Spokane, Washington-based liberal arts college, Whitworth University, chose Chrome River to streamline expense management for its traveling faculty and staff. Carolina León, Business Analyst, Finance and Administration at Whitworth University explains how the university lets business flow with a smooth implementation and an agile approach to providing the best solution for its team.
Implementing a new software solution can be daunting task, and this is particularly the case for a solution which is used throughout the organization, albeit often infrequently by many users. This is exactly the challenge that we faced at Whitworth University when we selected Chrome River to manage staff and faculty expenses.
In order to roll out the solution successfully, we worked closely with Chrome River’s project management team to ensure that not only was the initial implementation as smooth as possible, but that we also set our users and administrators up for long-term success. For us, this meant rolling out in waves, instead of trying to get the entire team up and running at the same time.
When we decided to implement Chrome River, we first selected a small group of people that we thought would be a great test-group to start. We selected one person from each major area of the university and we also did the training during the summer when most professors and students were not on campus. We first trained the users in groups of about 10-15 people in a computer lab, so everyone could follow along.
After a couple of months, when we started adding more people to Chrome River, we went by department and offered a couple of monthly training sessions. We would target the training invites to those who had transactions for the current month, so they could work on their own report during the training.
Path to Ongoing Success
Unlike a system like accounting software, which is used by a small number of people on a daily basis, expense management software is accessed by anyone across the university who needs to incur any travel or other out-of-pocket expenses – but they may only use it a few times a year. Because of this, we needed to ensure that we chose a solution which was easy to learn and – just as importantly – remember. We also wanted to ensure that our team was set up for ongoing success.
We created our own how-to docs and posted them in our SharePoint site so Whitworth’s cardholders could have directions that only applied to them. These how-to docs included instructions for setting up a password, adding delegates, uploading receipts, a list of all of our object codes and where to code items that are mostly purchased by departments. We also purchased a platform that lets us share our screen or request a user to share their screen so we could troubleshoot any issues without having to meet with the cardholder. Another thing we added to our purchasing card agreement is a place for the cardholder to add a name of a delegate or the name of whoever they wanted to have access to their Chrome River account.
Agility is Key
Part of the criteria for ensuring the ongoing success for our expense management was finding a solution that was agile and could easily be tweaked as our requirements evolved. Whitworth’s department program assistants are the ones that create most of the reports for our faculty, so we always keep in contact with them and remind them that we are open to receive feedback on how to make Chrome River more user-friendly.
At the beginning we implemented several compliance rules that we later decided to turn off in order to make the user experience smoother. One example could be spending over $40/day in meals for themselves. Sometimes the credit card would post charges the following day, and they would get a compliance message when they didn’t spend $40 /day in meals. We turned it off and decided we would keep an eye and contact cardholders if they went over the per diem limit. If, over the whole trip, the average amount spent in their meals was less than $40, we would not bother contacting them.
Another thing we changed was the hotel folio parsing capability. At the outset, we mandated that all hotel bills had to be itemized on the expense report. However, when a year later we reviewed the requirement for hotel folios to be fully itemized in the expense solutions, we decided we didn’t need them to break down the hotel bill, so we removed the itemization option. This was a straightforward fix, and didn’t require a huge reengineering project, which was very helpful.
We continue to receive positive feedback from both end users and administrators of Chrome River how it’s made their lives easier, both for submitting and approving expenses. This kind of feedback reminds me that we made the right choice.
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Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.