Fun fact: Did you know that ImageSoft tends to speak from experience, sharing our own internal stories of success from being powered by OnBase? That’s right – we “toast our own champagne,” so to speak, and it all started in our Accounting Department.
Join Director of Finance and HR Mary Beth Eddy, OnBase Administrator Nathan Armaly, and Business Systems Analyst Teresa Kobish as they discuss overcoming our accounting department’s most obstructive challenges with the highly-configurable capabilities of OnBase. Journey with us as we detail our accounting department’s process renovation, from perspectives of both the OnBase Admins and users, that expanded process visibility, enabled easier, more secure information sharing and transcended into an organization-wide transformation, including:
- Automating the purchase requisition process
- Managing unexpected costs for accounts payable
- Struggling through inter-departmental content sharing via email
- Developing a strict, auditable internal process for credit memos
- Leveraging Unity forms and automated workflows
- Comparing your data in OnBase with the Accounting ERP
- Safeguarding our ability to prevent fraud and clerical errors
- Staying on top of subscription costs
And much more!
|Steve Glisky:||Welcome to the Paperless Productivity podcast, where we have experts give you the insight, knowhow, and resources to help you transform your workplace from paper to digital, while making your work life better at the same time.|
|Kevin Ledgister:||Thanks for joining us. My name is Kevin Ledgister, your host. And today we’re going to talk about how ImageSoft’s own Accounting Department not only went paperless, but improved on the many processes that they are involved with. So with me are a few key people from the Accounting team, and from the IT team, at ImageSoft. We’ve got Mary Beth, who is our Director of Finance and Human Resources. Hey, Mary Beth.|
|Mary Beth Eddy:||Hey, thanks for having us, Kevin.|
|Kevin:||Yeah. We also have got Nathan, who is our OnBase Administrator.|
|Nathan Armaly:||Good to be here.|
|Kevin:||Awesome. And we also are joined by Teresa, who is our Business System Analyst.|
|Teresa Kobish:||Hello, everyone.|
|Kevin:||Today, we’re talking about our in-house use of OnBase, which is a content repository that has a built in workflow engine, that can route documents based on rules or actions. And it stores a lot of our invoices, and paperwork, that’s connected to Accounting. It also has a case management function, where you can point and click build integrated applications. So, think about Microsoft, on steroids. This is the actual tool that we are using in house, to help with some of the functions of our Accounting Department.
And it is a tool that ImageSoft does sell so, in the interest of full disclosure, but very oftentimes, the quality or integrity of a company sometimes is viewed by whether or not they use their own products. And, we certainly do. So, Mary Beth, I’ll start with you. How has OnBase helped with the accounts payable process and getting those invoices approved from the various managers, and the different things you have to do, with regard to the accounts payable process?
|Mary Beth:||Yeah. Thanks, Kevin. I guess, I’d first like to start with a little bit of history. Those of us in Finance, for years, have been using OnBase to scan, index and retrieve all of our documents. And we prided ourselves on our ability to produce any document in seconds, to respond to any request. We also bragged about being the only department using OnBase at ImageSoft. What we didn’t know is, we really were not using OnBase, as it was meant to be used. We were a company full of OnBase developers, but we did not have systems for ourselves. And my team, not being technical, had no idea how to get there or really, even where there was.
So, that all changed a few years ago, when ImageSoft decided to invest in a couple of internal IT persons, Nathan and Teresa, to build in house solutions that have spanned every department now, and improved efficiencies everywhere at ImageSoft. Teresa used to be in our Finance department, and switched to IT, so that’s been particularly helpful, as she knows our business needs. And, needless to say, our financial minds were blown.
That all being said, one of them is accounts payable approvals. It’s a rather simple system, really, but it saves us tons of time. Many bills are repetitive and expected, such as utilities, rent. We’re expecting them and approvals really aren’t necessary, so those don’t go through this system. Other bills arrive, which Accounting aren’t familiar with, or expecting. Such as professional fees, legal, accountants, things like that.
