Using a workflow management platform to automate business processes is crucial to empowering future growth and scalability. Finance departments are ripe for workflow automation as they contain within them a huge range of processes which are repetitive in nature, follow logical parameters such as “approve if less than $x”, and have a lot of manual input, typically controlled by spreadsheets or legacy systems.
Here are five finance processes you should already have automated with a workflow management system:
Sending in an expense request for travel is not a favorite pastime for either the employee or the reviewing manager. Claims are frequently incorrectly completed, and/or missing vital information and evidence, such as whether an expense item is reimbursable, whether the information contained in the claim supports company policy (for instance, for alcohol), or whether the receipts are attached to support the expense claimed.
Creating the expense claim is time-consuming for the employee, and there is frequent back-and-forth between employee and manager as the claim runs through the approval process.
Workflow management software ensures the employee is guided through an automated expense claim and ensures appropriate declarations and receipts are all collected in accordance with company policies, before moving to the reviewing manager. The reviewing manager’s time is used more efficiently because they have everything in one place and a complete claim for their review, making approval smoother and faster.
Everyone saves valuable time, company policies on reimbursement are enforced at source, and all the information is collected and maintained in one place for effective management control and auditing purposes.
Budgeting is a vital finance activity, with each department bringing an extensive shopping list of expense requests. Without budget approval, departmental plans cannot be put into action, and traditionally the approval process is lengthy and convoluted, not because the process is complex but because the multiple human dependencies make it so.
Approving a budget typically requires a large amount of horse trading and negotiation, interoffice politics, multiple dependencies, and shifting environmental conditions. Ensuring everyone who need information is kept in the loop becomes very difficult and time-consuming, not to mention the multiple meetings required which soak up management time.
Outlining the budget approval process opens the door to removing the need to sift through dozens, if not hundreds of emails, relying upon memory, or using spreadsheets which are difficult to maintain and secure.
Workflow management solutions are able to automate the approval process, ensuring all the relevant information is brought into one location, that those people who need to know are kept informed as a matter of routine (and those who should not be allowed access to sensitive data are kept out), while providing a record of the approval decision and the contributions made by all related parties to it.
The result is faster budget approval, less management time required with fewer meetings and updates, and a complete record of how the decision has been made.
Mileage Expense Reimbursement
Similar to travel reimbursement, mileage expenses are simple to automate and approve.
Create a form within the workflow management platform, record the mileage amount and purpose of travel together with any supporting information required, e.g. upload a copy of a receipt, and hit submit.
Reviewing managers get a complete claim, or indeed, the system itself can automatically approve the claim subject to any de minimis limits you wish to impose.
Fixed Asset Purchases
Keeping track of asset purchases is very difficult in a manual environment, because the nature of purchases will differ so very widely. Depending upon the amount involved, or the nature of the asset, you may want to automatically escalate some purchase decisions for review, while automating approval for others.
Typically, asset purchases emanate with an initial request, and then there are back-and-forth emails and meetings concerning the need for the asset in question, the nature of the asset, the vendor or manufacturer, competing alternatives, and so on.
Enforcing company policy can become problematical, while delaying asset purchase may be detrimental to the business.
By automating the asset purchase workflow, all the relevant information can be collected by the requestor prior to being submitted for finance approval. Workflow automation can be designed to insist on answers to all of the common questions asked in connection with the request, and declarations and information submitted to support the claim in advance.
Finance approval is streamlined because all the information is presented in one communication, only requiring further investigation where the asset amount or nature is sensitive or constitutes higher risk warranting in-depth investigation.
Company policy is again enforced at source, while a full record of the request origin and research conducted into a specific asset purchase is collected in one place. A full audit trail is also maintained not only of the asset itself, but also the who and why of how the purchase decision was made.
Paying Vendors – Accounts Payable
All businesses use vendors and ensuring they are paid in accordance with company policy, with the correct amount, and at the correct time is essential.
Workflow management software ensures that all invoices are tracked through from submission, through to review and approval, and ultimately to payment in a streamlined manner with all supporting information attached to the invoice as it flows through the process.
Finance departments want all of the information together in one request in order to facilitate approval and avoid the interminable email and telephone ping-pong that results from a poorly worded or supported invoice. By using workflow automation, finance departments can ensure that the invoice is from the right vendor, for the right work, and properly authorized by the appropriate manager/budget holder. More than this, by ensuring invoices are only paid when they are actually due, they can take full advantage of credit terms offered by vendors, ensuring a check is only sent to a supplier when needed, but without the worry of missing a payment or knowing if a vendor is paid or not.
There are common benefits with automating workflows within finance departments:
- The presentation of complete claims and approval requests eliminating back and forth communication for information that ought to come with the initial claim.
- Keeping all information and supporting documentation in one place and in a digital format, making communication and reporting much more effective.
- Enforcing and evidencing compliance with company policies within the finance department and at source.
- Ensuring timelines are adhered to, including automating escalation or exception reporting on items which are in danger of running over deadlines or causing department bottlenecks, and providing a fast and easy means of monitoring work status anywhere within the finance department or from stakeholders.