No two businesses are alike, even if they operate in the same industry, compete for the same customers, and have seemingly identical products. Even though the core operational challenges for these businesses are different, the outputs are poles apart.
And that’s because some business executives use smarter alternatives to tackle these operational challenges. This in turn translates to smoother operations and meaningful interactions with little to no time wasted on mundane tasks like waiting for approvals from higher-ups or colleagues.
According to a survey conducted by Quadient on 200 accounts payable executives, employees waste at least 20% of their billable hours managing approvals in the absence of approval automation.
Approval automation offers solutions to several challenges faced by businesses. From time-consuming manual processes to errors and delays caused by human intervention, automation helps streamline approval workflows and increase efficiency. If you're curious about these challenges and want to learn how approval automation can address them, we recommend reading further to gain a deeper understanding.
7 Problems Every Business Faces at a Certain Stage and Where Do They Come From
1. Inaccurate Forecasting due to Lack of Automation
Forecasting is as accurate as the data it’s backed by, and when businesses rely on manual processes to collect, register, and maintain databases, the reliability of data reduces drastically. Because, like it or not, manual processes are more prone to human errors than automated ones. Forecasting is essential for businesses that have scaled up to a few hundred employees and are now proactively making efforts to identify challenges that lie ahead and solve them to accelerate their growth.
Consider this example for instance:
A retail business can automate its sales forecasting process for the holiday season using approval automation. The sales team can create a forecast and submit it through an automated workflow, sending it directly to the manager for review and approval. All changes are made in real time and are automatically sent to the finance team for review and approval. This process improves efficiency, speeds up support, and ensures collaboration between stakeholders.
How Approval Automation can Help?
Approval automation can help reduce inaccurate forecasting by saving time and reducing errors in data entry, thereby increasing data accuracy. Moreover, it makes data consistent, ensuring that the data used for forecasting is reliable.
The adoption of approval workflow software, such as Approveit, offers enhanced transparency in the approval process. By enabling businesses to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies that may potentially impact forecasting accuracy, the software enables the accurate forecasting of business operations. Additionally, Approveit streamlines the approval pipeline through automation, thereby bolstering the overall output of organizations. Here’s a bit more detail into how it works.
2. Redundant Purchases
A business requires tools and resources to operate at optimal capacity. Their absence may affect the output, depending on the intimacy of the tool/resource from core business operations. Therefore, it’s imperative for a business to have effective expense approval frameworks in place. Which helps in analyzing the integrity and urgency of a proposed expense and facilitates the transaction.
Nonetheless, if the expense approval framework requires an excessive amount of time to green-light expenses, it could impede employees' productivity. If the framework is overly permissive, the company may be vulnerable to excessive expenditure through unnecessary purchases. That’s exactly why striking a balance between the two processes is paramount. This challenge is particularly prevalent in businesses that have surpassed the threshold of employing 100 individuals.
How can Approval Automation help?
Approval automation can reduce redundant purchases for a business by adding an extra layer of oversight and control over the purchasing process. With an automated expense approval channel, a request for purchase must go through an approval workflow before being authorized.
This workflow can include multiple levels of approval, which can help ensure that all purchases are necessary and in line with the business's goals and budget. Moreover, with approval automation, the requester and approver can have better conversations facilitating meaningful collaborations between them. Here are some tips on how you can effectively automate processes in your organization.
3. Lack of Control in Business Operations
As businesses scale, data complexity increases, and the potential for errors grows as well with the involvement of more individuals in manual processes. Moreover, crossing the hierarchy to convey an essential message without an automated communication/approval channel is a tedious task and often leads to inefficiencies.
Consider, for example, an employee who requires their colleague's approval on a minor modification in a sales deck. If the approval process takes longer than anticipated, the employee is compelled to await the decision, regardless of the duration. This situation is commonplace in organizations that have undergone significant growth, employing hundreds or even thousands of individuals, and now seek to optimize operations to augment productivity.
How can Approval Automation Help?
With approval automation, businesses can establish approval workflows that are standardized, consistent, and structured, providing a seamless and efficient process for all requests. This also helps to ensure that all requests are approved or denied based on the same criteria, promoting transparency and equity in decision-making.
Through the implementation of approval automation, businesses can streamline their approval process, enabling greater control and accountability while reducing the risk of errors.
4. Lack of Accountability Due to the Absence of an Audit Trail
Businesses with employee counts ranging between 200-500 or greater typically generate numerous reports that originate from different departments, span multiple communication channels, involve third-party transactions, travel expenses, operational expenses, reimbursements, and human managers overseeing the entire process.
Now I wouldn’t be surprised if some receipts go missing, or some transactions cannot be tracked due to the complex hierarchies involved. That is to be expected when a company is operating at such a scale. There’s no audit trail for the majority of operations and that may lead to accounting errors because there’s no way to confirm the authenticity of transactions.