So what we used to do was, physically take the invoice to the person that used the service, ask them to approve it and hope they weren’t traveling. And if they were traveling, it would sit on their desk until they returned. Or, we started trading emails, which is not super-efficient and things get lost.
With our new system, the bill is ingested into an OnBase workflow, and routed to the appropriate person for approval. The person can approve, reject, or even approve it and add a note to it, just with one click. When complete, the bill is stored in OnBase, as usual. However, now we have the trail of who approved it, and when. This has saved us a lot of time and has been especially useful during the current COVID pandemic, when we just simply can’t walk to their desk. So, that’s about it, for accounts payable.
|Kevin:||That’s awesome. And I know that, one of the challenges that you guys also had was, when you mentioned surprise bills, was to implement a purchase requisition process. To show, you had a little bit more visibility, in terms of how things were being used. Can you talk about that a little bit?|
Yeah. So that came about, there’s another type of bill that comes into Accounting that isn’t expected, and is something that somebody knows about in advance. So, it really reduces the number of bills that have to go to through the accounts payable process, and this way, we know they’re coming. So if you’re somebody in need of something, and fill out a request form in OnBase, and the request is routed to the appropriate approver based on what you want to purchase. After that, it’s approved, and moves on to Accounting.
For example, I’ll use Amber. Marketing may need to cut a check for an upcoming trade show. The event planner will complete the request, and attach the invoice or quote. This request will go to the marketing manager, Amber’s boss, for approval before Accounting creates the check. Another example may be, laptops and computer equipment, or office supplies. Again, the backup is stored in OnBase, along with the trail of who approved the purchase and when.
|Kevin:||And that’s awesome too, and it also helps to avoid those surprise bills, and could even help with a little bit of financial planning, just to see what your bills are going to look like, and what your expected outflows are going to be, for the month or for the quarter.
So, that’s great. Teresa, you’ve made the move from being in Accounting and Finance, over to the technical side of things. You probably have a unique view, or a unique approach to all these things, which is awesome. And one of the things that I was just thinking of, that we had a prior conversation about is, credit memos. And they’re a necessary part of business, as things change. Orders aren’t complete or things didn’t happen, so credit memos need to be issued. And, can you talk a little bit about what this process was like, and some of the changes that you made to that, using this technology?
|Teresa:||Well, basically, like you said, understanding the finance side and the technology side really helped this process, because credit memos, they are necessary but they’re also an area of accounting that really needs to maintain the strictest internal controls. So we really need a way to audit how this process flows. So, basically, a credit memo reverses an invoice to a customer. So if it’s done improperly, or without approval, it can negatively impact the organization. And, before using OnBase, discussions concerning the credit memos were started from either emails or verbally, talking to the accountant. Unfortunately, if anyone questioned a credit memo, information would not be readily available, including who created it and why, and oversight was nearly impossible.
So now, what was created in OnBase, we have a credit memo request that uses unity forms and workflow, that requires a review and an approval by a supervisor. And what’s even better than that is, we then created a mechanism that uses SQL to compare the information housed in OnBase to the information housed within our Accounting ERP. Then the Controller, she gets to receive a report that’s going to let her know of any credit memos that were created in the Accounting ERP, without any prior approval. And then, it also alerts her of any approved credit memos that weren’t finished in ERP. So it basically safeguards our ability to prevent fraud and clerical errors, that could otherwise compromise the accuracy of our financial statements, and affect our bottom line.
