Driving government efficiency, part 1: Start with accounts payable

columnsEven though government revenues haven’t recovered to pre-recession levels, the immediate public sector revenue crisis seems to have stabilized. As we adjust to historically high staff reductions, it is a great time to push forward with business process improvement and move to technology tools that can help you continue to survive being understaffed – and even find new efficiencies.

Accounts payable and accounting departments have been hit hard, but were always challenged by paper-intensive processes, older accounting or ERP solutions, filing and slow archiving regimens and more. These challenges consumed staff time, but were less obvious when these departments were better staffed.

Fast forward to where we find ourselves today, and add the fact that these departments are understaffed and facing even more scrutiny of purchases – and of government’s role in general. The demand for transparency is an added challenge when you’re routing invoices and POs in inter-office mail envelopes. Moreover, when it comes time to make informed decisions or to stop purchases that are redundant or questionable, the information you need is buried in a filing cabinet or the payment status is obscured on a paper document.

Eliminating paper-based accounts payable processes helps you speed processes, reduce redundancy and spend public dollars wisely so you can function more efficiently without the staff levels we enjoyed a decade ago.

Where to start?

Eliminate the paper as soon as you receive it with enterprise content management (ECM)

You may still receive paper invoices but you can scan and store them when you receive them. You can even deploy tools to capture the data on the invoices to reduce and, ultimately, eliminate data entry.

Make the move to smart electronic forms

Ditch the carbon forms in triplicate and avoid filing and printing costs, too. Automate routing of purchase approvals and even make forms available on tablets and smartphones to make processes run even faster.

Go digital for transparency

Dropping the paper makes transparency easy. With automation, you see where everything is in a process, and where reviews and approvals are getting bogged down. Even better, going paperless feeds your online transparency efforts because the ECM repository can be made available to your constituents through your website. You can select and share information in the same moment that a document is stored. This makes transparency seamless and unescapable, a very good thing in this climate.

The path to AP efficiency requires leaving paper behind and eliminating the staff hours associated with paper. The time you reclaim will drive faster decisions and create more transparency. When you look back, you’ll say that the challenge of less staff led to the best AP department improvements ever through ECM.

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Terri Jones is an enterprise advisor with Hyland’s Global Services team. Before coming to Hyland, in her 10-plus years in both state and local government, she’s managed IT departments, implemented... read more about: Terri Jones