Structured approval chains and automated audits for a non-profit organisation

Data Friendly Space (DFS) is a US-based non-profit organisation focused on providing data-centric applications to humanitarian organisations. In addition to software development, DFS also offers a range of analytical services aimed at strengthening the capacities for data collection and analysis in humanitarian emergencies. They work with numerous humanitarian organisations, such as United Nations agencies and the Red Cross.

Most of the Data Friendly Space team are contractors who submit their invoices once a month. When DFS first started, they relied on a cumbersome approval process via email for invoice approval. But as the organisation began to grow and the complexity of their projects increased, the lack of a proper approval process became obvious and DFS realized that the organization required a more systematic approach to approvals.

“I looked at several solutions; some are too expensive, others don’t integrate with QuickBooks Online. We even considered building our own approval system, but then I found ApprovalMax. When I realised that if we were going to build our own system it would work exactly like ApprovalMax, it made perfect sense to just start using it,”

says Ewan Oglethorpe, Executive Director of Data Friendly Space.

DFS now has 3 approval workflows for 3 sections of their organisation, each with 3 to 5 approval levels. Initially they created a new approval workflow for each project, and eventually counted about 25 different ones. But they soon realised that many workflows were overlapping and the sheer number just added more complexity. In the end, they decided on only 3 flows all in all. 

With clearly defined approval workflows and automated notifications ApprovalMax really does reduce the organisational complexity for DFS. This saves a lot of time that would otherwise be wasted on waiting for approvals coming in by email. Plus, and most importantly, ApprovalMax provides an audit trail containing the complete history of approving – a must for compliance.

Organisations like Data Friendly Space don’t use OCR tools because they don’t need to enter lots of data. They do, however, work with a significant number of contractors. For such organisations it’s very convenient to allow their contractors access to ApprovalMax to let them create and submit their invoices there. After full approval they’ll get published to QuickBooks Online ready for payment. You can find more about this option here

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