|Kevin:||Wow, that’s a fairly… That’s a very, very impressive way to do things. So you’re basically taking OnBase and our ERP system or, what some might just generally call the accounting system, and really just using the information that’s in both to compare to each other, just to make sure that we have accurate information. That we’re processing the credit memo correctly, and that we have adequate tracking on that, so nothing is falling through the cracks and we don’t end up in a situation where we’re issuing credit memos that we shouldn’t, or duplicate ones are going out, which can happen. So, it sounds like a pretty impressive system, that you’ve developed.|
|Teresa:||But what’s nice about it is, yes, we created that ability to run reporting off of both systems. And we can look and know exactly if there’s a duplicate credit memo created, against this specific invoice. They can also add information that allows them to know which invoices have credit memos, what credit memos are outstanding, and whether or not that credit memo has been applied to invoicing in the future.|
|Kevin:||Wow. And, I’ll pitch this to you, Mary Beth, what kind of difference have you seen with this process, as far as your team is concerned?|
|Mary Beth:||Well, I think it’s the visibility, just into the whole process. And also, the reduction of accidental things happening. It’s very easy to think somebody else is doing something, or not doing something, and you do it. It could easily be duplicated. So, this really assures that it doesn’t. And I get notifications every time that credit memos are issued, so if there’s something I’m worried about, I know to go look at it and investigate what it is. Or if there’s a problem with it, somewhere. So, it’s been very helpful.|
|Kevin:||Wow. So you get a notification every time a credit memo is being issued, so you’re aware of that. Anyway, so nobody has to send you an email and let you know.
It’s just an automatic process, that was installed. That’s really cool. That’s awesome.
|Mary Beth:||Yes, it is.|
|Kevin:||So, every month, there’s a fun process that you and your team have to go through, Mary Beth, where you have to basically close out the financials for that month. And I know that involves many steps, and it’s not always the easiest thing to do, there’s lot of things that you have to track. We call that financial close, that’s the general term, for that. Can you share with us some of the things that, maybe touch on, what was it like before and what it’s like now, in the process? And how that’s better managed for you?|
|Mary Beth:||Sure. I could go on about this process, all day. I love it that much. There’s so many tasks. Hundreds, literally, of tasks, that different people are responsible for in the Accounting Department. And we have to produce a lot of them, in a certain order. And so, in order to know if it’s time to do your task, you have to know if somebody else did their task. And it’s just, it’s very confusing. And it just involves a lot of asking around, and IMing people, to see where we’re at.
With this process, the tasks, some could be monthly, some could be quarterly, some are annually. We can customize the task to only happen in February and October, whatever it is that we want. So each month, when we open the month and close, the due dates for the tasks automatically populate a list of task templates that we’ve created. Each task has an owner, and a description of how to perform the task. There’s also a section where we can fill in notes that apply to the current month, as well as the ability to require approval from someone else, if needed, on that task.
Many tasks have sub tasks, which can belong to even different people, than the task owner. So it is nice for the task owner to be able to see how the sub tasks are coming along, so they know when they’re ready to perform their part, and close out that task.
We also attach backup documentation to the task for that month, such as an Excel spreadsheet, because accountants can’t live without Excel. So we back up everything with Excel, and then we can attach it, for that month. And it’s stored with the task in OnBase. So every duty performed has an immediate audit trail. If my task is dependent on a task performed by somebody else, I can actually follow their task, and be alerted when it’s complete, so I know that I can proceed with my task.
For things such as general ledger account reconciliation, we can enter the GL account balance per our attached spreadsheet. The system then checks the balance we entered to the balance in our ERP system, which is Dynamics SL, and it alerts me if they don’t balance. This check is done again automatically, before the month is actually closed, to be sure nothing snuck into an account accidentally, after the reconciliation was performed.
This process has been especially valuable right now, during the COVID crisis, where we’re not side by side. And we’re not discussing the close. And, as a department manager, I can always look and see how we’re coming. Are we on schedule for the close? Is everybody getting their tasks done? And it really, it’s just valuable for me. I have dashboard views into it. I can look at lists. I can always see where everything is at, to see if we’re on schedule. And I guess, part of the value to us is that, in the event the task owner wins the lottery and never comes back to work, someone else can step right in and perform their month end tasks without missing a beat, because everything is included in that template for the month. So, it’s a fantastic system.
|Kevin:||Wow. Now, I have to ask this question. Nobody’s actually ever won the lottery, right? And not come back to work?|
|Mary Beth:||Not yet. Not yet.
