Phased Approach to AP Automation Yields Immediate Efficiencies and Cost Savings

When a healthcare provider with limited IT resources wanted a full-service accounts payable system, BerkOne configured a simple web-based solution as part of a two-phased implementation plan.

BerkOne Scanning & ImagingIn spring 2015, a large healthcare provider approached BerkOne looking for a solution to automate their accounts payable process. The company had been working with paper invoices for decades. They routinely spent hours each week photocopying and routing paperwork around the office and were frustrated by the lack of transparency and accountability in their invoicing workflow. Complicating matters, over the past two decades, the traditional “hospital” had morphed into a health network in nine counties and two states. Ultimately, they were looking to bring their process into the digital age.

Meanwhile, the company was also in the midst of implementing an electronic health record (EHR) system across the organization, which would bring the organization in line with the standards outlined by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and allow many departments and processes to go paperless. It seemed like a natural time for the AP team to make the switch, but the client had some reservations. Employees were already under pressure to learn and navigate the intricacies of the EHR system, and the new processes that came with it. On top of this, the organization’s IT resources were already working at full capacity to manage the EHR deployment.

When BerkOne Regional Accounts Manager Sherry Silliman met with the client, she knew FileBound was the ideal solution but worried about the implementation process. Would client team members be ready to take on a new system while still entangled in the EHR implementation? Was there a way to meet the client’s immediate goals while minimizing the need for training and additional IT support?

A Phased Approach

Sherry assembled a team of BerkOne’s business process experts to architect a workable solution. Combining their FileBound expertise, deep experience with web forms and years of business workflow consultation, the team envisioned a two-phased implementation for the client. During the first phase, they would utilize forms to configure a “light,” web browser-based view of FileBound that would be accessible directly within the client’s email, without having to login to the online AP workflow system. In the second phase, once the client had completed EHR implementation, the full-blown FileBound workflow system would be introduced to all users.

Ultimately, BerkOne’s ability to adapt to the organization’s level of readiness won them the business and allowed the client to begin streamlining their invoicing process with minimal technical resources and training.

How We Did It

To accommodate a paperless AP process that does not require system access, BerkOne handles the intake and scanning of invoices, using OCR technology to capture invoice header information (e.g., vendor name and invoice number, date and total amount), and inputs the invoice into the FileBound system. From there, the system sends an email to the appropriate approving manager. The email includes a custom-designed, form-based table displaying standard invoice data as well as a notes section. The invoice image is also included as an email attachment, accompanied by Approve or Deny options. With all critical details accessible within the email itself, the reviewer is able to complete authorization without ever having to access the online AP system. Business rules then determine which AP clerk will receive the invoice and input the remaining detail transactional data into the client’s ERP system.

This simplified version of the application has been in use for over a year now, and through comprehensive training provided by BerkOne, the client’s AP team has become well-versed in the complete FileBound system. BerkOne is currently gearing up for Phase 2 of implementation, which will introduce system access to approving managers and sync up FileBound with the company’s ERP system. This new workflow will allow most invoices to be routed for approval without clerical involvement (touchless invoicing), affording the AP team additional time and cost savings.

The Result

When the client came to BerkOne, they were physically handling 16,000 invoices a month shuffling paperwork from desk to desk to obtain approvals. Invoices arriving by email were printed out for processing. When an approver was on vacation or an envelope was misplaced, invoices became difficult – if not impossible – to track down, delaying payment and increasing the risk for delinquency and loss of supplier discounts. Working with a paper-based invoices also made archiving a challenge and meant that when auditors requested samples, hours of printing and copying were required to accommodate their request.

Just over the course of Phase 1, the organization reports markedly faster invoice processing time, and a decrease in operating costs due to clerical time savings and reduction in paper and ink expense through digital handling of emailed invoices. The company’s most recent audit also lacked its typical stressors, as the auditor enjoyed view-only access to needed files within the AP system. Since moving to FileBound, the AP process has become more transparent to the AP team.With a complete audit trail, showing who touched which invoice and when, the AP team keeps tabs on open invoices and hold employees accountable for their role in the process. Additional documents such as packing slips are imaged, which provides evidence that goods were received to support invoice payment. The company also now enjoys improved cash flow control, thanks to a clear view of spend and improved data accuracy. And on top of this, the AP system has provided new insights on the workload and productivity of staff – valuable insights when assessing staffing needs during company acquisitions and expansions.

BerkOne looks forward to helping the client further streamline their operations in Phase 2, when touchless invoicing will be introduced and fully automated accounts payable will become a reality.