Find out how these three law firms met their goals of streamlining AP workflow processes while enforcing expense policies, requiring accountability, recovering costs more quickly, and reimbursing employees faster. Through automation, they save costs and gain operational efficiencies.
Stop Losing Time & Money: Learn the Facts of AP Automation from 3 Leading Professional Services Firms
Another year has passed – again – and you promised yourself that you would not go through another year entangled in your organization’s error-prone, manual process of managing expenses and invoices. If you need some compelling reasons as to why you shouldn’t let yet another year slip by without AP Automation, other than the sheer pain of it all, this paper includes perspectives from three leading professional services firms – Haynes and Boone, Polsinelli Shughurt and Stinson Morrison Hecker – on why you should automate and how automation will produce clear, tangible benefits for your organization.
Manual, Error-Prone Expense and Invoice Workflow Process
Manual expense and invoice workflows are labor-intensive, duplicative, time consuming and error-prone. Below, our three firms relate the manual process they wanted to automate.
Employees: 550 Lawyers
Overview: 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.
Haynes and Boone had a labor-intensive, manual expense and invoice management process that they were looking to improve on several fronts. 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. 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 reimbursement process.
With the rapid growth Polsinelli Shughart experienced in recent years, their manual method of preparing, approving and processing check requests had become unmanageable. They required a solution that automated the accounts payable workflow process, including electronic approvals and the ability to provide invoice images with client invoices. They also wanted to eliminate double entry of expenses that were incurred once by staff submitting requests manually and once by the Accounts Payable group that entered the expenses again into the finance system.
Stinson Morrison Hecker’s Accounts Payable (AP) workflow was a manual, paper-based process with clerks performing data entry – nothing was automated. It was clear they needed to automate this time-intensive, error-prone process. They were looking for a paperless solution that would enforce firm policies and internal business rules, make better use of employees’ time, offer end-user reporting, deliver detailed spend by vendors, and streamline the approval workflow process for speed, accuracy and consistency.
It was clear they needed to automate this time-intensive, error-prone process.
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.
Selecting the Right Automation Service
How do you know which Expense and Invoice Management service will work best for your organization? How do you start the search process? What should you be looking for?
Everything might look great over the Internet, but testimonials from real customers can ensure you make the right decision. Below, our three firms talk about their selection process. It’s important that you do your homework prior to selecting a service that will meet your goals. A good Expense and Invoice Management service needs to easily integrate with other core technologies used by the organization like ERP systems, travel booking sites, CRMs, global payment processing services and credit card companies, such as MasterCard and American Express. Just as you would do before you hire an employee, you need to check references for the Expense Management and Invoice Automation Software companies.
Chrome River’s broad legal industry experience reassured Haynes and Boone that the project would be a success from start to finish.
Haynes and Boone looked at two Expense and Invoice Automation Systems: Chrome River and Concur. After an indepth review of both systems, the core decision-making 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.
Polsinelli Shughart saw the benefits of automating their expense reporting workflow and was looking for similar benefits across the rest of their accounts payable process. Chrome River INVOICE provided the functionality and benefits they were looking for. The fact that INVOICE flawlessly integrates with EXPENSE and the Elite financial management system made their user adoption easier.
After reviewing many other AP automation solutions, including Elite WebView, Extensity, a payroll system, and a few banks that offered automation around AP, Stinson Morris Hecker felt confident that Chrome River INVOICE was the best choice for automating the workflow of their manual AP process. Another factor was that INVOICE easily integrates with Chrome River EXPENSE and the Elite financial management system.
Chrome River INVOICE was the best choice for automating the workflow of their manual AP process.
“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.”
How to Implement an Expense and Invoice Management System
One of life’s truisms is that people don’t like change. They don’t want anything new to interfere with the comfort level of their existing process - no matter how painful it may be. So, the easier the system is to learn and the easier it makes people’s lives, the quicker the system will be adopted and benefits realized. A good Expense and Invoice Management system should be intuitive, easy-to-use, require abbreviated training and a quick implementation. The rollout of the system should be smooth and painless for the organization. Below, our three customers convey their implementation processes – each one of them unique.
Haynes and Boone began implementation of Chrome River with expense reports, 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.
Their internal training team created a formal end-user training program that included hands-on training sessions a few times per week.
Employees: 600+ Lawyers
Overview: Established in 1972, Polsinelli Shughart is one of the top 100 law firms in the country, with more than 600 attorneys in 16 cities spanning from New York to Los Angeles. The firm is a recognized leader in the areas of business litigation, financial services, real estate, bankruptcy, business, construction, life sciences and health care law.
