Derrek Blair, accounts payable supervisor for New York's Rochester City School District (RCSD), automated the district's accounts payable (AP) system to keep up with changing regulations and to free up manpower, eSchool News reports. Prior to the change, the district had relied on a paper-driven process that was said to be time-consuming and prone to human errors.
The automated system improved efficiency by streamlining the process, which could now be done in less time and with fewer mistakes, and it resulted in faster reimbursement turnaround times for employees, eSchool News notes. Additionally, the tracking provided more visibility into what types of products and events on which money is being spent, allowing for better budget management.
The automation also allows the district to ensure it stays in compliance — compliance failures have gone down and 60% of travel and expense errors have been eliminated since its new system was implemented — and to immediately flag data entry errors and potentially fraudulent requests.
Switching any longstanding system or program can be challenging — especially when it's used by a community as big as a school district — but automating accounts payable systems can save both time and money for staff members. Streamlining such systems can reduce the number of administrative staff needed to work in this department, thus saving money for a district over time and helping to eliminate administrative bloat. Districts have been under fire in recent years because the growth of administrators is outpacing that of students, and while there are some legitimate reasons for this trend, antiquated systems are arguably not one of them.
While it might be an extra cost to revamp a school system's AP department, it could help to save money in the long run by increasing efficiency, reducing errors that occur within a department and helping administrators better manage the district's budget. Many school systems struggle to balance funding needs and often don't have enough funding to begin with, and eliminating any extra spending spots — including more time and labor for a less efficient system, as well as fradulent purchases that may go unnoticed with low visibility — can go a long way.
The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in California is one example of a district that has switched things up. It recently implemented the Integrify software platform, which is designed to simplify vendor contacts and approvals. Prior to that, OUSD managed its vendor clearance program through a paper-based system, which was said to be time-consuming and often cost the district by delaying the start of a project or delivery. But its new platform gives all interested parties full visibility of the vendor approval process, and the software has been so effective in this area that the district plans to implement it in other parts of the district as well.
Ultimately, anything a district can do to save time and money, quickly reimburse its staff and stay in compliance can be considered money well-spent. As always, all such purchases should be well-vetted and the products must be secure so private data is not compromised.