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Every enterprise has at least one set process for approvals. That makes sign-offs simple, right? A quick review of traditional approval processes highlights the multiple headaches that manual approvals can generate – headaches that the right approval tracking software can eliminate.
What problems arise with traditional, non-automated approval tracking software systems?
Time: Companies without approval tracking software spend a great deal of time obtaining and keeping track manually of approvals—time which might otherwise be spent on production, customer service, or other key tasks.
- How many steps currently does it take to grant approvals in your enterprise?
- What about all the workflows, reports, or decisions that need reworking? The back-and-forth aspect of your approval process when a rework is needed will eat up more time without approval tracking software. Non-automated systems also may leave everyone involved feeling frustrated about how they are spending their time—not to mention the fact that different pieces of the puzzle may get lost or omitted in the attempt to improve the product or process.
- Reduce lengthy waiting times for an approval that is holding up progress.
Efficiency and effectiveness: Managers cannot make good decisions in a vacuum. They need to know that their inputs for approvals are sufficient to make the right call. Lack of the right data and insufficient data both lead to hasty or faulty approvals.
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Anyway ... sorry for the interruption! Let's resume the rest of the article.
- When you and management colleagues make approvals, do you sometimes feel pressure to cut corners because you lack sufficient data for a decision yet you need to meet a deadline?
- Do you occasionally forget to ask a key question and overlook a key input?
- Can you always trust what you are told before granting approvals?
Standardization: How standardized is your enterprise’s approval process?
- Mid-sized and large companies sometimes establish a different, manual approval process in every department. What happens when an approval needs to cross departmental or business lines?
- Does a lack of standardization lead to customer service errors? Audit-related vulnerabilities? Employee frustration?
- Are you always clear about the scope of your approval? Are you just as comfortable granting an approval across every line of business, from, say, HR to production and finance?
Accountability: Who in your enterprise is responsible for ensuring that all appropriate approvals have been obtained?
- We might assume that HR records and stores employee-related approvals, but do managers duplicate those records? Who records and stores non-HR approvals? Each department? Team leaders? QA? Finance?
- If a customer or regulatory compliance issue arises, how easy is it to review the related approvals? Who is accountable? How appropriate were the criteria for approval in each instance?
Consider this: approval tracking software would standardize tasks, send out ticklers for needed and time-sensitive approvals, create efficient workflows for obtaining approvals, track the approval process from beginning to end, make related data transparent for approving managers, and retain a record of the entire process—and accomplish all this perhaps in minutes instead of hours.
What types of approvals benefit from automation?
Virtually any type of approval falls under this category. As long as there is a workflow that leads to a required approval to be completed, automation makes that approval process more efficient and effective and more easily able to prove compliance with regulatory agencies.
- Regardless of whether the process is HR-related, contractual, customer service focused, high tech, or financial, any job task that can be mapped out in a flowchart can be successfully automated.
- The key is to look at automating the activity or workflow involved. In the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, How Many of Your Daily Tasks Could Be Automated?, the authors, three McKinsey consultants, write:
“Take, for example, the role of a marketing manager or executive in a consumer products company. A marketing manager … plays a critical role in driving sales by tailoring corporate strategies to specific products and markets. Today, this involves several time-consuming activities such as reviewing data from the field to inform pricing decisions and generating estimates of material costs for production. These activities can be automated with currently demonstrated technology, completing the analysis more quickly and accurately than the manager ever could.”
In the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, How U.S. Manufacturing Is About to Get Smarter, Christopher Mims tell us: “The goal is to break data out of its silos—the machine, the factory floor, the shipping, and logistics system—and pool it in a way [that] allows for real decision-making.” He offers these examples: “deciphering how ambient air temperature affects the productivity of an entire factory. Or ramping up and down production in a way that is more responsive to sales.”
That is, approvals from a factory floor’s air temperature to production goals per day or week or month are optimized when automated.
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Anyway ... we'll continue from where we left off above.
Routine benefits of approval tracking software
- What can automating approvals bring to the table routinely? Let’s look at just a few benefits:
- Data integration: your software can pull in and integrate the data required to grant approvals.
- Clarity of the process: your software can list the key steps, creating a checklist for you to follow and ensuring that you have covered all the bases for any approval.
- Speed/efficiency: approvals are granted in significantly shorter timeframes.
- Compliance: whether audits are internal or external, criteria are accessible and required data collection is complete.
- Transparency among colleagues and visibility to customers: approval tracking software can bring transparency to workflows and to customer interfaces.
- Finance: an automated process ensures accurate budgeting, cash flow, and cost control decisions.
- Facilitates single or multiple approvals: approval tracking software enables both types of approvals.
The biggest benefits of approval tracking software
Just how efficient would it be to start using approval tracking software to automate some of your enterprise’s decision-making? The biggest bang may come in the time saved. We look to the HBR article for an idea of the time saved: “We estimate that activities that account for 10% to 15% of the marketing executive’s time can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated the technology.” The authors underscore how automating approvals leads to better ways to apply the time saved:
“When you’re bringing in automation you need to think about two kinds of payoff—returns you get by using machines rather than labor for activities (investments in automation can generate benefits worth three to ten times the cost, we estimate, much of it from better performance rather than reductions in labor costs), plus the value derived from activities that employees carry out in the time that [they] formerly used for work that is now automated. In the case of the marketing manager, this could mean more time to work on new product ideas, supervise direct reports, collaborate with managers in other functional areas, or develop new strategies.”
One eye-opening benefit of automating approvals is that for the savvy executive team, it may lead you to begin to review and optimize the application of automation throughout the enterprise—which then opens the door to disrupting your company’s workflows. As the authors of the HBR article teach us:
“The largest benefits of information technology accrue to organizations that analyze their processes carefully to determine how smart machines can enhance and transform them—rather than organizations that simply automate old activities.”
In other words, optimizing workflow automation translates into optimizing the talent in your workforce.
If you are ready to explore the benefits of creating customized approval tracking workflows that will streamline your approval processes, the Tallyfy team stands ready to assist with their app that can be tailored to the needs of your enterprise.