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Tulane University: AP Department Streamlines Document Workflow

Lisa LeBlanc

With more than 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students at Tulane University, the accounting department is inundated with paperwork. The university knows the importance of well-managed college finances and has taken a big step toward improving organization by adopting a customized imaging and document management solution. This solution has allowed Tulane's Accounts Payable (AP) department to dramatically cut maintenance, storage, and archiving costs, while increasing overall business efficiencies.

According to Lisa LeBlanc, Accounts Payable manager for Tulane University, her department has been archiving all of its documents on microfilm for the past 10 years, a process that cost nearly $80,000 a year in outsourcing. "Not only did the price increase each year, making it more costly, but there were also a number of problems with this process," she explains. Namely, retrieving the documents in hard copy form or on microfilm was extremely time consuming and expensive. Every request for a document meant someone from AP had to physically retrieve the item. Copying, faxing, and mailing the document meant more time and money.

To make matters worse, Tulane's AP department is physically located away from the rest of the university, isolating the group and making it a challenge to share and access information.

Cutting Costs
In May 2002, the AP department implemented a Xerox solution that combines DocuShare, a Web-based document management application, and the Xerox Document Centre multifunction system that combines printing, copying, scanning, and faxing functionality in one device, with Kofax Ascent Capture scanning. Using the Xerox solution, which integrated with existing software, the AP department cut costs and now works more efficiently. The streamlined process scans documents, such as invoices, purchase orders, employee receipts for reimbursement, and internal transfer forms, directly into DocuShare for storage and easy retrieval.

Xerox Global Services, Xerox Corp.'s consulting division, provided Tulane with a customized solution that addressed its specific needs. "We didn't want the person who scanned the documents to have to manually enter metadata for each document," says LeBlanc. However, the database was based around voucher number taxonomy, so Xerox integrated DocuShare with Oracle Government Financials, the system that stores financial data. Working together, the Financials system would assign a unique voucher number to each document. A customization created by Xerox Global Services enables the system to recognize the assigned numbers and automatically file the documents in a specified DocuShare collection. The entire solution was also integrated with a Microsoft Access database. This enabled Tulane to leverage existing technologies and eliminate steps in its filing process.

Evaluating Processes
Prior to implementing the Xerox imaging and document management solution, Xerox Global Services conducted an assessment of the AP department's paper flow to evaluate daily work processes and determine ways to eliminate costly discrepancies to workflow. Based on that assessment, Xerox recommended an imaging solution that moved the AP department away from its paper-intensive process and provided training to ensure employees would interact efficiently with the new technology.

Currently, more than 50 people use the document management solution and there are plans to expand access to other users in the university.

Overcoming Barriers
According to LeBlanc, Tulane's AP department vastly reduced its microfilm costs. Previously, Tulane spent between $70,000 and $80,000 a year to archive its records. Now, the university is saving at least half that amount per year. The solution also means increased productivity; AP employees no longer need to physically track down paperwork upon each request and go through the mailing/ faxing distribution process—it's all done electronically. Retrieving and distributing information is considerably faster, and overall response times have dramatically improved.

In addition, LeBlanc's group consolidated its hardware, reducing maintenance costs and increasing office space. "We've actually gotten rid of two fax machines and two laser printers," she explains. The department is able to send e-mail and perform laser printing on Xerox Document Centre devices, allowing it to eliminate its file cabinets, transferring files to a storage unit in the warehouse. However, LeBlanc says the most dramatic change came in the way they do business everyday. Collaboration improved and jobs became easier because people in locations campuswide can now instantly access documents on their desktop via a Web browser with DocuShare—overcoming the location barrier.

"In the future, we plan on expanding this project by scanning in and storing journal entries currently stored in file cabinets, W-9 forms, and authorized signature forms," explains LeBlanc. "And down the road, we'll integrate DocuShare with other financial systems."

The success of DocuShare in Tulane's AP department has led the university to begin deploying the document management software within many other departments, such as the Tulane University Health Sciences Center, where it is used to store records for the world's oldest heart study, in the Facilities Services management of vendor documents, and in academic research collaboration with faculty at other institutions.

For more information, contact Lisa LeBlanc, Accounts Payable manager for Tulane University, at [email protected].

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