Case Study: Community Living team get their weekends back with new AP Automation

About Community Living Trust

Community Living (CL) provides a wide range of support services to people living with intellectual disabilities. The main goal of this non-governmental organisation (NGO) is to help people with disabilities live their dreams through community connections.

With its head office in Hamilton, Community Living operates throughout the middle of New Zealand’s North Island including the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki regions. The organisation currently employs 453 people, supports more than 700 individuals with disabilities, and owns at least 35 houses or units specifically for the use of the people it supports.

The Challenge

Community Living’s finance team has used the Sage 300 ERP platform to support its accounting practices for more than 10 years. However, over time, as the organisation grew the accounts payable (AP) process became more of a hindrance, and Community Living Accounts Specialist Sandra Levesque describes it as being “very manual.”

“Myself and two colleagues would manually type all AP invoice information into Sage. We’d then email a copy of the original invoice internally for approval where it might be handled by multiple people. Eventually the approver would print and sign the invoice, scanning the approved version back for us to store separately on file,” Sandra said.

The main impact was precious time wasted. “Entering AP invoice information into Sage was very time consuming,” Sandra said. “So was the manual approval process. Emailed invoices would get lost in the process of changing hands. Time was wasted tracking those down one by one,” she said. “It was very inefficient.”

Community Living Financial Accountant Bronwyn McRostie said the process also resulted in multiple inaccuracies. “It was not uncommon to manually enter the wrong information into the invoice,” she said.

The labour-intensive process took two, sometimes three, finance team members to process Community Living’s 500+ monthly AP invoices. Not to mention they’d often work weekends to get it done. By March 2020 the team was more than ready for a solution to their AP problems.

The Solution and Implementation

At this time Community Living contacted BES, its trusted Sage Partner, for advice on how to turn its manual AP system on its head. The solution recommended by BES was Pacifictech’s AP Automation for Sage 300 which consisted of two stages; installing Pacifictech Payables Workflow for Sage 300, and later Pacifictech’s Document Processing Service (DPS).

The Payables Workflow add-on for Sage 300 is designed specifically for organisations looking to streamline their AP process. It enables supplier invoices to be attached inside Sage, rather than sent by email, and be submitted for approval inside Sage also.

Once Payables Workflow was up and running BES was able to introduce DPS; a complementary solution described by Sandra as “the real game changer.” DPS scans and extracts data from supplier invoices, automatically populating it in Sage 300 and thus reducing the need for manual data entry. It also enables supplier invoices to be approved from a web browser or on a smartphone native app.

Sandra said BES made the implementation and training process nice and straightforward. “DPS training was particularly smart. BES set everything up remotely before coming out and training our team of three in person. It took a couple of hours one afternoon and a few follow up emails and we were underway,” she said.

With lockdown interrupting the two-part implementation process somewhat, the rollout was fully completed in mid-2020.

The Benefits

According to Sandra and Bronwyn, once the Payables Workflow package and DPS were in place, major benefits were immediately obvious.

“Together they save us so much time. The DPS in particular has streamlined things dramatically. Thanks to it extracting data from supplier invoice files, manual invoice entry is a thing of the past,” Bronwyn said.

Approvals are also far more efficient. “Now, our AP invoices are attached inside Sage and sent for quick paperless approval via a web link. We’re notified when that’s done, and we pay. No more pushing paper, and no more lost invoices,” Sandra said.

The team also finds themselves with more file storage space. “We’re no longer saving piles of PDF invoices on our P Drive. They’re all accessed inside Sage,” Sandra said. Incidentally this makes a world of difference for auditing too. “Auditors can now simply look online rather take masses of paper away to look at. The preparation will be much less onerous on us,” Bronwyn said.

Improved accuracy is another key benefit. “The way the DPS scans and loads AP invoice information means there’s far less opportunity for human error. Everything’s entered in the right place,” Bronwyn said.

Ultimately, the improvements to the AP process mean that what used to take two or three staff full time plus weekends, now only takes one. “For the most part I do it on my own. It’s less work everywhere really,” Sandra said.

Next Steps

Since then Community Living has been driven to complete a number of other helpful Sage 300 improvements.

At the beginning of 2021 they upgraded to latest version of Sage, Sage 300 2021, which Sandra says is a vast improvement from the 2014 version they were previously operating. Among other things, this upgrade boasts faster payments, and stronger default security settings.

With the help of BES they’ve also recently implemented a bank reconciliation add-on solution. This has enabled them to easily complete their bank reconciliations on a daily basis as opposed to weekly, so all the information in their system is always up to date.

They look forward to continuing to work with BES into the future to ensure Sage 300 is operating at its best for their organisation’s specific needs.