Digital power for LWL-BLB – the mobile verification in the invoice receipt workflow
As a municipal association, the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe (LWL) performs all tasks for cities and districts in Westphalia-Lippe that the municipalities cannot manage themselves. LWL runs 35 special schools, 21 hospitals, 17 museums and is one of the payers of aid for persons with disabilities. LWL’s building and real estate operation is an internal service provider of the regional association and is responsible for key tasks relating to land and building management.
In implementing the mobile verification in the invoice receipt workflow, LWL-BLB has achieved a milestone that resulted in more efficient work processes, faster invoice processing and increased productivity. This project is an excellent example of how mobile technology can transform the traditional invoice receipt workflow. In an interview, Nicole Maria Grüter, SAP project manager at LWL’s building and real estate operation, talks about the project and provides an insight into the experiences that the organisation gathered during its course. She not only highlights the challenges and successes during the implementation phase, but also points out the added value for other companies that are planning a similar transformation in their accounting processes. Read for yourself how LWL-BLB has smoothed the path to a more efficient and flexible future of the invoice receipt workflow.
IT&I: Ms Grüter, LWL-BLB recently introduced the easysquare invoice receipt workflow. How does the mobile verification allow LWL-BLB’s employees to check invoices more efficiently and promptly?
Nicole Maria Grüter: Thanks to the integration of the mobile verification into the easysquare portal, which is connected to our SAP® system, all the time-consuming postal routes that invoices previously had to take within the company are now a thing of the past. Prior to the conversion to digital processing, the postal and paper-based receipt for accounting resulted in longer postal delivery times. Now, however, the invoices can be sent in seconds immediately after being checked by an employee. As an internal service provider, this saves us a great deal of time.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many of our employees worked remotely, as their safety and well-being were our highest priority. We used this as an opportunity to also convert the process to the requirements of the future world of work. The mobile verification provides numerous advantages here, as invoices no longer need to be processed in the office. Instead, they can be verified from anywhere and at any time on a mobile terminal device under the strictest security precautions. If the accounting department has questions about an invoice, these can be processed and answered within minutes by means of the workflow in the app. Overall, the time and effort required is significantly less, which results in greater employee satisfaction throughout the company.
IT&I: How are the invoices recorded?
Grüter: We have set up a central invoice inbox so that LWL-BLB also receives all invoices from other LWL locations. We receive all letters and documents in all formats in a central location and they are then read out and archived using an SER content management solution. They are then seamlessly transferred to our SAP® system without any media discontinuities and the automated invoice processing workflow starts. The accounting team can then efficiently process and forward the invoices.
IT&I: How did the cooperation between PROMOS and the regional association come about for the project?
Grüter: We have been using PROMOS.GT since 2005 and following successful implementation of this project we were on the look out for a solution for mobile verification that would match our requirements perfectly and that PROMOS would implement with their usual reliability.
IT&I: Which specific requirements did your company have for PROMOS regarding the mobile verification in the invoice receipt workflow?
Grüter: Around 90 employees work with the easysquare portal, not only at the LWL-BLB but also at other locations in Münster and in other places. We manage numerous different institutions in various places, from the LWL Open Air Museum in Detmold to the LWL school administration in Dortmund. All of these needed to be integrated, which is a major undertaking in itself. When it came to licence costs and the service offering, the easysquare portal turned out to be the best solution.
However, the greatest challenge was processing the large quantities of data. Construction invoices are comprehensive and contain many different documents, such as plans and measurements, which are often not available in DIN A4 format. Here, the challenge was to work out how we can bundle it all in digital form. Thankfully we achieved this – with the digitalisation of the invoices, format no longer plays a role. All documents are now collected digitally in a single location and can be called up there. So far, since the mobile verification was introduced, no matter what size an incoming invoice was, we have had no issues importing it from the SAP® system into the easysquare portal.
IT&I: What challenges occurred during implementation and how were they overcome?
Grüter: The large number of users made it challenging to convey to all employees that invoice verification now takes place in entirely digital and mobile form. After all, they all needed to be ready to start at the same time.
IT&I: Did the employees of the regional association take up this challenge well. Were there any training sessions or adjustment phases?
Grüter: PROMOS provided us with extremely helpful guides containing the most important information. We provided in-house training for our employees, which took place via video call due to the pandemic. Despite a few prior concerns, this worked perfectly. The mobile invoice verification did not meet with any hostility. In fact, quite the opposite: our employees really appreciate being able to integrate the verification into their daily work no matter where they happen to be. Most of all, they appreciate how fast the verification is now.
IT&I: Which benefits does the mobile verification in the invoice receipt workflow offer compared with paper- or desktop-based verification?
Grüter: The introduction of the new digital workflows has made everything much more effective. One example is archiving. Previously, invoices had to be collected in paper form and stored in accordance with retention periods. Now, we no longer need to provide this storage space. Above all, both communication and the verification mechanism have become significantly faster, meaning the time until payment of the invoice is considerably shorter.
The process is also much more secure now. When somebody checks an invoice, they enter the verified invoice amount and the accounting team then creates the document accordingly. So a number of security mechanisms have been implemented to prevent inconsistencies from occurring. Since the system contains much more data than the original paper invoice, it can pay attention to a greater range of information and avoid errors.
IT&I: Which other possibilities does your company see for the use of mobile technologies in the area of accounting or other business processes?
Grüter: The introduction of digital invoice processing was just the beginning for us. We already have a variety of exciting ideas that we want to implement in the future. Among other things, we are planning a digital release workflow for awarding contracts. This will be seamlessly processed via the easysquare portal. As soon as a company receives an order from us, this is also mapped directly in SAP®. This process involves many employees. Once this is digitalised, the previous paper-based written order will now be generated directly from within the SAP® system and can also be sent digitally.
IT&I: Do you have recommendations for other companies that would like to implement a mobile verification solution within their invoice receipt workflow?
Grüter: Every organisation naturally has its own specific requirements for invoice verification. Nevertheless, in my opinion it is extremely important to closely involve all areas of the company that will be affected by this conversion or a mobile verification in the process and agree the workflow together with them. This will ensure that all those involved are well-informed and satisfied and that there are no inconsistencies between the various areas.
It can be more difficult to integrate those affected later if they did not participate in the early stages. So I recommend involving all the relevant areas in planning and the transition right from the start. This gives everyone the possibility to incorporate their suggestions, wishes and required points and ensure a smooth process.
IT&I: Thank you for the valuable advice. Were there any exciting or interesting moments during the cooperation with PROMOS that you remember fondly?
Grüter: Well, it’s always exciting to be honest. (Laughs) The cooperation with PROMOS is reliable and professional. No questions remain open. Completing projects with them is a lot of fun. There’s no such thing as a stupid question – no matter who is asking, users or the project manager, we always receive supportive feedback. The entire experience is simply fantastic.
IT&I: Thank you. We’re very pleased to hear it. And thank you for the interview.
Grüter: My pleasure.