Municipal Case Studies
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City of Monroe
Streamline Accounts Payable Processing
Paying vendors and contractors can be a time-consuming process for many municipalities. Recently, the City of Monroe, MI made things easier and faster by replacing interoffice mail and backend scanning with an efficient paperless routing process.In addition, the City integrated its accounting system and document management system to avoid a duplicate data entry step and achieve even greater efficiency.
Ready To Capitalize On An Opportunity
A Laserfiche document imaging system was already in place when Edward Sell started as the City’s Finance Director in 2005. After each annual audit, his department would archive the accounts payable (A/P) records for that year by scanning them into Laserfiche. “I knew we could do more with Laserfiche, but it wasn’t until an upgrade to Laserfiche RIO in 2015 that we could consider applying Laserfiche Workflow,” Sell says.Sell understood that he could truncate the movement of paper invoices by scanning them at departmental locations into a Laserfiche workflow scheme. Imaging would also eliminate the hassles of physical routing and storage.However when he looked closely at his process, he recognized the need to get transaction information from his BS&A accounting system into Laserfiche as part of the record required for audits and archival storage. He approached the challenge thoughtfully. “I didn’t want to create additional work,” he says. “As things stood, it looked as if my accountant would have to enter some data twice, once in BS&A and once in Laserfiche,” he notes.
The Missing Link Is Found
That structural barrier fell once Sell saw General Code’s demonstration of a streamlined, one-click experience for integrating Laserfiche with line of business applications. “It could link our financial software to Laserfiche by porting info into the Laserfiche template for each particular invoice,” he explains. “Push one button and a batch of data moves from one set of A/P fields into the corresponding fields on the matching templates.”
Up And Running In No Time
Things moved quickly after that, much to Sell’s satisfaction. “I am responsible for the City’s IT management. I see my role as leading the way for other departments. This was a chance to start exploring the automation opportunities possible with Laserfiche Workflow,” he says.From a practical perspective development and implementation took less than a week. Training was minimal, mostly making sure department heads and their admins understood the step necessary to scan invoices into an Account Payable folder. To help, Sell and his staff prepared an A/P submission procedures document for long-term reference. About the only tuning needed once the process went live was the installation of a scanner or two at remote departmental offices for added convenience.
Online And Automatic
Today more than a dozen departments simply scan incoming invoices into an online A/P folder and discard the paper documents. Laserfiche creates a corresponding template for each document, similar to a coversheet or transmittal slip, which contains fields for identifying information, such as date and department. The system stores the invoices in the City of Monroe’s Laserfiche repository and adds them to an “Invoices for Review” work queue used by the Finance Department. When this A/P process went live in July 2015 it marked the end of many things. No more paper. No more routing of invoices through interoffice mail. No more manual filing and storage in anticipation of look-ups and the annual audit. “I eliminated boxes of paper and a three-drawer filing cabinet,” remarks Sell. “Plus we no longer have to tie up resources for back file conversion after the annual audit. The audit itself can go much more quickly, because we no longer have to go to the filing cabinet and pull—and later refile—the invoices requested by the auditors,” notes Sell. “They can review anything and everything in Laserfiche.”
Paperless And Pain Free
Brian McCarthy is the City’s accountant. According to him, “Imaging and workflow expedite invoice processing. Because incoming invoices come in a variety of formats, data entry remains a visual process. If an invoice comes to me as an e-mail attachment, I can print it to TIFF and add that image to the Laserfiche folder for processing with the scanned invoices,” he adds. Processing takes place on his PC desktop with nary a scrap of paper present. He periodically checks the “Invoices for Review” folder, opens the invoice images and enters data into the proper record fields in a BS&A window. “When I am done with data entry, I click on the Laserfiche Connector and the information, such as vendor IDs and invoice amounts, automatically populates the fields on the Laserfiche template. “Later, when City Council has approved a batch of invoices for payment, I can change the status from ‘Pending’ to ‘Approved for Payment’ in BS&A and with a mouse click, Laserfiche Connector will update all the Laserfiche templates held in the repository,” he concludes. Exception processing is also streamlined. As McCarthy explains, “If an approval signature is missing from an incoming invoice, I just bounce back an email. The department head simply adds his or her electronic signature stamp in a reply email.” Instead of waiting for two more cycles of interoffice mail to get from City Hall to the Water Department and back, for instance, he’s able to resolve the issue in hours or just minutes.
Less Paper, More Efficiency To Come
Ed Sell is pleased with how the process is going. “We’ve created new efficiencies for the Finance Department and how we deal with our documents both in terms of routing and storage. Invoices are available for review and processing immediately. And department heads can see copies of paid invoices in Laserfiche right on their computers if they need to.” In his capacity as IT Manager, Sell sees this project as an important first step toward further automation at the City of Monroe. “Now that A/P processing up and running, I‘m optimistic that other departments will start to see how they too can make their processes more digital and paperless with Laserfiche and Laserfiche Workflow.”