How can Approval Automation help?
Approval automation ensures that all requests go through the same approval process, ensuring consistency and standardization in decision-making. This eliminates the potential for favouritism or bias in the approval process. Moreover, automation makes it easier to track and monitor the approval process like purchase order approval, access approval, purchase approval, invoice approval, and expense approval, allowing stakeholders to see where each request is in the process and who has approved it.
This increases transparency and makes it easier to identify bottlenecks or areas for improvement. There’s a pool of automation software you can choose from to automate processes across the board and makes your organization more efficient.
5. Time-Consuming Manual Reporting
To effectively guide an organization and align disparate individual actions with the organizational vision, c-suite executives require access to data-driven reports. Nevertheless, when reports are generated manually, it is not only time-consuming but there is also a high probability of inaccuracies in the data.
And that has a profound effect on the quality of the executive decisions, which is inevitably linked to the performance of the organization in the long run. So how far do you expect your organisation to go when the guiding light is broken?
How can Approval Automation help?
Approval automation can save you and your team a significant amount of time by automating the process of submitting and approving expense reports.
Automated expense reporting systems offer real-time visibility into expenses, making it easier to track and monitor spending. This brings transparency and helps pinpoint areas where expenses can be reduced.
6. Complex Approval Channels
I know I have touched upon this in the previous sections once, but this is way too important to leave it at that. How many times have you had to wait for someone to just say “Ok, go ahead…” for a task barely 10-15 minutes long, but it took you hours to complete because the approval came too late. Regardless of what position you hold at your organization, I’m pretty confident that you have been there and you can relate to this.
This happens quite too often and is one of the primary reasons for inefficiencies in an organization, regardless of its size. Complex approval channels serve no purpose because interactions are supposed to be seamless and collaborations need to be smooth for a business to thrive and that’s exactly why we are staunch proponents of approval automation.
How can Approval Automation help?
Approval automation provides a centralised platform for submitting and tracking approvals, making it easier for employees to submit requests and receive feedback. This eliminates the need for multiple channels of communication, such as email or in-person requests.
It can also send automated reminders to approvers or managers when requests are pending approval or require follow-up. This simplifies the process for managers and reduces the need for employees to follow up with approvers manually to ensure timely approval.
7. Lack of Synergy across Business Processes
To achieve optimal business performance, it is imperative to establish synergistic processes. The absence of synergy can engender suboptimal communication between various teams, departments, or business units. This, in turn, can result in misunderstandings, delays, and erroneous decision-making, adversely impacting product or service quality.
Ineffective processes, communication, and productivity cut into a business's profits. This is especially detrimental in competitive markets where efficiency is crucial for staying ahead.
How can Approval Automation help?
Approval automation provides clear visibility into the status of requests, allowing teams to see where their requests are in the approval process and who is responsible for reviewing and approving them. This promotes accountability and helps teams work together towards common goals.
It can also help streamline business processes by eliminating manual tasks and reducing the time and resources required to process and approve requests. This frees up resources that can be used for other important business activities.
Successful Approval Automation: Examples
- Audi Japan’s Approval Automation Bid
Audi Japan KK's finance division manages approval requests amounting to millions of dollars. Audi was able to simplify their complex workflow, enhance security measures, and transition to a paperless system using approval automation software. As a result, they experienced a noteworthy 75% decrease in processing time, which translates to significant savings of 60 work hours every week. You can read the full case study here.
- Insight Investment picks Automated Reporting
Insight Investment, a global asset management firm, aimed to enhance transparency and establish a solid foundation for ongoing improvement by uncovering, documenting, and digitizing its business processes. To achieve this, they used an automation modeller to map out these processes and implemented Tableau dashboards to visualize the data. As a result, they have created the groundwork for a reporting system that streamlines operations, offers clear visibility to senior management, and fosters greater reliability in the delegation of tasks. You can read the full case study here.
- Clearview Software Picks Approveit to Reduce Expenses
Clearview Software faced a common problem: delays in expense approvals due to manual processing. Each small expense approval request was submitted via email, causing requests to get lost or misdirected. The resulting confusion and disorganization led to inefficiencies and unnecessary expenses. With our solution, team members can conveniently submit requests from both remote and on-site locations, while managers have easy access to all requests. As a result, the approval management system is now streamlined, transparent, and efficient. You can read thefull case study here.
The underlying concept is to facilitate business automation by harmonizing operations, thereby optimizing output relative to expended effort. Approveit is an effective tool in accomplishing this, streamlining workflows, simplifying collaborations, and enhancing overall process efficiency.
Once businesses have established effective processes, the next critical step is to foster employees' enthusiasm towards their jobs. Upon realizing the compounding effects of their contributions aided by automation, the growth trajectory can mirror that of a rocket's launch.