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Get the Appvantage: Wellington Girls’ College and ApprovalMax

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Nick Houldsworth

Apr 20, 2021

Xero’s app marketplace has over 800 apps to help small businesses and their advisors succeed. Our ‘Get the Appvantage’ series brings to life how small businesses from around the world use apps to help them thrive.

In our first instalment in the series, we talk with Alys Freeman from Wellington Girls’ College in New Zealand. By using apps alongside Xero,  Alys and her team have created more efficient workflows in their school’s business unit. Read more about their journey:

Tell us a bit about your role at Wellington Girls’ College and what makes it so rewarding?

Wellington Girls’ College is a central city school in Wellington, New Zealand and I’m the school’s Business Manager. I’m here to make sure the students and staff are well-resourced so they can succeed, and that’s what gives me joy. Welcoming children as they begin in Year Nine at the age of 12 or 13, watching them develop, grow and then finally head off to university or embark on their career paths is so rewarding. 

Which apps do you use alongside Xero?

As well as Xero, we also use ApprovalMax to make it easier to approve expenditure, Hubdoc to automate data capture from documents like bills and receipts, and Monty to easily produce specific management reports that we need to provide as a school to the New Zealand Ministry of Education.

Tell us about one of your favourite apps. How did you decide it was the right app to solve your challenges?

We currently have approximately 60 budget holders, from heads of departments to cultural and sports club co-ordinators, many who are very busy or located offsite. Every little pot of money these groups manage must be accounted for, and we were finding it really challenging and time-consuming to chase approvals for expenditure. 

ApprovalMax centralises this process in the cloud and makes it easy for budget holders to see outstanding requests, and then approve or query them. Last year, during the first national four-week COVID-19 lockdown here in New Zealand, schools ended up locked down for eight weeks in total. We found ApprovalMax especially useful during this time. With so many businesses forced to close their doors and with so much uncertainty, we felt a responsibility to pay all our creditors to get money out into the community. With ApprovalMax, we were able to move our bills through approvals quickly and efficiently, and to get people paid faster.

What are the biggest benefits you’ve found using connected apps alongside Xero?

Thanks to connecting apps in the cloud, we’ve drastically reduced the amount of paper we use. In fact, our team’s catchphrase is “We don’t accept paper in finance”.  We no longer need the paper trail because we can do everything in the cloud with PDFs. 

We simply scan or take a digital copy of the bill, upload it into Hubdoc identifying all the key information, which then feeds into Xero. Once everything is ready in Xero, we then approve payment via ApprovalMax. With these new processes, we’ve reduced the amount of paper we use for printing to almost nothing.

This has proven even more handy as auditors can now access all the information they need in the cloud too, meaning less time in our office going through paperwork. In fact, we’ve reduced the amount of records we store for auditing purposes from 52 boxes a year to just four because everything is online. This helps make our auditing costs cheaper and more efficient, which is always a great outcome.

What advice would you give other small business owners wanting to get started using connected apps in their business?

Our goal was to go completely digital in two years, and we managed it in less than that. Going digital has been a great experience for us. We’ve received positive feedback from everyone involved.

So ask yourself: How do I run my business? How can I run it more efficiently? Xero is great to start managing your accounting tasks, but there’s ways of tailoring it to suit your business to make things even easier. Ask your accountant, or whoever you need to help you get started, for advice – they will point you in the right direction. Then, just do it! Don’t say “Oh, it sounds too hard”, or “I can’t, I can’t”. Instead start saying “I can, I can” and you’ll be fine.

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