Approval Management

How a Multi-National Conglomerate from Sri Lanka Streamlined Approval Management Across 140+ Subsidiaries So Employees' Life Needs Could Be Tended to Better

A leader in the hospitality industry, the global entity boasts luxury hotels spread across South Asia, the Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East. Drawing on a legacy extending over 150 years, this Sri Lanka-based multinational conglomerate also has a strong presence across industries such as maritime services, travel, and logistics.

With 140-odd subsidiaries in total, administration and management of functions including finance are handled at the Group level, and involve many levels of approval when it comes to employee claims, the focus of the problem we helped them solve. Below we explore our engagement with them which includes many complex parts requiring simplicity, with a focus on its first part, Beta Launch’s Design solution.

An Outdated Process Hidden Behind Multiple Layers of Approval and Business Bureaucracy

The sheer number of subsidiaries  across their umbrella of companies, in areas ranging from energy and plantations to hotels, required massive effort in terms of administration and management of financial functions such as expense claims.

All manner of employee expenses that could be claimed, whether medical or otherwise, were processed using a mostly-manual system involving Excel and individual emailing. It was hidden behind many layers of approval from subsidiary or department level up to Group finance and higher-management level.  

With their many businesses growing, and the employee count expanding, the complexity of this system meant that it became increasingly difficult for expense claims of a specific subsidiary to be approved, processed, and reimbursements made to employees.  

It simply took too long to approve with multiple sign-offs required, facilitated through email and paper mostly; didn’t allow for transparency on claims made and paid; reduced accountability when approving; and considerable delays in processing claims and making reimbursement payments. The bulky nature of this process also didn’t allow for generation of insights involving how employee expense costs could be optimized.

It was amid this challenging environment and need for change that Beta Launch first entered a dialogue with them.
Ideation across segments: mapping out potential segments and issues

Problem and Process Deep Dive to Shape Custom User Flows and Experience

First, Beta Launch worked to identify the problem space closely through progressive discovery calls with individuals spread across the organization, in capacities ranging from IT, finance, accounting, and administration, to higher management.  The direct research conducted shed light on issues such as the general lack of transparency involving expense claims and approvals, the outdated process in place to process expense claims, the excessive time taken to reimburse, and so on.The user interviews together with the analog documentation shared with us allowed us to map the process in full. This shaped our development of custom user flows while tailoring the experience, taking into consideration their unique organizational structure.
Ideation across segments: mapping out potential segments and issues

An Approval Management Clickthrough Design Prototype to Test Custom Journeys, Experience and Function

We assigned two UI and UX design professionals from our design team together with a discovery specialist to conduct research, in solving this problem for them while drawing on the approach outlined above. This is standard practice as part of Beta Launch’s Design solution.

Their many claimable expense types, from medical, and OT, onto insurance, were considered in developing the prototype for the approval management and claims system. Across the full process, from making expense claims, and then approving, through to making reimbursements, we offered flexibility to their finance and other applicable teams to customize the flow as needed.  

We facilitated the numerous levels of approval as depicted in the flow diagrams above, as a claim went from subsidiary employee, to Head of Department, next to subsidiary HR partners, and subsidiary MDs, onto Corporate HR.  

Their custom user flows were integrated into the design prototype, which allowed each user to click through a fully-functional portal and experience its parts so they could test what worked and what didn’t in a practical sense while providing feedback.  

The prototype enabled them to get a touchable, feelable, seeable sense of a streamlined approval management system for all their expense types. It would allow for a simpler claims and approval process, quick reimbursements for employees, greater process transparency, more accountability across the organization through the audit trail, and improved ability to optimize expense costs.

Their Custom Design Solution Looked at Closely

In the screens above, we provide a look at a few different aspects of the clickthrough prototype we crafted as part of this solution.

From an actual claim with full details, the main approval management screen, initial claim screen with bill or receipt upload capabilities, and the user screen where all claims made can be monitored, through to the approval and claims management reporting function, we have explored a cross-section covering key aspects of the solution.