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  • Writer's pictureJack Arnston

It's All About the Process

There was a time when companies deployed document management solutions to reduce the amount of paper in their offices and to share those documents between users. Well, things have changed and today companies are looking for ways to transform their work environment; to find new ways to create efficiencies and increase productivity, while reducing errors. Today, it is all about the process.

Process improvement can take many forms, but the most widely used and universally accepted is in Accounts Payable. Approving invoices for payment involves a number of steps that include matching invoices to purchase orders and receivers, entering and validating general ledger codes, confirming dollar amounts and gathering the correct number of manager approvals all within the typical 30-day window to pay the invoice. For organizations that have approvers on multiple locations this approval process can be difficult and time consuming.

Using a workflow within an Enterprise Content Management system can refine this process by shortening processing times, eliminating double payments, reducing errors, providing real time analytics and saving money. So, how does all of this happen? For this example, we will begin with the receipt of the invoice.

Many of our clients indicate that they receive at least 50% of their invoices electronically via email. Unfortunately, many of these companies will print these emails to paper and then manually route them through the approval process. The first step in our workflow example has us processing these electronic invoices directly through a capture process. The remaining paper invoices will be scanned and managed in the same manner. The capture software will begin by identifying whom the invoice if from. Once it has done this, the software knows where to “look” on the invoice to read information such as an invoice number, date, purchase order, dollar amount or other pertinent information. This information has three purposes. First, it is used to index the invoice into the system. Second it is used to route the invoice to the proper people within the workflow. Third, the data is eventually included in a batch file that is uploaded to the accounting software.

Once the capture process is complete the general ledger codes and dollar amounts will be entered into the workflow system. This may be done by an AP clerk, or by someone within the department for which the invoiced items were purchased. The system will validate the dollar amounts to the PO and the invoice for accuracy. Although each company has their own unique rules, the invoice is typically sent to a specific department for approval. Invoice dollar amounts will dictate if the invoice needs multiple approvals and will route accordingly. Once approved by the department the invoice goes to AP where the clerk reviews the transaction for accuracy. Next the invoice is routed to the proper finance managers for final approval. At this point the batch is uploaded to the accounting software where a check is issued for payment.

Along the way the system checks for duplicate invoices, validates payment amount, creates alerts if an invoice is not acted upon in an agreed upon time and manages all of the rules required by the company.

So how does this save you money? First it removes any chances of paying the same invoice twice. Second, it provides mechanisms to take advantage of early-pay discounts. Third, it dramatically reduces data entry time by automatically extracting data from the invoice. Forth, it eliminates mistakes made during the approval process. The list goes on but industry analyst suggests that at a minimum there is a 50% reduction in people time for processing an invoice.

This is only one example of how process improvement can affect a company. Human resources is another area that can benefit from this technology. Hiring, on-boarding, separation and other processes can benefit from workflow. A capital expense request workflow can assist in purchasing equipment. A document creation workflow can be used to create a collaborative process of creating proposals, quotes and contracts. Thinking outside the box the options are nearly limitless.

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