Why the current approval process doesn't work

Approval processes as they are now—prone to errors, with little-to-no system flexibility and zero customization options—are failing finance teams. But, we're not gonna take it. Old habits have to go away.

Nataša Barać
Tagged In
4 min read
June 29, 2022

The not-so-good side of approval processes

Plenty of businesses still create approval processes the old way.

But, why? The short answer: That's how they've always done it.

Before the pandemic spurred the onset of remote work, scanning hand-signed invoices and sending them for additional approvals—or even getting them approved and signed in person—was the norm.

But now, with remote work, global workforces, and digital transformation happening everywhere all at once, these antiquated processes are no longer efficient. To stay ahead—or get ahead—the old habits have to change.

Finance professionals—accountants, consultants, coordinators, you name it—who have to get something approved through the system, often have to follow the painstaking process as it was set up ages ago. This means little-to-no system flexibility, zero customization options, and error-prone workflows. Oh, and did I mention it's slow? The old way wasn't designed for speed—in fact, it's almost like it was built to make you wait.

Boundless pending approvals

Ever feel like you're spending way too much time waiting for something to be approved? I’m sure plenty of us have had situations where we’re waiting and waiting on our manager or coworker to approve something we need, just so we can proceed with our work. No matter if it’s a purchase order approval, invoice approval, budget approval, design approval, expense report approval, or any kind of employee purchase transaction approval.

Hell, there’s even that temptation to ping them on Slack or Teams and ask them to click that one simple button in the ERP system or any other workflow software. And what if they’re currently on a vacation, or if they have to take emergency leave, ooor what if they actually left the company in the meantime? If you're like the rest of us, you just stick to what you know, right? Because there's a process to follow, and that's the way it's always been done.

And then, once that “approved” notification pops up (a rush of energy runs through our veins), we have to rapidly wrap up the thing we were working on as fast as possible, just to try to meet the set deadline.

Of course, fixing mistakes then comes into play, because, yeah, surprise surprise, how can you not make a mistake if you have, for example, 80% less time to finish something? Or if, by some miracle, you don’t make a mistake—your stress level reaches heights your body has never dreamt of before, just so you can finalize everything with barely enough time to double-check.

But, honestly, how many times have you been in a situation where your approval request was stuck, sitting in a queue waiting to be approved for days, weeks, or even longer? How many times have you missed the deadline and didn’t pay an invoice because your manager or coworker who had to approve the bill amount was on PTO or on emergency leave?

It’s obvious—the efficiency and flexibility of your team’s approval process determine whether other processes get delayed as well.

How can we improve the approval process?

Like, pleeease, I would very much appreciate it if there was any kind of dynamic solution that could help me customize the approval workflow in my company.

Anything that could give me the option to add multiple approvers for one particular project and set approvers in a hierarchy type of approving process (if needed), so if the request gets stuck in a queue for more than a couple of days, it automatically gets assigned to the next person in line. And, on top of that, a tool that can help me and my colleagues approve what’s needed, without buying additional user licenses in the ERP system we currently use, for each and every one of us. Something like approval by email, where approvers could approve transactions just by replying with “ok” or “yes” or “approved” via email, on the go.

But, what if something like this already exists, let’s say, for NetSuite? What if you could do all of that, with no additional technical knowledge needed? Something that will make your life easier, and put your worries to rest? This kinda elicits a smirk, doesn’t it?

Psst, I’ll let you in on a little secret. We might have something in the works that does just that, something called ZoneApprovals. You'll be hearing more about it soon. 🤩

Chuck the approval process, as it is now, way over the fence. You don’t need it anymore! There’s something way better, way easier, way more forward-looking for businesses that want to win.

My colleagues recently had a chat with our friends from Q2 on this exact topic. They talked about the approval problems that arise regularly, solutions currently available on the market that can help businesses deal with those issues, and how to think forward and avoid the bottlenecks the current approval processes create.

If this article feels close to the heart, you’ll like watching this episode of our Finance in the Clouds podcast. I loved it (well...obviously, this article was 100% inspired by the conversation 🤭).

Thank you for reading! 🥰

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