Partner success story: Approval automation for NFP clients

An interview with Brendan Lucas, Director of Hopscotch Accounting.

The Australian-based technology-focused accounting company Hopscotch Accounting provides cutting-edge, cloud-based accounts services and advice to both the business and not-for-profit (NFP) sectors. In this interview, we’ll learn how ApprovalMax helps them and their clients to save time and increase efficiency.

ApprovalMax: Please tell us a little about the services you provide and the clients you serve.

Hopscotch Accounting has been around for five years. We focus on being an outsourcing solution for our clients and basically offer every service from bookkeeper to CFO level. These include day-to-day processing, bookkeeping tasks, accounts payable and accounts receivable reconciliations, monthly reports, annual reports and ad-hoc advice. Our main area is the NFP space, but we also have privately owned businesses in Australia as clients.

ApprovalMax: How would you describe a common business case that makes your clients start using ApprovalMax?

ApprovalMax is part of the solution we recommend to any new client who comes on board for the full accounting service. It enables us to do our job properly without creating too much admin work for them. At the moment we have six clients using ApprovalMax – and most of them are NFPs.

ApprovalMax: What was the compelling event for you to start using ApprovalMax?

We actually heard about ApprovalMax a couple of years ago. But back then we were new ourselves and pretty busy with simply working out how to use Xero in the most efficient way. That’s why we kind of pushed aside the idea of using ApprovalMax, thinking that we would come back to it at a later stage. However, when we acquired a really large client we soon realised that the only way we’d be able to monitor their accounts payable properly was by installing ApprovalMax – and since then we haven’t looked back.

ApprovalMax: You are using ApprovalMax for a number of clients now, right? How does it work for them?

Yes, after rolling out ApprovalMax for that particular client, we realised that others could also benefit from establishing this kind of approval process. So far, we’ve implemented it for clients that are open to embracing the benefits of technology.  Some of our clients are a bit more old-school but we are now able to show them examples of where ApprovalMax can make a big difference to how they operate.

ApprovalMax: How would you describe the purpose of using ApprovalMax for you, and for any other accounting company?

I would say that ApprovalMax is one of the essential tools required to create a clutter-free paperless end-to-end process. At the moment, we use ApprovalMax only for accounts payable, but we’re interested in exploring its capabilities further. Usually, we’re not really involved in how our clients are handling their purchase orders, as most of them have manual processes in place and we haven’t introduced them to Xero yet. However, one of our goals for the near future is to encourage our clients to use ApprovalMax and move them to a completely paperless process.

ApprovalMax: Are you using data capture software? And what does your end-to-end bill automation process look like?

Currently we use Receipt Bank. Although we’re always on the lookout for new tools on the market, this is our preferred solution for now. We’ve set up an email address for our clients to send us all their bills, which are then redirected to the Receipt Bank system. For this part of the process, our clients don’t actually care about the software involved. But as they have to log into ApprovalMax to do their approvals, it is obvious to them that we use ApprovalMax.

ApprovalMax: Please describe how one of your clients used to operate before they implemented ApprovalMax.

Hopscotch Accounting worked with a large NFP client with three different business departments. Basically, all incoming bills went to accounts payable first and were routed to the relevant business units later. If their total was over a certain amount, the general manager had to approve before they could be scheduled for payment.

Before ApprovalMax it was all paper-based, even stamps were involved, and the whole lot had to be printed out. There were bills everywhere. The general manager would get a stack of bills on her desk and look painstakingly at every single paper in the pile. Very time-consuming.

ApprovalMax: How does the process look now?

Now the general manager can decide that she only needs to look at bills over a certain amount and only wants to see those bills – without having to sieve through loads of paper to find them. That freed up a lot of time for her and also provides a much better oversight regarding which bills are waiting for approval and where they are in the approval process. It is easy to spot if someone’s desk is a bottleneck, and knowing whether there is $50K or $5K worth of bills is a true advantage.

ApprovalMax: What would you identify as the main benefits of using ApprovalMax for this particular client?

The transparency is so much better, particularly when we’re doing the month-end closing. Now we know exactly what to accrue for costs – even if not everything is yet approved. We also have a good idea about what bills will be arriving in the next couple of days. Being able to close off quickly at the end of the month does make a big difference.

ApprovalMax: Where do your customers prefer to do their reviews and approvals: in the mobile app, the web interface or via email?

It seems to be mainly the web interface. They usually approve while sitting at their desks in the office – because we’re talking large amounts here – and they want to open the PDFs and look at things in detail. In this scenario, email notifications act as a prompt for them to log in. As far as I’m aware they don’t really use the mobile app. For them, going digital has been a big step and I don’t think they’re quite ready yet to do mobile approvals. Besides, they are mostly office people and always in front of their computers anyway. Still, the process is so much better now – what a change from shuffling all that paper.

For Hopscotch Accounting, the big thing is that ApprovalMax delivers a pretty good system with all login options providing the same functionality.

ApprovalMax: Are you using audit reports for your NFP clients?

Yes, definitely. When an auditor wants to get a sample of our bills, we tell them to log into Xero. There they can see the bills and they can follow the process. For detailed reports on the approval work, we can give auditors greater access and say, for example, “Here’s what our approval workflow looks like, here’s our last change, etc.” Audit reports are a very handy feature.