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. The invoice management software 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.
Most comprehensive, easy-to-use invoice service on the market, which is complemented by Chrome River EXPENSE.
Polsinelli Shughart began the rollout of INVOICE with their Accounts Payable group. They next created a pilot user group that included select people from each of their 16 locations. The pilot group used INVOICE for a month before a firm-wide rollout took place and concluded after a two-month period. Since the firm had been using Chrome River EXPENSE and the easy-to-use interface and functionality was already familiar to end users, Polsinelli experienced very few issues during their INVOICE implementation. The INVOICE transition process was further improved because Polsinelli shared with Chrome River ideas they thought were helpful from a usability standpoint during their implementation of EXPENSE. With these in place, the end-user transition to INVOICE was seamless.
The pilot group used INVOICE for a month before a firm-wide rollout took place and concluded after a two-month period.
After the Chrome River INVOICE implementation was complete, Polsinelli’s end users and legal administrative assistants provided excellent feedback about the service, saying basically that they loved it! Reasons for such high user satisfaction included the ability to complete a request online instead of in paper form, and the ability to track the progress of the request within Chrome River INVOICE.
Find an invoice management service to automate purchase ledger invoice workflow, approvals and processing, eliminate double-entry of expenses and the ability to include disbursement invoice images with client bills.
And it’s not just the end users at Polsinelli who are happy with the Chrome River INVOICE service; the Accounts Payable team is also extremely pleased. Piles of paper on their desks are reduced and they appreciate INVOICE’s electronic approval feature, which means they no longer need to track down an approval because the end user forgot to have their expense approved. Another benefit that the team enjoys is the ability to track a request at any point in the process.
Stinson Morrison Hecker began their two-phase rollout of Chrome River INVOICE by discussing the general ledger account postings and the appropriate approval routing based on amount and type of expense. Once their internal routing rules were created, they began training the administrative approvers and invoice entry staff. Phase 1 of the rollout was implemented for administrators, and a month later Phase 2 of the rollout was implemented firm-wide for all client charges. Following the firmwide rollout, Stinson offered one-on-one training for secretaries and attorneys on an as-needed basis. Two follow-up training sessions were held during quarterly secretarial meetings.
During the training and implementation process, Stinson’s trainers created slides with side-by-side comparisons to show users their old process and the corresponding process in Chrome River INVOICE. These visual comparisons facilitated quick user adoption and made it easy for them to see exactly how the new system worked.
Because Stinson had previously implemented EXPENSE and the secretaries had already realized the benefits, they were receptive to implementing Chrome River INVOICE. INVOICE was well received, and the legal administrative assistants were pleased to have the ability to process their own invoices and track the paid status.
Stinson’s trainers created slides with side-by-side comparisons to show users their old process and the corresponding process in Chrome River INVOICE.
Faster check request approvals staff time efficiency and reduced costs for supplies and storage. Although the attorney headcount has nearly doubled; accounts payable staffing has not increased.
What Immediate, Tangible Benefits Should You Expect?
Automating expense and invoice workflows will provide an organization with immediate benefits. Below, our three customers share the benefits they realized from automation – time saved, built-in compliance to firm policies, built-in business approval routing rules, quicker approval times, more timely payments to vendors and reimbursements to employees, easy tracking of expenses and invoices, and staff reassignment to more important tasks.
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.
Employees: 300+ Lawyers
Overview: Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP provides sophisticated corporate, transaction and litigation legal services to clients ranging from Fortune 500 corporations and privately held companies to emerging businesses. With more than 300 attorneys in eight key markets—Kansas City, St. Louis and Jefferson City, MO; Overland Park and Wichita, KS; Omaha, NE; Phoenix, AZ; and Washington, D.C.—Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP provides a wide range of services, capabilities and areas of expertise.
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.
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. Automation 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.
Automate a manual, paper-driven accounts payable process to enforce internal business rules, streamline approval, deliver detailed spend by vendor, and offer detailed end-user reporting through a paperless system.
