, where bottlenecks are addressed faster, and silos are altogether avoided because of it. Key stakeholders can be notified automatically when their action is required or when they’ve let too much time pass without addressing a request. With streamlined approvals and automated notifications, it’s easy to get requests seen and approved as quickly as possible.
Reduced Manual Error
Submitting requests for approval manually often result in minor but costly mistakes. Human error and the wrong manual data input can cause approvers to mistakenly approve requests when they shouldn’t, creating more headache down the line. If mistakes are caught before approval, there’s still wasted time and the need to resubmit the request correctly.
Automated approval software ensures data isn’t copied incorrectly, reducing or near eliminating mistakes and inaccurate data collection.
Using an approval software means the functions and departments responsible for purchasing consistently comply with company policies. It also greatly supports AP and finance teams when it comes time deal with possible audits, and accessing the information to provide accurate and chronological audit trails.
Tying into the above mention of audit trails, knowing you’ll always have access to the most accurate and up-to-date records is a huge benefit of using an approval software. Accurate business data lets you make smarter forecasts and decisions.
With a log of all actions taken, it’s simple to look back and see who submitted what request when, and what actions were taken by whom after the submission – if any issues occurred along the way, it’s easy to pinpoint the problem and figure out how to fix it.
Main Features of Approval Software
It goes without saying that most approval software systems are in fact cloud-based, but it’s an important feature to make sure you have. In order to ensure your users are seeing updates in real time, can gain accessibility remotely, and remain on the same page with other users and approvers, cloud-based software is a must.
Perhaps the feature with the most weight, the ability to automate processes nearly eliminates the opportunity for manual error, makes all actions faster, and allows approvers and stakeholders to stay in the loop with transparency. Approval workflow automation delivers nearly all of the above outlined benefits.
Starting to integrate a new approval software can be daunting. Easy integration is important to ensure a seamless onboarding, and keep all of your work the way you want it. This includes simple syncing with NetSuite or you ERP, being able to sync your vendor or supplier database, and generally being able to share all information from or between existing systems. A smooth start makes for a strong kick-off, and the ability to maintain momentum.
Implementation is important but then what? You need your approval software to provide good UX and an easy to navigate interface. If your system is easy to use, it will drive employee adoption and make it easy for the whole team or organization to be on the same page, working towards the same goals.
Simple Approval Forms
Simple and straightforward online forms are a feature that not all approval software systems offer, but they make a big difference in the set up, and the ease of use. Simple forms, or even a built-in form builder, help users take the right steps when submitting requests and help ensure they don’t skip information or input the wrong data.
For the most efficient approval processes, teams need to be able to design their own approval workflows and sequences. Not every request will have one approval; sometimes there will be multiple approvals happening at the same time before you can move onto the next step. A good approval software will be able to easily accommodate these requirements.
First Steps to Implementing Approval Software
Do Your Research
You know approval software will help support your processes, but now you need to buckle down and find the right one. You’ll find there are many types, and some features may not be a priority for you. Outline exactly what your must-haves are, and you’ll be on your way to deciding on the right approval workflow software for your organization. One that lets you build and customize approval workflows according to your business needs is optimal.
Identify Your Approvers
The approval matrix can come into play here; be aware that the matrix, supervisors, and decision makers can change according the hire of new employees and managers. But regardless of current structure, having a clear understanding of who the appropriate approvers and supervisors are – and who is required to sign off on purchases over a certain amount, or special cases, if important before implementing and setting up a new approval software.
Check in With Users
Even if user onboarding and adoption is a success, it’s crucial to check in from time to time and make sure users don’t have complaints. Consistent monitoring and improvement helps team leaders ensure the approval processes are working optimally.
With a little time it will become clear what works and what doesn’t in your approval process. If there is room for improvement, it will be easy to provide feedback to a team member and perform quality control with your approval software system. Organizations will enjoy better project management, improve productivity, and enhance their business processes.