Award-Winning Paperless Invoicing
September 09, 2021 by
Whether jurisdictions are large or small, traditional procurement processes can involve labor-intensive, inefficient processes. Delays, in particular, can happen when contract expiration dates aren’t readily visible, leading to contract lapses and time spent re-soliciting products and services.
The Town of Davie, Florida, experienced these common hurdles, particularly with its invoice entry process. “The town was using an archaic process that relied on a secondary database system for check requests,” said Procurement Manager Brian O’Connor. “Departments would print a check request form that required a manual routing and approval process that had many issues.” The process relied passing paper back and forth throughout the organization via inter-office mail. “The process delayed payments to vendors, delayed the recording of encumbrance against accounts, hindered accountability and tracking of documents, and allowed for loss of records,” O’Connor noted. What’s more, the process’ final step required account payable staff to enter all invoices manually into the software system, creating a vulnerability for misdeeds or error just before payment processing.
While purchasing division staff was considering a process update to overcome the above challenges, COVID-19 created additional hurdles. With staff working from multiple locations, including their homes, accurate record-keeping became more difficult and duplicate invoice payment requests increased. And, at the onset of the pandemic, passing physical paper from person to person no longer seemed a wise or safe practice.
New Workflow Management
To address these new concerns, O’Connor’s team implemented a workflow process manager in the town’s ERP system. “At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the initial step was moving from paper to only allowing and accepting scanned electronic check request forms,” O’Connor explained. His team then worked with IT staff to create a custom module for accounts payable invoice entry batches. A test site allowed each employee to practice inputting and approving the invoice batch entries.
The town-wide project improved the payment process for each of Davie’s 17 departments. “The outcome of the solution was a more efficient and effective payment process,” said O’Connor. “Invoices are now entered at the end-user level and department heads must review and approval all invoices electronically in the system.” Once the department head approves an invoice, it is routed automatically to the purchasing division for procurement and contract review before moving to accounts payable and payment processing. With multiple authorized staff at each level from entry to approval, colleagues can assist each other much more easily. If COVID-19 were to affect a staff member’s ability to work, other authorized users can access and complete the entry or approval in his or her absence.
The system provides a full, time stamp tracking of each digital transaction along with supporting documentation, improving accountability. Also noteworthy is no person in the approval chain can alter invoice information.
“Prior to this new process,” noted O’Connor, “the total of potential duplicate payments that were submitted in our last fiscal year was about $56,000. In addition, a duplicate invoice of $613,068 was also submitted for processing.” Even when caught along the way, such duplications cost significant time and money. Now, duplicate invoices are caught at the beginning of the process during entry, not the end.
“This achievement advanced our organization’s goals to better support the town’s budget and finance department’s objective to safeguard the town’s financial resources and ensure adherence to our fiduciary responsibilities,” concluded O’Connor.
Davie, Florida, won a 2021 Tyler Excellence Award for this scalable innovation that improved organizational responsiveness and helped the town quickly mitigate pandemic challenges.