But, somebody could be out sick or something, and you don’t have to be bugging them about how to get that done, so you can do your work. Someone else can just jump in and, theoretically, pick up anybody’s tasks with no issue.
|Kevin:||So it sounds like, even with the current COVID crisis that’s been going on, the pandemic, and having everybody work at home, you guys have been able to, really, to effectively continue to work without really missing a beat.|
|Mary Beth:||Yeah, we haven’t missed a step. It’s been like we’re all sitting in the office. It’s really been nice.|
|Kevin:||That’s fantastic. So, Nathan, I know that you haven’t had a chance to chime in yet. But one of the things I know that you worked on, to help Mary Beth with, and the team, was the subscriptions. And subscriptions, and Mary Beth touched on this earlier, those are often little things that fall through the cracks. They come up once a year, or once a quarter, something like that. And they’re easy to lose track of, the bills just suddenly show up. And all of a sudden, “Oh, we have this other item that we need to pay.” And sometimes, even figure that out. If it’s been too long, since the last time we saw a bill, from a particular organization. So can you tell us, what are some things you’ve done to help with this, and help the team, stay on top of these subscriptions?|
|Nathan:||Sure. So if you think about you as a person, and the subscriptions you have, and how many, you just kind of like, “Oh, whatever, I’m going to set it and forget it, and just let it renew,” think of that times a dozen or two dozen, because that’s how many people were just purchasing a subscription to something and then, sending the bill off to Accounting, and letting it go there. There really wasn’t much, if any, oversight. Unfortunately. Which is, kind of how it happens with subscriptions, no matter who or what is getting them.
So, what we did is, we decided we didn’t want to keep spending money on stuff we didn’t need to spend money on. So, we put together a very simple solution that lets us keep a record of each individual subscription. So, it’s going to store basic stuff like, who, what’s the company the subscription is through? What’s the product, that we’re buying? Is it annual? Is it monthly? How are we paying for it? How much is it? Who’s the owner? So on and so forth. So, right there, that’s more information than we had previously. It was a lot of email and, “Oh, this looks like it might belong to this department. So I’m going to email the head of that department, and hopefully get information on it.”
So, now that we can store all these records in OnBase, we can do a lot with it. Right now, it’s in its infancy. Frankly, this is a pretty new process, it’s been around for maybe a quarter or so, so not too long. But what we do is, once that record is created, it’s going to go into a holding spot and it’s going to wait until, I believe it’s 45 days before it’s set to expire. And then we’re going to start sending off notifications. We’re going to send it to the department head for whatever department owns that subscription and say, “Hey, something is going to expire. You need to take action on it.”
And then as it gets closer, we’ll send more notifications. And then, it just provides a lot of visibility into something that frankly, had no visibility, previously. So the goal and the hope is that, once it’s put in front of somebody’s face, that something they own is going to expire, hopefully they’ll take action on it. They’ll go to our Accounting Department and say, “You know what? We don’t need this anymore. We’ve moved on to a different product,” which has happened in the past. We’ve had two products we’ve had subscriptions to, and one product hadn’t been used for a couple of years, and we were still paying for it. So this is really just a visibility thing, very simple, but it’s going to help [inaudible 00:19:10] save a lot of money because we’re not going to be paying for stuff we don’t need anymore.
|Kevin:||Wow. That’s really cool. And I know, exactly, because I’ve participated in this process before. And I know exactly what that means, where you’re not expecting it and all of a sudden you get this notification, “Hey, this subscription is ending.” And we want to renew it, or we want to get rid of it, and sometimes we forget. And I think that’s a great process, to track that. And that’s one of those unnecessary expenses, right? When you have a subscription that nobody’s using, but you’re still paying it, because nobody’s really providing any oversight. The bill comes in, and you pay it, from the Accounting Department. And the person that requested it is either no longer there, or the team has moved on. So I think that’s really good.
