Workflow Automation Tips for Costpoint Users - Re-evaluating Your Processes

April 20, 2016
 

Author:    Marty Herbert

We all know that in using Costpoint, there is a lot to learn about how to leverage its many functionalities.. Take 'billing' for example. I was asked a while back to determine how to route a bill for approval, and I thought it would be a piece of cake. Get bill. Send to approver. Get approval. Send to customer. Costpoint was REALLY good at the first part. If you need a bill, you can get a bill. The problem, however, is there is no nice and simple way of implementing approvals within the Costpoint framework.

Over the next six weeks we will be taking a look at several areas of Costpoint where workflow automation plays a big role. Companies unaware of how to automate in these areas are wasting precious time in determining the process, missing steps and ultimately don't know how to streamline efficiencies that will save them money down the road.

In our first post for "Workflow Automation Tips for Costpoint Users", I'll examine the role of an AR clerk with my 'piece of cake' attempt at automating bill routing.

I had a bill from Costpoint and I had Outlook, so I sent 2 bills to their respective approvers to verify hours were correct so we could bill the services to the client. Then I waited and waited and waited and waited... you get the picture. I followed up via email at least 3 times over the next week and finally, a week later, I knocked on their doors to see if they had time to review the email I sent.

'Approver 1' called me to his desk and had me look at his inbox number. Until then, I was unaware that number could go over 9,999, but there it was. I apologized and helped him find it. Five minutes later he reviewed it and sent me an email saying we could bill it. Finally, the bill was out the door. I don't remember whether I had to mail it or e-mail it, but that is of no consequence.

'Approver 2' asked if I had received her email. She said she responded immediately to each of the messages I sent, so I crept back to my cube and found her responses. "Sorry, this project isn't mine. These should go to Janet." Ugh! Wouldn't you know she didn't even have the courtesy to copy Janet on her response to me. So I trudged down the hall to Janet's office and had her review the paper copy and initial it. The Bill was out the door. Case closed.

Actually, the case was just getting started. I realized there was A LOT of room for improvement in speeding up this process. Problem #1, people are swarmed with e-mail. Problem #2, people change roles and responsibilities a lot. Problem #3 was the common link between Costpoint and the approvers. I could only imagine - or rather didn't want to in this case - what would have happened if there had been revisions?

From experience I've gathered intelligence on how to sidestep these common pitfalls. Apart from working together as a team, companies always think in terms of making changes to their IT infrastructure. What I believe needs to happen is approaching these pitfalls in terms of changing the process infrastructure. There are no short term 'quick fix' changes, but rather logical steps toward automating manual processes that run at the heart of their businesses.

Step 1 

Get people out of email and into a single system for approvals. This will help solve problem 1 and 3. By logging in to a single system for approvals, the approver should be able to get to a "To Do" list that helps them focus on the task(s) at hand. A system that alerts ONLY when an approval is required, and only when this task is 'past due', can assist in decreasing problem #1.

Step 2

Link your system to Costpoint! Not only does it save time from implementing information into Outlook, but it also ensures that the information would not be incorrectly entered. Additionally, users can maintain project leads in Costpoint, and can link to a user in the system to automatically assign the approver to the person(s) involved in any given approval process. Problem 2 and 3 solved.

Step 3 

Create a workflow that allows for rework, rejection, and handles the issues and items that may need to be addressed when something is "wrong." That way, the stakeholders that need to be involved can be included automatically based on roles, or by selecting a user from a list of possible issues/departments involved. This decreases the amount of emails sent out for approvals. Assigning a task and automating reminders in the system accomplishes all these things.

Step 4 

Work on other things. Seriously. In a recent conference I attended, it was estimated that we spend around 28% of our work time sending or reading emails. What happens when you remove a single workstream worth of emails from your list of things to do? You can get back a piece of that time to work on other more pressing issues.

If it sounds like I've been through this process at least a few times, it's because I have. Using the power of a business process management tool called Integrify, NeoSystems has automated this and other processes tied to Costpoint. Throughout this series, I will highlight the ways we have implemented, envisioned, and produced time-saving, compliance-driven processes that integrate with Costpoint to create an Enhanced Workflow Automation Framework.

Have burning questions about Workflow Automation? Feel free to contact me ahead of next week's blog post.

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