Borough council of the Bodensee district
Decentralized requests, centralized booking via eProcess
Offices can’t do entirely without paper yet, but the goal is clear. As part of a plan to introduce eInvoices, the borough council of the Bodensee district wants to handle its flood of invoices, along with requests, with an entirely paperless process by the end of 2018. They’ve already laid the groundwork: After switching over to double-entry Infoma newsystem financial accounting on 1/1/2016, the departments completed blanket coverage connection to a central booking office with decentralized reporting, and replaced the fee program, which could not be used with double-entry accounting, with over 400 fee transactions. At the same time, the Baden-Württemberg district located on the north shore of Lake Constance launched its first eProcesses with integrated modules for electronic requests and account assignment. Without requiring any prior knowledge, these allow staffers to easily electronically record any forms for revenues / expenses and transfer requests, as well as forms for payment requests and fee invoices through a separate intranet portal.
A total of 24 departments now enter around 1,100 requests into the system in this manner each week – “highly efficient,” as Robert Algner, Manager of Central Controlling at the borough council, confirms. He explains his judgment in this way:
“The configuration of the ePortal is ideal. It is designed around our needs, mission, legal requirements, and an interest in operating economy. The structures we discussed in the planning phase, the content, and the technical processes have proven effective in practice when combined with decentralized bookkeeping with a central accounting office.”
This is the result of intensive, positive collaboration right from the start among the borough council project team, Axians Infoma, and others. The first focus was to determine technical possibilities and needs related to operating eRequests and eAccount assignments alongside IT service provider KIRU, who manages hosting for Infoma newsystem.
The requirements of the Lake Constance district served as a guideline for later configuration of the solution. The district wanted to streamline their entire request process – from decentralized preliminary recording to final booking in Financial Accounting. The 160 decentralized users needed to be provided with uniform recording screens for acceptance and payment requests, all elec¬tronic and without external templates from Word, Excel, or other programs. The district was also interested in all electronic controlling of prepared requests, with the ability to make corrections without requiring paper vouchers, as well as the best possible coordination between centralized and decentralized accounting in case of questions, accounting problems, or corrections.
Thanks to these clearly defined goals provided by the project managers, and optimal support by the Axians Infoma team to implement the templates, the launch phase was relatively short. The overall ePortal system went live with blanket coverage at the same time as the district was converting over to double-entry accountancy. The development, training, and launch were all completed within just a few months.
Since that time, processes in the borough council have changed significantly. There have been optimizations especially in the fully electronic version – the only exception are request vouchers, which still have to be printed out. Direct processing in Infoma newsystem, and the ability to electronically “return” incorrect vouchers to the user and request corrections, monitor incoming vouchers, and direct personnel to process these in the central accounting office, are useful performance features for the district administration. Another positive feature includes the ability to expand the process to additional users and departments without added costs and with minimal work.
However, combining a decentralized request structure and a centralized accounting office into a new accountancy process first requires plenty of training on the new solution for the 160 users, in order to show them they can place double-entry requests without having specific double-entry accounting expertise. “We introduced a two-hour introductory training session for users for this purpose,” Robert Algner remembers. “It was very successful. Employee acceptance was clear right from the beginning, throughout the district.”
The user-friendly nature of the intranet solution is a key reason for this good general satisfaction. Each user is “guided” to certain categories by the templates. Master data, such as data on the budget year, is already filled in. Red notifications signal mandatory fields that still need to be completed. Preview and informational fields indicate incorrect contradictory double-entry booking processes. “This gives the user a tool that he can neither misuse nor use incorrectly,” says Robert Algner. “Without being an ‘accountant,’ users can fully manage double-entry accountancy.”
Maintenance and expenses for setup and authorizing additional users are also low and economical. Each of the 24 departments is managed as a departmental unit in the ePortal, with the same rights for all users from the same departmental unit. The same templates are available to everyone no matter their department, with only the content authorizations for each template being different. “This ensures fast implementation and distribution during organizational changes, such as adding additional offices,” says Robert Altner.
His conclusion after about a year of use is entirely positive. The system fulfills the Lake Constance district’s expectations completely, both with respect to their current purpose and with the strategic orientation of the overall eInvoice process.
After completing their first annual accounts and end of year accounts from 2016 to 2017 with eRequest to “make cross-period or accrual postings strictly according to the period principle,” Robert Algner believes the next goal is preparing to switch over to eInvoices. Initial meetings are already planned for 2017/2018 to discuss the requirements, technical possibilities, and prerequisites. Building on these meetings, the eRequest process will then be optimized in conjunction with eInvoices to create a fully paperless request process.