Borough association of Isenbüttel
Integrated invoice workflow optimizes processing
The paperless office – proclaimed at the end of the 1980s in the last century, it looks like it will continue to remain just a vision. Despite numerous opportunities to reduce the flood of paper through relevant IT systems, such as systems for electronic archiving of key documents, the annual per-capita paper consumption in Germany is still around a quarter of a ton. Digitization not only ensures information is provided quickly and securely, it can also help reduce costs significantly. The borough association of Isenbüttel, in the Gifhorn district, decided this was a worthwhile goal to pursue.
When they were starting the process to modernize their administration at the start of 2009, the Lower Saxon association decided it would be, if not paperless, at least “low-paper.” They planned to introduce a document management system to do so. Since that time, incoming mail, with the exception of invoices, has been scanned centrally. However, since incoming invoices make up a large percentage of incoming mail, introducing an electronic invoice workflow was a top priority for the Finances and Internal Services department. It was important to project managers that the future invoice processing procedure would be free from media disruptions, meaning all digital, and would include a direct connection to the newsystem financial software. With the conversion to double-entry bookkeeping in 2011, they had set up central bookkeeping. However, this was decentralized once again “after collecting enough practical experience in double-entry bookkeeping,” according to Department Manager Jürgen Wisch.
When Axians Infoma presented the Invoice workflow, integrated fully into its financial accounting and with all new technology, in 2015, Isenbüttel quickly made its decision. As an integral component of Infoma newsystem, the module didn’t need any interfaces or any extra applications. After just a two-month test phase, the performance capabilities and user friendliness of the solution impressed the borough association of roughly 15,000 inhabitants, which started live operations as its first user at the beginning of December.
They decided to use the workflow first because it eliminated Sharepoint requirements. The association would be able to eliminate Sharepoint product installation, licensing, and maintenance. In addition, the workflow is a fully integrated component of Infoma newsystem, including administration of workflow processes.
Another reason was the intuitive design of the account assignment interface, and direct integration of booked invoices in Infoma newsystem. “That means available funds are always clearly presented in the invoice workflow,” says Jürgen Wisch. “Furthermore, we can map our own administrative organization relatively easy in all its different levels – account assignment, requests, bookkeeping, etc.” The system also automatically informs employees that they have invoices to process in the invoicing workflow, which is another useful benefit.
The launch process was both meticulous and systematic. Routing slips were included with paper invoices in preparation for the kickoff event, in order to better trace processing pathways and steps. This information wa then used to create a concept for setting up the administrative workflow, which was then adapted in detail to the needs of the borough association.
The pilot version of the invoice workflow was installed in close collaboration between the Isenbüttel IT department and Axians Infoma. The concept was first created in workflow and then implemented on a step by step basis. Only one of the three departments initially tested the process. After a positive test, the other departments were set up in the system. Due to the easy operations and administration, employees were able to handle this step on their own. At the same time, Axians Infoma completed in-house user training sessions to prepare users for everyday work with the workflow.
After a few months of productive operations, Jürgen Wisch and his team are satisfied with the status quo: “It has improved our work processes overall, partially because invoices are available in the workflow just a few seconds after they’re scanned in. This has eliminated long mailing times.” In addition, it is possible to create account assignment templates for recurring invoices like the monthly telephone bill. Account assignment templates specify creditors/debtors, cost center groups, and payers, so they don’t have to be entered manually on every invoice. This significantly shortens invoice processing times. The option of accessing the workflow directly from a browser is a significant aid for workers and supervisors alike. That means users don’t have to install the Infoma newsystem application on their computers, since all account assignment work, requests, and invoice bookings are handled through the browser application and not through the Infoma newsystem client.
Since the workflow offers a list and classification of all the invoices in the workflow process, “we have an overview of all of the invoices in process at all times,” says Jürgen Wisch. “Thanks to the color highlighting, for instance of the due date, it’s also quickly clear which invoices need to take priority in processing.”
The borough association of Isenbüttel was able to fulfill all its requirements, thanks to the large number of functions and customization options offered by the integrated invoice workflow. However, the pilot users are still in regular contact with the Ulm software provider, even months after their successful launch. For instance, they discuss how to tailor the program even more effectively to unique practical requirements based on initial experience. Once again, Axians Infoma is proving its commitment to provide effective support to local governments with needs-based solutions. Intensive dialog with customers is indispensable. In this context, Jürgen Wisch is already looking forward to future developments and innovations – including with respect to the launch of a district IT association planned for 2017.