Why is an optimized approval workflow so important to saving time in the purchasing process? The short answer is the approval process accounts for most of the common delays that afflict purchasing. These delays can frustrate and bog down every aspect of the purchasing process and cause unwanted ripple effects like unauthorized spending, or in some cases bring the entire process to a screeching halt.
Tune your approval workflow and you’ll see how even the most complicated approval scenarios can benefit from automation.
Let’s explore the top three causes of common speed bumps along the path to approval.
1. Fragmented Approval Process
If your purchasing is decentralized with offices in multiple cities, regions or countries, and your purchasing manager has to get approval through a round-about method that crisscrosses the globe, then you belong in this group. This group has to endure the arduous process of justifying a purchase, outlining the selection process in multiple communications and then repeating it at every level until it can be approved. If someone along the chain requests more details or clarification, it usually means the process starts all over again.
2. Lost or Stalled Requisitions
Anyone who has had to deal with a manual approval process or review multiple email threads and spreadsheets knows that this is the number one reason for lost or stalled requisitions. Paper requests are prone to loss and spreadsheets become unwieldy, causing delays.
3. Out-of-Office Approvers
Timely approvals can become completely derailed when the next in line approver is traveling or out on vacation. This effectively stops the requisition in its tracks. Worse, it might cause the requester to go around the normal approval process by going rogue (unauthorized spending).
Now that we’ve identified the prime suspects for an outdated approval process, we can explore ways to optimize your workflow with an automated system.
Here are three immediate benefits that help make the case for approval workflow automation.
1. Automated Approval Routing
The number one benefit is the ease-of-use when it comes to an automated approval workflow. You submit your request and that’s it – your automation software cuts out the laborious paper forms, spreadsheets and impossible to make sense of email threads and does the heavy lifting for you. It’s like a digital copy of your existing manual rules that never misses or skips over a step. Well-designed software will automatically route the request for approval and collect all required approval data along the way. This simplifies the audit process by capturing every approval, note and attachment.
2. No More Guesswork
What’s the status of a requisition? Who approved this purchase? Is this purchase within budget? These are common questions that are time consuming to answer without automation. Approval workflow software puts critical visibility into your organization’s spend at your fingertips. Know the status of every requisition and all relevant data in seconds. Quickly see where requisitions are in relation to the budget. Lastly, compile data into custom reports from overview to the granular details.
3. Proxy and Out-of-Office Delegation
No more delays due to an approver not being available due to illness, travel or vacation. Use your approval workflow software to make sure there are no gaps in the process. Intelligent software gives you the ability to assign a proxy approver or out-of-office delegate to manage approvals in your absence and keep requests moving through the system.
How can this help your organization in the long run?
It will save you time. Approval workflow software will help you streamline purchasing—cutting out tedious manual routing, data collection and reporting. On average, organizations running at full optimization can look at shaving days off the requisition process, from over a week to less than a day. Can you imagine? The time savings alone will boost your purchasing manager’s productivity and give them the ability to turn their attention to other, more critical areas. The productivity gains alone can lead to significant savings overall and even reduce the need for additional hires.
It will help you reduce fraud. Rogue, maverick, and fraudulent spending are problems for many organizations for one simple reason — you can’t control what you can’t see. An Automated Approval Workflow solution will not only make it easier to identify unauthorized purchases, the increased visibility can even stop such purchases from being entered in the first place. Users are far less likely to make a rouge purchase when they know they’ll get caught.
Approval workflow automation is about finding your balance between efficiency and control. While every spend management system, be it purchasing, travel and expense, or a complete solution, has an approval workflow engine, the Best in Class solutions place this at their core. These software suites are built around a powerful, flexible routing engine that can adapt to fit almost any need, while still being easy to use and setup. This unique combination helps turn obtaining measurable results from a dream into a reality.
Next steps: Would you like to dive deeper into approval workflow automation software? Schedule an eRequester demo to learn how software automation can boost your productivity, efficiency and controls.