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June 09, 2021
3 minute read

Approval processes that hit the sweet spot of visibility and simplicity.

Written by Laura Slauson

“I perform better when every expense request is micromanaged,” said no employee, ever.

“I need to make sure my team is staying within budget,” said every budget owner, always.

Therein lies the dilemma. Employees want an easy spend approval process, with clear approval chains and policies. But finance teams and managers need full visibility into spend requests, and the ability to control spending before it takes place.

Automated accounting and visibility.

Automated approval workflows make life easier for everyone. Take a look at what happens when the system routes requests for every payment type, including purchase orders, reimbursements, and corporate cards, to the correct approvers before a purchase happens.

Visibility into each request. When an employee requests a virtual card or a raises a purchase order, carefully configured workflows mean all stakeholders can see:

  • Who is making the purchase
  • What it’s for
  • Who approved it
  • How much it costs
  • The GL category and tags for the purchase
  • All supporting documentation

With this information, budget owners make any adjustments as needed — before the purchase is made. Potential budgetary problems are circumvented right away, before the month-end close, and without the need to reconcile credit card statements to make sure budgets are protected.

Visibility into corporate policies. Employees also have clear visibility into expense policies without any ambiguity. A rule-based approach frees them from having to interpret written expense policies, and reassures them purchases are compliant.

Visibility into all payment types, across a company. In our age of distributed spending and remote work, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to stay on top of employee spending when using different systems for different types of expenses. If, for example, an employee in Marketing purchases a SaaS subscription with a personal card and then requests reimbursement, and an employee in HR buys the same subscription using a corporate card, it can take a long time to realize the unnecessary expense. But if both employees begin by submitting an approval request, a unified system would instantly flag the duplication.

Visibility for accounting. If categories and tags are set up front with an approval request, they can be reviewed before a purchase is made and the transaction is booked to the GL. The month-end close flows more smoothly without any last-minute adjustments.

A simple process can still accommodate complexity.

For some purchases, full visibility requires multiple layers of approvals. For example, IT might need to see all software purchases in order to make sure each product meets security standards, or hasn’t already been purchased. With a smart platform, administrators can configure the workflow so that an IT member is added to the approval chain, either sequentially or concurrently. This creates no extra work for the employee, but, in the long run, improves efficiency for everyone.

Other requirements could mean different approvals for different spend thresholds, departments, or expense categories. Without an automated approval process, these policies can intimidate employees, or even lead them to circumvent the system. With a more advanced approval system, the employee just enters the necessary information without having to sleuth out who needs to review it. Similarly, if an approver is absent, the system routes to a backup approver.

When approvals happen quickly, teams keep moving.

It’s obvious that approval processes that rely on a combination of spreadsheets, emails, and Slack messages bog down productivity. But some newer solutions, like Brex or Teampay, that aim to get rid of those cumbersome processes, lack features like approval groups or sequential approvers. Oversights like that compromise visibility and, as a result, slow everyone down. And, when different types of payments, such as purchase orders or virtual cards, require different approval systems, operations slow down further.

When approvers can vet a request quickly, through Slack, a mobile app, or email, nobody has to slow down. Questions can be quickly answered, and outstanding issues resolved right away. Approvals become both cooperative and asynchronous, without any delays.

A user-friendly approval process doesn’t have to compromise visibility. Find out how Airbase approvals make everyone happy. Contact us for a demo!

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