INVOICE and EXPENSE afford Polsinelli Shughurt the ability to make more timely payments to vendors and reimbursements to employees because of the automated check request and expense approval processes, making both vendors and employees very happy. Further, Polsinelli’s attorneys and administrative directors can now approve expenses and invoices in a timelier manner, anytime, anywhere, electronically through a browser or email, thus allowing Polsinelli to process expenses and invoices faster as well. Since invoices and receipts are scanned, there is no worry about losing paper copies, which could happen with their manual method of preparing, approving, and processing check requests. Polsinelli users have also found Chrome River’s intuitive interface and ease of use speeds their workflow and instead of processing invoices and check requests all at one time, the Accounts Payable team can now process these documents and requests as soon as they arrive in their Chrome River INVOICE queue.
INVOICE and EXPENSE afford Polsinelli Shughurt the ability to make more timely payments to vendors and reimbursements to employees.
Enforcing adherence to the firm’s expense policies allows the firm to require greater accountability for expense and their associated budgets.
Chrome River INVOICE provides Stinson Morrison Hecker with many clear benefits. Their AP process has progressed from using 46,000 sheets of paper per year to being completely paperless. This has also eliminated the need for permanent storage of 18 boxes per year. Because approval routing rules are built into the system, invoice approval is quick. With the old manual system, employees had to hand-carry invoices and track down approvers. Because they now have electronic copies of invoices, they no longer need to request copies from the accounting department. They have also gained the ability to track invoices from entry through payment, and they can quickly and easily access information on paid vendor invoices.
Over the past several years, automation has enabled Stinson to reassign the AP staff from seven fulltime employees and one fulltime supervisor to one employee and no supervisor. This is another resounding benefit of AP automation.
They have also gained the ability to track invoices from entry through payment.
Easy-to-use interface that integrates with Chrome River EXPENSE and Thomson Reuters Elite financial management system.
Partnering with the Vendor You Selected
A very real consideration to take into account when selecting a vendor to automate your expense and invoice management workflow is the comfort level you will have with their project managers and support team. The project managers will successfully guide you through implementation; then the help desk support team will take over and help you with day-to-day needs as they arise. Chrome River is proud of their continued reputation of providing excellent customer service. Below, our three firms talk about their experiences with customer service and how important it is for them to be knowledgeable and responsive.
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.
After Polsinelli Shughurt went live with INVOICE, they started receiving unlimited access to Customer Support. Their support contact at Chrome River does a good job of addressing issues as they arise. As the firm’s knowledge of the system increases, they have become more familiar with how to request specific configuration changes that they need, reducing the number of communications and questions experienced early on.
They also have gained the benefit of tracking invoices from entry through payment.
At the beginning of the implementation process, the Chrome River project manager jumped in and got a good feel for how Stinson Morrison Hecker does business, stayed a step ahead in anticipation of their needs, and helped to pull Chrome River resources, if needed, to get the job done quickly. Chrome River’s Help Desk was very responsive during Stinson’s “go live.” If a new rule or a new widget was needed, they made sure it was completed in a timely manner. Stinson has found the Help Desk team to be very knowledgeable about Chrome River’s applications, with a good understanding of Stinson’s business rules. Through the entire process, Chrome River worked effectively in a team effort to ensure a smooth implementation.
Automated, comprehensive, paperless AP process that tracks invoices from entry through payment.
The Expense and Invoice Software Must Meet Your Goals
And – the coup de grace – the organization’s goals they planned to achieve through automation must be met. Below, our three customers convey how the benefits of automation met their goals.
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 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.
Now that Polsinelli Shughurt has incorporated Chrome River INVOICE into their daily workflow routine, they are realizing the benefits of automating their manual method of preparing, approving and processing check requests. Expenses and invoices are approved faster, payments to vendors and reimbursements to employees are timelier, scanned invoice images ensure that paper copies won’t be lost, and invoices and check requests can be processed as they come in due to the easy-to-use INVOICE user interface.
Implementing Chrome River INVOICE has increased staff efficiencies on the Accounts Payable and Billing teams, and as a result, Polsinelli has doubled the number of full-time attorneys over the last two-and-a-half years without the need to increase the Accounts Payable team. Being able to more quickly turnaround client invoices also means improved accounts receivable aging as well as improved cash flow.
Through the entire process, Chrome River worked effectively in a team effort to ensure a smooth implementation.
There is a time commitment involved in training the staff and rolling out the system; however, Stinson Morrison Hecker feels that the many benefits they gained from automating their AP process were well worth the time invested. The time frame from start to firm-wide “go live” for INVOICE was just eight weeks. Stinson is pleased with the decision to implement Chrome River INVOICE in conjunction with EXPENSE and would recommend Chrome River to any organization.
“Stinson would recommend Chrome River to any organization.”