I remember a day not too long ago when I actually required the Naviant Accounting Team to provide me a stack of paper invoices, in an order consistent with check numbers, and with other supporting documents such as purchase orders so I could review as I signed checks. There is no doubt we had adequate internal controls, but wow how inefficient could we possibly be?
About 6 or 7 years ago Naviant’s Controller, Lori Kolb, set out to improve our AP processes by utilizing OnBase software. Our primary goals – utilize “best practices” in accounts payables automation to drive the efficiency necessary to keep our head count steady as Naviant grew.
These goals continue to guide all of our back office process improvement efforts. In the case of AP, we now have an efficient process that has reduced the time we spend processing accounts payables. It has also improved internal controls, our excessive paper usage, access to information and expedited approvals, compliance, and the list goes on and on.
How our Accounts Payable Automation process works:
- Capture – Like so many of you, vendor invoices arrive in a multitude of ways: email, website download, snail mail, etc. We use a variety of OnBase tools to turn the paper into electronic files, and then automatically place all forms into the right electronic OnBase queues for minimal data entry into our accounting system. Note: There is technology called OCR (Optical Character Recognition) that can be used at the Capture phase to pull all the data off the forms automatically and auto-fill the information where you need it on your system, thus reducing your manual data entry indexing time.
- Process – Electronic documents are automatically routed to the appropriate manager for approval or matched to a purchase order in our accounting system insuring proper approvals at time of entry into the accounting system. The accounting staff generates checks as invoices are due, and they are delivered to me for signature. While I am signing checks, I have quick and easy access to invoices, purchase orders, and other relevant voucher information through the OnBase tool. The visibility of our process assures invoices are not lost nor approvals are delayed. We pay all our vendors in a timely manner and take advantage of all early pay discounts.
- Access – Subsequent access to documents is quick and easy. We can quickly search by Invoice Number, Amount, Vendor Number, Vendor Name, PO Number, and can even conduct a Full Text Search on many of our documents. We also cross-reference our documents which means we click once on a PO and the associated vendor invoice will all automatically be retrieved. In fact, when it is associated with a customer sale, we can actually review our invoice to the customer with just a few more clicks.
- Integrate – We are able to reduce keystrokes and avoid indexing errors by utilizing API’s (code that allows 2 software programs to talk) between our accounting software and OnBase.
- Measure – OnBase provides reporting tools which can measure and track processing by person, document type, etc. We can see trends of invoices processed each month, vendor activity, and even do audits of the data through a variety of reporting tools.
- Store – Invoices and associated records are kept for seven years before we delete the records. We utilize OnBase to automatically destroy content when it expires in accordance with our established retention requirements. This system is ideal to minimize risk associated with records discovery efforts required by a lawsuit or audit.
Of course Naviant isn’t a Fortune 500 company processing thousands of payments each day like many of our customers, but our needs are surprisingly similar to much larger organizations.
We welcome your questions and comments and hope you’ll share some of your own experiences!