The Romero Catholic Academy cuts approval times by 85% with automated expense management

case study

The Romero Catholic Academy cuts approval times by 85% with automated expense management

Average approval time:
<1 day

85% reduction
in approval times

8 schools with
40 decision-makers

Accounting platform:



The Romero Catholic Academy, a trust consisting of eight schools and two other organisations (for their finance function) in Coventry, England, faced challenges with their manual approval process. Senior Finance Manager, Carole Claridge is responsible for overseeing the finance team and day-to-day management of the finance function. With multiple education facilities and a large number of decision-makers spread across the schools, the finance team found themselves spending a lot of time chasing down approvals and documents.

To solve this problem, the academy adopted Xero as their accounting system and implemented ApprovalMax to automate their approval process, resulting in 85% faster approval times and significant improvements for their finance team!

Keep reading to learn how Carole and her team automated their approval processes and improved spend control across their entire organisation, and find out how automation transformed one employee’s daily work experience.

“ApprovalMax makes it easy for staff to create a purchase order themselves. Being able to create and approve purchase orders in ApprovalMax has really reduced our workload, whilst maintaining all the essential controls we have to have in place.”

Carole Claridge, Senior Finance Manager at The Romero Catholic Academy

Solving the Challenges of Manual Approval Processes

Before adopting automation, The Romero Catholic Academy’s approval process relied heavily on paper and email processes. With multiple decision-makers spread across different education facilities, this method proved to be time-consuming and prone to delays. The finance team found themselves devoting a lot of time to tracking down approvers and necessary documents.

“We have a huge number of approvers, particularly in our secondary school, who are rightly focused on teaching students rather than paperwork or emails, so my team was constantly chasing approvals, or walking around site trying to track approvers down with files of paper invoices to sign!”

When Carole discovered ApprovalMax through Xero’s marketing, she recognised the potential for significant time savings for the centralised finance team. With a complex matrix required to manage ten cost centres, 30 to 40 decision-makers, and a stringent budgeting process, the team needed a solution that could handle everything from school supplies to agency staff requests. Additionally, the solution needed to be user-friendly, easy to adopt, low-maintenance, and reliable, all while adhering to their financial policies and strict government funding regulations. 

“Because we’re state-funded, we’re very tightly regulated. Our scheme of delegation is complex, involving several tiers of approvers and it was a challenge to ensure and evidence compliance – hence why we needed ApprovalMax.”

Streamlining the approval process and managing purchases with automation

The transition from manual accounting solutions and approval processes to cloud-based automation for The Romero Catholic Academy was a successful process, bringing about significant time savings, easy adoption, and improved control over spend and budgeting.

To fully take advantage of their new processes and technologies, Carole’s team put in the effort to define their scheme of delegation (DFA) within their approval matrix, ensuring it could effectively handle the responsibilities of various budget holders across the academy’s different areas. Additionally, they implemented ApprovalMax’s multi-tier, multi-level approvals which allowed them to channel certain areas of the academy’s finances through central shared services teams, while also providing them with the ability to monitor each step of the process, make adjustments as needed, and have a clear audit trail.

One aspect of their bill approval workflow is dedicated to the fulfilment of goods or services. This allows them to check and manage goods and services received, and all the details associated. The first stage of the workflow is always passed through the Finance Assistant, who double-checks the workflow and adds any notes for the attention of approvers, and then it will be sent to the person who placed the order. They also use ApprovalMax to automatically approve new contacts and manage their approved supplier list.

In theory, anybody ordering should raise a new purchase order in ApprovalMax – which they can’t do if there isn’t a contact on the system. ApprovalMax forces them to add a new contact through the approval process. This means that we can effectively manage our approved supplier list, gathering all the relevant information and running fraud checks on their bank details etc. ApprovalMax makes it easy for us to control who we are purchasing from”, says Carole.

The purchase order process is also automated, reducing the workload for the finance assistant and ensuring approvals are in line with the Scheme of Delegation. Staff can create purchase orders themselves and receive updates at every stage, reducing the need to contact the finance team. ApprovalMax automatically limits things like which cost centres the expense should come from and which staff members are able to create a purchase order under certain GL codes. The approval matrix ensures that purchase orders are approved according to the Scheme of Delegation, maintaining essential controls while reducing workload.

“When we set up purchase orders through ApprovalMax, we can automatically limit things like which cost centres the expense should come out of, or which staff members are able to create a purchase order under certain GL codes. The approval matrix ensures purchase orders are approved according to the Scheme of Delegation, so controls are adhered to. The person creating the purchase order gets updates in ApprovalMax at every stage, so they aren’t ringing us to ask what stage it’s at,” Carole says.

Adopting ApprovalMax for one of The Romero Catholic Academy’s finance team

Before adopting approval automation, it would take at least a week for decision-makers to review and approve documents. Thanks to cloud accounting and automation, Carole and her team are now able to process most approvals within one day; cutting approval times by 85%!

A member of Romero Catholic Academy’s finance department was one of the toughest critics of adopting new technology. Because she had worked at the academy for so long, she had found it difficult to adapt to a new cloud-based accounting system. Carole explained:

“When we first moved to Xero, we had one member of our team who really struggled with the change. It was really important to support her through that move. She was an amazing worker with so much knowledge but because she worked in one of the schools for more than 30 years, she struggled to learn the new technology having been used to one system for so long. When we were looking to adopt ApprovalMax, we were conscious it might be challenging for her to adopt yet another new system or process – instead, it absolutely transformed her life! She had spent her whole work-life emailing people and trying to keep tabs on emails chasing approvers, but suddenly she didn’t have to do that. She loved ApprovalMax and how easy it was to use and became its biggest advocate.”

Enhancing financial operations for education-based organisations with ApprovalMax

With ApprovalMax, organisations like The Romero Catholic Academy can easily navigate the complexities of managing multiple budgets, executing reliable approval processes, and complying with strict regulations and audits. Carole and her team have found great value in the platform’s features, including:

In addition to effectively managing their complicated approval matrix, and simplifying the invoice approval and purchase order processes, Carole and her team appreciate ApprovalMax’s flexibility, ease of use, and user-friendly design. They also find value in features such as budget checking, bill-to-PO matching, and the mobile app. In Carole’s words,

“ApprovalMax is a great piece of software! It’s reasonably priced and so useful, and the product’s flexibility is what really makes it so valuable. If you need it to be a bit more adhoc, the workflows will do that! We use a variety of features, love the flexibility of the approval matrixes, and route all our purchase orders, new suppliers and bill approvals through ApprovalMax. We also make use of auto-approvals for routine contract payments and the audit trails keep our auditors happy.”

Carole Claridge, Senior Finance Manager at The Romero Catholic Academy

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