So, along that line of subscription was, subscriptions are fairly periodic, in terms of how often they recur. But the one thing that isn’t periodic, are gift cards. And I know sometimes these gift cards, when they pop up, different people will do it at random different times, and these are sometimes unexpected expenses, as well. So I know in our company, at ImageSoft, managers will sometimes do that for their team. When somebody has a standout performance on something, or does something really well, and you want to reward somebody for extra effort. Which is great, but I know for Accounting those can create, sometimes, a little bit of a headache. So, Mary Beth, can you just talk a little bit about what some of those headaches have been and challenges have been with gift cards, and what have we done for that?
|Mary Beth:||Yeah. So it’s a pretty simple process, and it really solves a variety of issues. Managers, they’re doing something nice and they want to get a gift card for somebody who went above and beyond, and they would expense it on their expense report. After the fact. So nobody knew that it was coming, nobody knew it was happening, and one of the things about gift cards is, they have to go through payroll. So, we need to gross them up, and include them in an employee’s wages. And, Human Resources couldn’t do that, because they didn’t know they existed. And, it was just getting to be a growing problem.
So in our new system, Finance just retains an inventory of gift cards. And, if a manager decides they want a gift card, they’ll request one, using this process. And when it’s approved, an alert is sent to Human Resources, so that they can record it properly. It’s as simple as that. There’s no more, coming through on expense reports. And basically, we told the managers that if they bought one on their own, they better like it, because they own it. They will not get reimbursed for it. So, it’s very easy to do, and it just solves a lot of issues. HR gets an alert that says a gift card was issued, has all the information, and they can include it in their wages on the next payroll run. So, very easy.
|Kevin:||Wow. That’s great. That’s fantastic. And another really smart way to think things out of the box, and bring a process under control. So, I’m going to open this up for a moment to Teresa, Mary Beth and Nathan. Is there anything else that you can think of that you guys have done in the Accounting Department, that you think our listeners might want to hear, that is a question I haven’t asked? Or something that’s prompted in your mind, that you think, “This would be something worthwhile talking about.” I’ll give you guys the floor for a moment to share some, any ideas.|
|Mary Beth:||Teresa, you’re probably the best one to answer this, because you know all of them.|
|Teresa:||Oh, I know all of them. All I know is that, even the small things, like foldering. And I think about, we did a file cabinet for sales tax. Basically all of our taxes, including corporate tax, but sales tax was the big one. And it was so helpful because, like we mentioned, I went from Finance into IT, but I started off as a tax accountant for an aviation fuel company. And if we had OnBase, life would have been so much easier. And, doing taxes from month to month, needing backup information, where you have to look at previous tax returns. Or invoices, or bill of ladings. And you’re in a really dirty attic, trying to dig through dozens upon dozens of legal boxes, trying to find information. Being able to have that right at your fingertips, in OnBase, not only saves time, it saves on your pants, from crawling through various shelving units. So I think foldering was something that we implemented, that was just great, for the tax processing.
My favorite is the financial close, personally. That’s my personal favorite. That’s the one I loved building the most. That’s the one I love using, the most. So, that was my personal favorite. I’m not sure Mary Beth, other than the financial close, which one you might pinpoint. But I think that one is my personal favorite.
|Mary Beth:||No, that’s totally my favorite. That’s where I see the most benefit, across the whole department. And it’s really sped up our close process. So I would say, it cut days off of our monthly close process, just having the efficiency and the visibility into everything. It’s really valuable.|
|Kevin:||Anything on your end, Nathan, that you can think of?|
|Nathan:||I think probably just improvements to some of the existing processes. Me, personally, I’m a big oversight and requests proponent, just so there’s visibility into things. The gift card and the subscription process that we talked about here, are very simple and in their infancy, like I said. So I do have some, churning in the back of my head-type enhancements, for different request notifications. More visibility, and creating dashboards for that kind of stuff, just so the business users have as much information as possible at their fingertips. So those are my longterm goals, to help them even more, than we already have.|
|Mary Beth:||Yeah, and to add onto the subscription discussion is that, if a bill were to come in now, with our new approval process, it wouldn’t necessarily automatically get paid, it would go through the approval process. However, a majority of the subscriptions were charged to a credit card with an auto renewal. And we didn’t know that it was auto-renewing, until we got the credit card bill. And, it was already done. And there you have it, for another year, so. And the person would say, “Oh no, I’m not using that anymore.” So the problem it’s really solved, in my mind, is getting those automatic renewals that are charged to your credit card. It’s solved that problem.|
|Kevin:||Well, I suppose there’s probably a whole bunch more things and ins and outs of the accounting process, in terms of what has been done. And, I’m sure you guys also have some dreams for the future in terms of what could be done, and some additional things that you can add on to that. I know Nathan and Teresa, you two are often thinking that very same question, and figuring out how to do things better. And it just sounds, overall, just from listening to this, getting the information into OnBase upfront and then, pushing that information out to the right person at the right time, is so critical and so key, to making your processes more efficient, giving it visibility, and then, also making it work when you can’t be in the office, and you’re remote. It makes a huge difference.
