The firm wanted an automated solution that would increase employee efficiency by eliminating two-step data entry while enforcing the firm’s expense policies and accelerating the approval time.
Automating a Manual Process
Haynes and Boone had a labor-intensive, manual expense and invoice management process that they were looking to improve on several fronts. Their process involved a two-step procedure that required employees to enter data into a spreadsheet and then send it through interoffice mail – many times out of state – for approval. After approval, the spreadsheet was forwarded to the accounts payable group for entry into the firm’s Elite Enterprise financial management system.
The firm wanted an AP automation solution that would increase employee efficiency by eliminating two-step data entry while enforcing the firm’s expense policies and accelerating the approval time. They wanted an approval process and a travel pre-approval process with an audit trail and greater employee accountability for expense spending and budgets. The firm was also looking for quicker turnaround from the time expenses were incurred to the time they were billed and collected. And the finance department was keen to simplify and speed up the employee expense reimbursement process.
Founded in 1970, Haynes and Boone, LLP is an international corporate law firm with 11 offices in Texas, New York, California, Washington, D.C. and Mexico City. Haynes and Boone is ranked the 98th largest law firm in the nation by the National Law Journal. Areas of law practiced by Haynes and Boone include securities, mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcy, business reorganization, workouts, clean tech, environmental law, climate change, and corporate sustainability; intellectual property; labor and employment, real estate, and all aspects of business litigation.
Why Chrome River
CFO Jim Miller, Controller Chris Belknap and Director of Financial Systems John Tyson made up the core team that was involved in the decision-making process. They looked at two Expense and Invoice Automation Systems: Chrome River and Concur. After an in-depth review of both systems, the team felt that Chrome River’s extensive legal industry experience made them the stand-out choice to ensure the project would be a success. Another factor in the selection of Chrome River was their ability to easily integrate with ancillary technologies used by the firm, including the Elite Enterprise financial management system and Elite 3E, which Haynes and Boone will be upgrading to very soon; Interaction CRM; Global Exchange foreign payment processing; and American Express.
Chrome River’s extensive legal industry experience made them the stand-out choice to ensure the project would be a success.
Implement a paperless expense and invoice management system to automate data-entry workflow, enforce firm expense policies, and provide greater accountability for expenses and budgets.
Haynes and Boone began implementation of Chrome River EXPENSE, rolling it out to their accounting department first. Their internal training team created a formal end-user training program that included hands-on training sessions a few times per week. The trainers also created and distributed a cheat sheet for the users to refer to as they were first learning to enter expenses. After training, the accounting department went live on EXPENSE, and then it was rolled out firm-wide. Now that the training has been completed and employees are using EXPENSE on a daily basis, it is reported to be well-liked.
The firm next implemented Chrome River INVOICE. They chose not to do the same type of formal training for INVOICE they did with EXPENSE. Instead, the trainers emailed a cheat sheet to the end users describing how to use INVOICE. Since the interfaces for EXPENSE and INVOICE are the same and the users were already familiar with EXPENSE, they didn’t require the same level of training that they needed for EXPENSE. INVOICE was rolled out to the accounting department first and then implemented firm-wide a few months later. Now, the secretaries love that they know where everything is in the workflow process – they can go into Chrome River EXPENSE and INVOICE and check the status whenever the need arises.
Their internal training team created a formal end-user training program that included hands-on training sessions a few times per week.
Chrome River’s broad legal industry experience reassured the firm that the project would be a success from start to finish.
Before implementing Chrome River, Haynes and Boone users were manually approving and signing paper expenses. This could take days – sometimes weeks – depending on how long the expense sat on the approver’s desk before it was forwarded to accounting for payment. It was up to the accounting department to manually check the expenses for compliance with firm policies and to contact the employee directly if the expenses fell outside of the parameters. This type of policy enforcement was inconsistent and unreliable at best. The workflow was further lengthened due to the approvals being routed through interoffice mail, which could add two or three days to the process.
Chrome River automated this lengthy, error-prone, manual workflow by incorporating Haynes and Boones’ approval routing process and firm expense policies into the business rules engine. Now expense reports are automatically checked for compliance with the firm’s expense policies and flagged if they fall outside of the guidelines. The expenses are automatically routed to the appropriate approver, who can review the details online or via a mobile device. Approvers can approve the expense for payment or deny it and send it back to the originator with one simple click. Enforcing adherence to the firm’s expense policies allows the firm to require greater accountability for expenses and their associated budgets.
There had been no formal pre-approval process for travel requests prior to implementing Chrome River. Sometimes an employee would send an email to the appropriate person as notification of impending travel that might require special authorization. Other times, there was no notification at all. Chrome River’s service provided Haynes and Boone with a way to automate and formalize pre-trip approval of travel expenses through the built-in Pre-approval feature.
Haynes and Boone’s manual invoice process was also automated, and the business rules and approval routing rules for these expenses were configured into the Rules Engine. The new invoice automation software has very simply reduced the time it takes to approve and pay an invoice. And, as with EXPENSE, users love that they can track where an invoice is in the workflow process simply by checking the INVOICE system. Another benefit for the accounting department is a reduction in the hard costs associated with the purchase and storage of paper, thanks to a paperless system that uses electronic copies of invoices.
Enforcing adherence to the firm’s expense policies allows the firm to require greater accountability for expenses and their associated budgets.
Eliminate duplicate data entry, provide better expense spend visibility with an approval process audit trail, and reduce the time between when expenses are incurred, billed and collected.
Working with Chrome River
Haynes and Boone users enjoy the ability to flexibly configure many functions on their own without Chrome River’s assistance, including adding GL accounts, mapping to GL accounts, adding vendors, and reassigning approval roles when someone goes on vacation or leave.
As a typical and ever-changing organization, Haynes and Boone also frequently modifies approval levels and routing rules. For more consultative work of this nature, the firm calls upon the Chrome River Help Desk personnel, whom they have found to be knowledgeable and easy to work with. The Help Desk team communicates with Haynes and Boone personnel regularly, using both telephone and online tools as part of the included service to deliver support for any customer request.
Life After Implementation
Haynes and Boone users appreciate the many benefits they are realizing as a result of automating their manual expense reporting and accounts payable processes. They have reduced the amount of time it takes to approve and pay invoices and expenses. They have also met their goal of minimizing the turnaround from the time an expense is incurred to the time it is reimbursed, billed and collected, which allows the firm to recover costs more quickly, reduce write-offs, and improve employee satisfaction.
"They have met their goal of minimizing the turnaround from the time an expense is incurred to the time it is reimbursed, billed and collected, which allows the firm to recover costs more quickly, reduce write-offs, and improve employee satisfaction.”