In this interview with Nataleigh Gleeson, Administration Manager at Sports Accounting Australia, you’ll learn how an Australian-based accounting and bookkeeping firm has successfully automated approvals for a sports client, replacing inefficient email-based approvals with workflow-driven approvals from a mobile app.
ApprovalMax (AM): Hi Nataleigh! Tell us a bit about your organisation.
Sports Accounting Australia is an accounting and bookkeeping firm that works predominantly with sports organisations. We’re based in Scoresby, Victoria, and we have mainly Victorian clients, but also take on others from all over Australia as our processes are cloud-based.
We serve any kind of sports organisation, from national and state bodies to grassroots clubs, and provide them with better accounting processes and clearer financial reporting.
AM: How important is authorisation to your target market?
Very! As most sports organisations are not-for-profits, they usually have a lot of external people with a say in their business – shareholders, board members, committee members. All of those have to be involved in financial decisions such as allocating prize money or signing off on a certain amount to be spent on an event.
AM: What were the main challenges your client faced when making decisions that required authorisation?
Although there is an approval mechanism for bills in Xero, our client didn’t want outsiders to have access to their accounting system.
While understandable, this made collecting approvals quite laborious. In fact, the old procedure was very manual, i.e., sending documents to the responsible people and then waiting for them to reply by email.
Approving bills took a very long time as the approvers had lots of emails coming in and, of course, they weren’t sitting at their desks all day long.
AM: So, how did their old approval process actually work?
Incoming bills were received by the accounts team, who forwarded them to the respective approver. The team then had to wait for the approvers to print out and sign those invoices before sending them back to accounts, who subsequently entered the approved bills into Xero ready for payment.
It really was a clunky process, and bills could easily get misplaced. The accounts team often didn’t know what was holding up particular invoices or where they had ended up.
AM: What sort of bills require authorisation? And how does the authorisation process work now?
Well, it’s a mixture of everything; from rent and electricity to equipment and venue hire. It can also be prize money that has been won if we’re talking about the specifics of sports organisations.
As for the approval process, let’s take a bill of one hundred thousand dollars as an example: we’d enter it into the system, then the CEO would make his approval decision, followed by the committee members making theirs — a three-step layer.
AM: Let’s talk about categorising spending. What kind of tracking categories do you use?
For example, one of our clients is Equestrian Victoria, who have various disciplines: dressage, show horse, vaulting and so on. For every discipline, there is a different manager, and they’re the only ones who can approve bills for this particular discipline. So, when we enter a bill, we use the respective discipline as the tracking category.
AM: Bringing it all together, can you walk us through the end-to-end Bill Automation process — from invoice data capture to bill approval?
Yes, sure! Invoices arrive at accounts and the accounts team enters them into Receipt Bank. After Receipt bank has extracted the relevant data, the team reviews the information and publishes it to Xero as bills with the status “Waiting for approval”.
These are then pulled by ApprovalMax and passed through the predefined approval workflow, which routes all bills directly to the responsible approvers for reviewing, commenting, approving or reassignment.
Once fully approved, bills get pushed back to Xero ready for payment, which the accounts team takes care of accordingly.
AM: What do you like about this new-look process?
This new process is so much more time-efficient/ The route of each bill throughout the workflow is tracked – no missing invoices any more. And to top it all, it’s completely paperless!
AM: We’re keen to know, do the approvers typically use the mobile app or the web version?
I’d say 90 % of them prefer the mobile app, they love this option. About 10 % use the “Approval from email” capability and approve from the notification email they get about approval requests pending their decision. No one really uses the web version for approval.
AM: In a nutshell, how would you summarise the main benefits that you and your clients have achieved by switching to an approval app?
We now have a seamless, paperless and very time-efficient process.
And a great advantage for audits is the detailed tracking history, which gives auditors a physical record of who approved which bills – including any clarifying comments.