And I know even for me, being part of this process too, there’s been times where I’ve had to do things. And I remember getting off of a plane, and needing to approve something for payment right away. And being able to do that, just on my mobile phone. And that connects me to the entire process, without me having to open up a laptop or go back to my desk, or wait to get back to the office to approve anything. Those things have made such a huge difference for me, being a user of the system, as opposed to those in Accounting. So I think it just made the process smoother overall for everybody, in the company.
|Mary Beth:||In Accounting, we meet with IT regularly, and we have a spreadsheet of initiatives that we want to make. Our appetites have been whetted, so, we’re ready to expand.
I know Teresa’s got the comprehensive spreadsheet, probably, in front of her. But I know some of it is, dashboarding of financial information for the owners and appropriate people, to see. There’s a lot to do with our project accounting, that we really haven’t touched on. Our credit card processing. What am I missing, Teresa?
|Teresa:||Oh, there’s so many things on the list at this point, but I think it’s, opening up, the sharing of information between Finance and Professional Services, for example. Things sometimes get created, almost in a vacuum, where one team has information in OnBase, another team maybe has it, in Excel. And what we plan on doing in the future is, actually, combining it. So both teams are going to be using the same information, in the same place, for OnBase. And it’s going to create an easier way to let people know when changes are coming. So, Finance can do their job, PS can do their job. And it’s so much smoother.|
|Mary Beth:||Yeah, we’ve found through the years, spent a lot of times just… A salesperson calls us and says, “I need a copy of this customer’s invoices. We need invoice such and such.” Or, “We need to know this, or that”. And it’s all information that is in OnBase, but nobody knew it was there, or how to get to it. So, I guess our hope is that, people will be a lot more self-sufficient, once everything is in the same place and everybody knows that, that’s where it is.|
|Kevin:||That’s great. And thank you for sharing all those. So, I want to thank you, Mary Beth and Teresa and Nathan, for being on the podcast with us today, and sharing your thoughts and your experiences and the things that you’ve done to improve the accounting functions, and the various aspects of that. And how you’ve made a change, a beneficial change, for you at ImageSoft, and for the users and the people in this company. And just helped everything, overall, in terms of how the business is running.
And I think for our listeners, too, I think that this is really helpful information, to let them know that there are solutions that are out there. There are things that can be done, even though you may not be able to buy some of this stuff, off the shelf. It’s kind of hard to, you’re not going to go and buy a whole subscription management system for a small business, but having a tool like OnBase really does give you a lot of flexibility and freedom to do these types of things, and to create those solutions that make a difference. So, I want to thank all three of you, for being on the call today.
|Mary Beth:||Okay. Thanks for having us, Kevin.|
|Kevin L:||Yeah. Awesome. So, this has been a great discussion. And again, it’s just impressive, in terms of all the work that you guys have done.
For our listeners, if you’re interested in reading and learning a little bit more about how we use this tool, and what this tool can possibly provide for you, you can go to imagesoftinc.com, and click on the Back Office icon. And that will take you to our Back Office page, where you can see some information in terms of accounts payable, contract management, vendor management and some other things that might be of interest to you. So, thank you again for joining us today, hopefully this has been helpful. And, we’ll see you again next time.
|Steve:||Thanks again for joining us on this podcast. To learn more about ImageSoft, please visit imagesoftinc.com. That’s imagesoft, I-N-C, .com. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to Paperless Productivity, where we tackle some of the biggest paper-based pain points facing organizations today. We’ll see you next time.|