What inspired us
One source of inspiration is our Uservoice where the request for a "Budget management" feature has been #1 for quite some time: http://support.approvalmax.com/forums/253044-general/filters/top Also, we’ve been asked for a capability to check Bills and POs against the budget many times during support and sales calls.
That’s why we decided to use the hackathon as an opportunity to really quickly build a prototype and see how it covers this particular need.
What it’s about
This new feature shows the Approvers of Bills and POs where they are in terms of budget. Say, an Approver receives a PO for approval which is related to the "Marketing" cost centre. Then ApprovalMax checks the amount allocated for marketing in that particular month, and how much of that has already been spent.
All in all, we are saving Approvers quite some time because instead of chasing various people asking "Hey, do we have a budget for that?", they find this information right in the approval request.
How we built it
Checking against available budgets is a logical addition to what ApprovalMax already does — multi-step authorisation of Bills, Purchase Orders, and other documents.
Budgets are uploaded via the web UI while the server does the math (defined budget vs. actual spending). For now, Approvers can see a budget check only in the web app (iPhone and Android phone apps will be able soon).
Challenges we ran into
The hardest thing to work out was the calculation of actual spending vs the defined budget. Plus, the Xero flow was causing some issues :) Instead of pulling individual budgets via the API, we have to parse .csv files since (as far as we know) only the so-called “Overall budget” is available that way.
Accomplishments we are proud of
The most important achievement we are proud of is that we finally managed to cover one of the most critical aspects of our End-to-end Purchasing solution. Many "a bit bigger" companies that are using / starting to use Xero want to utilise the budgeting feature and, of course, check purchases against budgets. That's were ApprovalMax does help a lot now.
What we've learned
We now understand much better how the actual spending should be calculated taking into account Bills and POs in their different statuses (Approved / On approval, etc).
What's next for ApprovalMax
We have 3 major enhancements lined up:
- Search functionality — we received many requests for this
- User groups, groups of Requesters, groups of Approvers — this is critical for larger companies
- Xero expenses support – once the API is available