Financial Approvals | Common bottlenecks and what you can do (now) to prevent them as you scale


5 min read

Is your organization’s financial approval process robbing you blind?

Kickin’ it old school doesn’t work today

Approving like we are isn't working anymore. The economy is shifting from a fixed mindset to a variable and flexible mindset, forcing finance teams to start working forward and abandon backwards, manual practices, and aging technologies. Today’s world calls for a dynamic approval system that can change and grow alongside your company, saving you time, money, and energy. 

According to this year’s Deloitte Global Intelligent Automation survey, companies that embrace modern technology and implement some sort of process automation can anticipate an average of 31% reduction in cost, as well as a 24% increase in revenue, over the next three years. 

We understand that automation is not a simple nor small change to make, especially if you are getting by with your current process. However, let’s circle back to our first question above: is your organization’s financial approval process robbing you blind? Getting by is the bare minimum, and we believe your business has the ability to soar far beyond that, provided that you are free of bottlenecks that can build up and cut off your growth.

Let’s break these bottlenecks into two categories: human and business. We’ll expose common bottlenecks of each and offer automated solutions, as well as provide you with a list of questions to consider when making that first step towards impactful change that will save you time and money. 

It's (mostly) the human element that complicates things

We’re only human. And while that may be enough for a celebrity Twitter apology, your business’ metrics will not be as forgiving. Humans go on vacation, leave jobs, have emergencies, and sometimes forget. No matter the reason, with only one person responsible for an essential step to push things forward, approval flows are bound to be less efficient and even risk becoming stuck.

Approve from anywhere

When we previously researched this topic, we discovered—and many of us have been there personally—multiple approval panic stories when your team needs something approved and you're unavailable. Imagine the flexibility of approving everything you need from your phone, even if you're on a plane. By automating your approval process, approvers can access a secure app and email option to move things along with just one button click.

Your team has your back (well, backup approver) 

Even better than cutting into your valuable vacation time, automated approval systems offer the option to share responsibilities with a group of approvers who can handle things while you’re away. 

Grouping approvers won’t just help you when you’re OOO—they’ll bridge the gaps that appear when someone leaves the team and seamlessly incorporate new hires into the flow. No more detective work tracking down who approves what, leading to less manual intervention and mitigating potential audit failures.

Growth should be cause for celebration, not incoordination 

Everyone wants their company to do well. As things progress and evolve, we want to keep our eyes forward on future planning, not backtracking to find approvals that got lost in the hustle and bustle. Experian’s 2022 Global Data Management survey found that nine out of ten financial leaders believe that agility and flexibility are vital to being data-driven. Without scalable processes to keep finances tracked and organized, your company faces many risks, including misunderstanding of roles, lack of visibility leading to questionable audit trails, and stagnant growth. 

Listen to Jacob Ross, Senior Application Analyst at Q2, discuss various factors that his business considers when planning for the future.

What you need, when you need it

As companies grow, so do the number of workflow exceptions and changes. Understandably, this can lead to stress and uninformed decisions while trying to keep up with demand. Rather than just slapping on bandaids as temporary solutions, an automated approvals process allows users to configure record types, hierarchies, matrices, and triggers from the very beginning and toggle features on and off as needed.

The answers are in the log

Speaking of decisions, let’s talk about our key informant: the audit log. Visibility is crucial for detailed audit trails (oh, there will be audits!), and it also allows you to make business decisions based on data, not intuition. When creating a crucial risk mitigation plan, there is little room for missing or inaccurate logs. Reduced errors and increased visibility were two of the top benefits named by surveyed financial team members who have implemented automation.

Levvel’s survey results asking participants for top benefits to using AP software.

Questions to ask when evaluating your financial approval process:

1. What recurring issues are we facing? How much time and money is this costing us?

2. How are our metrics? Are any approvals currently taking longer than the benchmark?

3. Are there patterns in customer feedback?

4. How frequently are we spending time on manual intervention?

5. How much are we currently spending in auditor fees? 

6. How is staff morale?

Back to the 80/20 rule (sort of)

When reflecting upon the questions above, we encourage you to really pinpoint the opportunities for change. While automated solutions are incredibly useful and transformative, they are not something to just blindly dive into. First, it’s crucial to understand the problem at its core.  “I always tell the customer, spend 80% of time thinking about the solution and 20% implementing it, rather than doing it the other way, because if you jump to conclusions from the very beginning, then you are just postponing the process. You are not really addressing all the needs,” explained Tereza Yondemli, Customer Success and Presale Team Manager at Zone & Co., during our podcast with Jacob. 

2021 Levvel’s survey found that more than half of finance teams are now using automation in their approval workflows.

Levvel’s 2021 survey found that more than half of finance teams are now using automation in their approval workflows. With results like more efficient approvals, reduced errors, and increased employee productivity, that number will only continue to grow. It’s time to bring light to those blindspots and make the most of your time, money, and energy, and automated systems make it easier than ever to do just that. 

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