Workflow Automation Tips for Costpoint Users Series – Part 2
In Part 1 of our Workflow Automation Tips for Costpoint Users Series, ‘Re-evaluating Your Processes’, we looked at a few steps your organization can take towards drastically simplifying your billing process. Keep in mind that throughout this series, I will highlight solutions which produce time-saving, compliance-driven processes that integrate with Costpoint and create an enhanced workflow automation framework. In today’s post, Part 2 of our series, we’ll address invoice processing.
A few years back, while working on a series of consulting projects, I looked at a client’s AP department while performing an audit and noted several variations they employed to process their invoices. Some invoices came in via email, others via snail mail. Some came in to the attention of the company’s AP department; others came in via the Project Manager. Some were based on a PO and others were one-off ‘bills that needed to be paid’. Knowing who the appropriate approver is could be multi-faceted and involve receipt of goods. Similar to many larger government contractors, our client used Deltek Costpoint for invoice processing. Costpoint has a great mechanism for capturing data and information related to accounts payable, but it can’t necessarily control how invoices are delivered, who approves them, and how that approval is captured for compliance purposes.
Our client’s overarching goal (outside of employing processes that increased efficiency and effectiveness) was to find a way to interface an APPROVED invoice for vouchering in Costpoint. Web Services, also known as ‘application services’, make this possible. Used primarily as a means for businesses to communicate with each other and with clients, web services allow companies to communicate data without intimate knowledge of each other’s IT systems. Web services enable the automation of this and many other processes.
The first step in automating this process is the data input. There are multiple ways to get invoices into Costpoint:
- A vendor can get access to a “portal” whereby they upload the invoice directly into a workflow.
- Or they can e-mail the invoice to a specific address that will automate process kick-off and move it into a queue for AP servicing.
- Companies can also receive an invoice and initiate the process by loading it to the AP queue (potentially after scanning it in if it is received hardcopy).
Then it is time to route the invoice to the proper ‘approver’. If companies are already connected to Costpoint, they are able to use the data inherent to any given project (and some extensibilities – another type of Costpoint data) to pull the relevant approvers for PO-based invoices. AP clerks will then have matched the invoice to a PO (unless the vendor did that already) and chose the lines from the PO to which the invoice applies then… well, that is all they have had to do so far.
Off to the approver(s) the invoice goes. The approver gets the invoice that has been submitted as well as details added by the AP department. The approver can decide to reject it or send it to another approver, or sit on it a while. Any (or all) of these tasks can be built into the process. The end result is (hopefully) an approved invoice.
At this point it’s up to the system to validate the information and create a voucher for payment. Using Web Services with Costpoint 7, the system can call the ‘Manage PO Voucher’ service to create the voucher and return a pass/fail along with the auto-generated voucher number when successful. When this occurs, a function is called from the payment screen within Costpoint that triggers a step in this now automated process with a check number. All of a sudden, you have a complete trail of activity from submission to payment.
This process, when mapped out transparently, is extremely easy to follow, saves time and money and is easier to implement than one might think. Unfortunately, most government contractors don’t know the ease with which web services coupled with automation software can achieve this and many other processes quickly and effectively.
Integrify, a workflow management software used to automate a myriad of processes within a variety of platforms, is one tool we use at NeoSystems to automate invoicing within Costpoint. Our next blog will focus on the delightful automation of purchase requisition.
If you have any burning questions about this or other processes (even those we haven’t gotten to yet!) using web services and workflow management software for your Costpoint system, please feel free to contact me.