Success Story: How we helped Australia’s largest German festival

Oktoberfest Brisbane is Australia’s largest German festival, and it prides itself in providing a diverse group of patrons with an authentic Bavarian and German cultural experience.

The festival is now in its eleventh run, and each year sees more than 43,000 culture-seeking enthusiasts descend on the Brisbane Showgrounds to feast their eyes on traditional Schmankerl {traditional treats}, zünftige Bayrische Unterhaltung! {authentic Bavarian entertainment}, Gaudi für Kinder {fun for kids}, spannende Wettbewerbe {Suspense-packed competitions} and Bayrische Gemütlichkeit {Bavarian comfort & good cheer}.

Despite the massive crowds, this major event still manages to maintain an intimate feel, thanks to Brisbane-based, German-Australian Festival Directors, Kim and Boris Zoulek, whose personal version of Munich’s famous Oktoberfest turns the Brisbane Showgounds into a mini Bavaria with a culturally-rich atmosphere.

Festival Services, who provide event management and rental services, continue to pursue their passion for creating unforgettable moments and important cultural experiences in an ever-evolving industry. And this is impossible without proper accounting and approval management systems.


Prost! Raise a stein to the cloud

“When I came into the business, my brief was to move from manual, paper-based systems and processes by utilising technology and cloud-based solutions in order to streamline our business” says Geoff Rollason, Group Business Manager.

As the festival grew in popularity, it became apparent that the previous accounting system – based predominantly on Excel spreadsheets – was not going to scale with the business.

In light of this, Festival Services was keen to explore a move to the cloud, and Xero in particular. With its open API and cloud-enabled integrations, it was clear to Geoff that this system would have significant benefits in terms of accuracy, usability and efficiency.

It didn’t take long for everything to click into place. Whereas previously, Excel-based invoices and bills were time consuming to create and follow-up on, Xero allowed for a streamlined and automated process.

However, there was one more thing had to be improved – the approval management process.


O’zapft is! Automated approval decisions are good to go

The real step forward came when Geoff introduced ApprovalMax and Receipt Bank to help streamline the processes and remove the need for paper filing and approvals. And the difference was immediate.

Before making the switch, the process looked a little something like this:

  • A supplier invoice would be emailed from a Department Manager (DM), advising Geoff that the invoice was approved a short description and an indication of where to allocate the expense.
  • Then Geoff would have to save the invoice as a PDF, print out a paper copy, manually allocate it into the system, and stamp it as ‘entered’.
  • When it was ready for payment, Geoff would batch the paper invoices to the owner for his approval,
  • Once approved each supplier payment was manually set up in via internet banking, the paper copy stamped as ‘Paid’ and filed.

As you can imagine, invoices would often get missed via email, or lost in the shuffle on the Department Manager’s desk. It was a time-consuming and error-prone approach.

But with the new approach, all Department Managers (including outside contractors) are set up in ApprovalMax and are now able to approve all necessary invoices within their allocated accounts.

And if an invoice amount is above a particular level, it also gets forwarded to one of the two appropriate Festival Directors, for their approval.

The new process provides an excellent audit trail within ApprovalMax (as well as in Xero), and invoices can be approved out in the office, on site, or at home, thanks to the easy-to-use smartphone app.

Traditionally, to signify that Oktoberfest has begun, Munich’s mayor taps the first keg and shouts “O’zapft is!” or “it is tapped!” For Geoff and Festival Services, the introduction to automated approvals was the equivalent – even if there was no beer in sight.

Let’s all do the Fliegerlied! Celebrating the business impact

For Geoff and Festival Services team, the introduction of the new process meant less paper, a smoother, more efficient workflow, a clean and clear audit trail, and approval on-the-go.

Even during the fortnight while the team are all on-site at the Brisbane Showgrounds and everyone is busy with preparations and managing important tasks, the Department Managers can set aside a small amount of time, open their emails or the smartphone app, and approve their invoices.

And this has resulted in:

  • Significantly higher individual and team productivity;
  • Full accountability for invoice authorisation decisions;
  • Transparency regarding the approval status.

Here’s what Geoff had to say:

“Everything’s changed for the better. Approval decisions are made by employees with the appropriate authorisation level in accordance with our organisational structure and requirements, including the ‘amount-based authorisation levels’.

The authorisation process for the users required minimum training as it was very easy to understand. The users are notified when they have an invoice to approve which can be done anywhere, including on a smartphone.

I’m completely confident in Xero and ApprovalMax to keep supporting our festival as it grows. It does a great job of allowing us to manage the business as it is now, and to work towards building the business for the future. We know we’re in safe hands with Xero and ApprovalMax.”

Join the celebration of Bavarian culture!

ApprovalMax operates out of Munich, the home of Oktoberfest. We are incredibly proud to play a small part in helping Festival Services bring a slice of our beloved Bavarian tradition Down Under.

It’s time to don your Dirndl or Lederhosen as Australia’s largest German festival is coming soon. Oktoberfest Brisbane takes place over two weekends at the Brisbane Showgrounds: Friday the 5th to Sunday the 7th, and Friday the 12th to Sunday the 14th of October.

To find out more, visit their website.