Approvals are deeply woven into the fabric of any financial software solution, and 4castplus is no exception. The challenge with designing complex, multi-stage approvals workflows however – for key items such as purchase orders, change orders, timesheets, invoices, etc. – is that they can quickly bog things down, and introduce delays as approvals get stuck waiting for individuals to get around to dealing with them. Approvals can drone on and on and keep critical-path items stuck on hold for days or weeks, wasting time and money, if not attended to properly. This is what we refer to as “Approvals Bottlenecks” and they can be a massive drain on the efficient management of project finances.
And bottlenecks can be very bad for business.
If, for example, you require your labor & equipment hours to be approved before you can invoice your client for them, approvals bottlenecks can have a negative effect on your ability to efficiently recognize revenue. It can also potentially delay payroll if all the labor timesheet hours aren’t quickly routed through their approvals and sent to the payroll system.
In order to streamline the movement of approvals through their workflows so as to not introduce delays, there are a number of debottlenecking tools available in 4castplus. Here are the top 5.
4castplus provides a module called the Notifications Manager that enables users to custom-design the content and frequency of approvals notifications. When an approval is sent to an individual, they are immediately sent an email notification with information and a link that takes them to the item(s) that needs to be approved. Then, depending on the settings in the escalation criteria, reminders will continue to be resent until the approval is completed.
Below is a screenshot of the notification manager in 4castplus.
In addition to email notifications, there are in-app notifications that appear in a Notifications area of the system.
When configuring an approval workflow of any type, the administrator can setup the parameters for both reminders along with escalation criteria. Escalations are a mechanism for informing the system to automatically escalate the approval to a delegate approver after a set number of hours or days. This ensures that any approver that is unable or unwilling to complete the approval is automatically removed from the workflow.
When configuring the resourcing for a project and defining the individuals that will be responsible for the various types of approvals that can occur – such as for purchase orders, change orders, timesheets, invoices, documents, etc. – the user can setup both a Primary approver, along with one or more Delegate approvers. Setting up delegates is important to ensure there’s a fallback plan for when approvals get bottlenecked or the primary approver has their out-of-office turned on.
3. Debottlenecking Reports and Charts
To manage the oversight of approvals, 4castplus provides built-in reporting to help elevate the visibility of any approvals that are currently bottlenecked. These reports and charts have convenient links to the approval details to enable the viewer to quickly attend to the approval. Additionally, the Approvals Bottleneck detail report enables the user to approve on the spot.
4. Approver Edits
At 4castplus we’ve learned from listening to users that it’s a big waste of everyone’s time to reject a submitted item over a small detail. It’s much more efficient to allow the approver to make minor edits and tweaks to the item being approved, rather than rejecting it, sending it all the way back for the originating person to make the change; only to start the whole process all over. The 4castplus approvals tools allow for just that – the approver can make limited changes prior to approving. This significantly streamlines the throughput of key approvals such as timesheets.
5. Delegation of Authority (DOA)
The delegation of authority (DOA) settings in 4castplus allow for administrators to configure signing thresholds so that the system can automatically route the item to the appropriate approver(s) based on their signing authority. This is important logic to reduce the number of individuals on the approval trail to only those that need to be on that trail.
6. Administrator Overrides and Out-of-office
Finally, when all else has failed, the approval can get routed to an administrator to do one of the following:
- Escalate. The admin can manually escalate the approval stage.
- Reassign. The admin can reassign any approval stage to a named approver.
- Approve as Administrator. The admin can also use their authority to perform the approval themselves.
The above administrator privileges should clearly be used judiciously as it is intended only for extenuating circumstances that can’t be avoided.
In addition to overrides, 4castplus provides an “Out-Of-Office” tool for users to mark themselves as unavailable for approvals during that outage. The system will automatically route any approvals to a delegate in these situations.