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March 12, 2024

Optimizing Approval Workflows for Greater Efficiency and Compliance

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While enterprises are notorious for being rigid and bureaucratic, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can be more agile – giving them a huge advantage in terms of speed and allowing them to capitalize on opportunities. But how can SMBs balance flexibility with the need for strong internal controls and robust approval processes?

In this article, we’ll explore how to implement truly streamlined workflows, reduce bottlenecks, and obtain the flexibility and speed of action necessary for business success today, while maintaining effective control over approvals.

Importance Of Optimizing Approval Workflows

Why are approval workflows so important, and why is optimizing this area so critical? There are several reasons, many of which speak to overall business objectives:

  • Achieve greater operational efficiency: By refining and automating the approval process, organizations can minimize manual interventions, leading to greater overall operational efficiency and fewer bottlenecks.
  • Ensure compliance with internal policies: Optimizing workflows helps ensure that all payment processes align with internal policies, which is essential for maintaining internal control and managing risks effectively.
  • Ensure compliance with external regulations: Streamlined approval workflows are generally designed to comply with external financial and legal regulations, making sure that companies avoid penalties and other legal issues.
  • Streamline workflows: Reduce bottlenecks in the procurement cycle, speed up the approval process, and involve necessary cross-departmental stakeholders more effectively.
  • Improve cash flow management: Efficient approval workflows can help better manage cash flows by ensuring that payments are made on time and according to the company’s financial planning and budgeting.
  • Increase transparency and accountability: Optimizing the approval process increases transparency in financial transactions and holds individuals accountable for their roles in the process. Employees now feel a sense of ownership while seeing exactly where a request is currently sitting and its status. Additionally, approval requests can be customized so that employees don’t have to wade through masses of paperwork to do their jobs effectively.
  • Enhance supplier relationships: Efficient and reliable payment processes can improve relationships with suppliers by ensuring timely payments.

Challenges in Approval Workflows

It’s not always plain sailing. Several challenges need to be overcome to optimize approval workflows. Chief among these are:

  1. Manual processes and bottlenecks: All too often, SMBs rely on manual processes for approvals. This leads to:
    • Bottlenecks, especially if the approval requires input from multiple departments or levels of authority
    • Delays and wasted time
    • Errors
    • Missed opportunities
    • Frustration from employees who feel they are being held back from being effective in their role
    • A lack of engagement, satisfaction, and higher rates of attrition
  2. Lack of visibility and transparency: Without a centralized system or platform, it can be challenging to track the status of approvals or understand who is responsible for the next step. This lack of visibility can lead to confusion, missed approvals, or duplicated efforts, affecting the workflow's overall efficiency.
  3. Inconsistent application of policies: Ensuring consistent application of approval policies across all departments and levels of an organization can be challenging. Variations in how policies are interpreted or applied can lead to compliance issues, unauthorized expenditures, and perhaps worst of all, internal conflicts.
  4. Adapting to scale and complexity: As SMBs grow, their approval workflows need to scale accordingly. However, scaling these processes can be challenging due to increasing complexity, the introduction of new regulations, and the need to integrate more departments and systems into the workflow. Under-optimized approval workflows exacerbate this challenge.

Implementing Effective Workflow Approvals

How can companies implement flexible yet structured approval mechanisms that adapt to changing business needs while maintaining strict oversight? How can the benefits of approval workflows be obtained, without getting stuck in the challenges we’ve just looked at?

The answer lies in technology; specifically, AI and automation.

To implement effective approval workflows that answer these needs, you’ll want:

  • Customizable approval processes
  • Automated workflows
  • No-code, agile workflows
  • Integration with HRMS and ERP systems
  • Audit trail, including full compliance and audit readiness
  • Maximum visibility and control for all relevant stakeholders

With these elements in place, you can reduce the risks associated with manual approvals, eliminate bottlenecks, and increase adoption, efficiency, visibility, buy-in, and scalability.

Given these requirements, what should your next step be in terms of implementing optimized approval workflows for your company?

Introducing PayEm

PayEm is a comprehensive spend management solution that transforms how your organization manages expenses, empowers employees, and takes charge of financial decisions.

One of its core functionalities is agile approval workflows, which enables companies to tailor approval workflows at any level, including employees, departments, subsidiaries, and vendors.

It incorporates budget oversight and involves relevant stakeholders, offers a flexible, no-code approval system, and allows decision frameworks utilizing the hierarchical information from your Human Resources Management System (HRMS) and financial insights from your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

The PayEm platform also empowers you and your team to:

  • Enable the easy setup and customization of agile workflows, integrating seamlessly with platforms like Slack for streamlined tracking and efficient approval processes
  • Align approval workflows with your organization's unique requirements and financial constraints, ensuring quick and efficient approvals
  • Maintain audit-readiness and compliance through comprehensive audit trails for every transaction, centralizing approval management for improved insight and communication
  • Facilitate the creation of customizable request forms with dynamic conditional logic, eliminating the need for external support and enhancing user experience
  • Automate the approval process using organizational data, minimizing IT dependency and improving process efficiency through direct integration with communication tools
  • Optimize approval times by tailoring workflows to fit organizational and financial contexts
  • Enhance risk management and compliance, including adherence to SOX regulations, through tailored, automated workflows that also ensure transparency and peace of mind
  • Improve oversight and transparency for all requests, enabling administrators and request initiators to monitor progress in real-time, thereby minimizing delays and frustrations

What can this mean for your business? More agility, more effective controls, and a more engaged and empowered workforce – resulting in real bottom-line improvements and almost instant ROI.

Approval Workflows for Efficiency and Compliance

To summarize, we looked at the importance of optimizing approval workflows, with particular emphasis on these procedures’ outsize role in the effective, efficient, and compliant function of the business.

We delved into the challenges many businesses face here and how these can be overcome, especially by using technologies, including AI and automation.

Finally, we explored how PayEm was the ultimate solution to instantaneously optimize your approval workflows, boosting efficiency and compliance and leading to significantly improved business outcomes.

See PayEm in action for yourself or get in touch with the PayEm team today.