Allegheny County Department of Human Services Improves Accounts Payable Process with OnBase Workflow
In order to more efficiently manage the organization’s Accounts Payable department, DHS turned to KeyMark to help implement a voucher workflow solution, which was a pilot project in Allegheny County.
DHS’s solution now serves as a benchmark for other departments, demonstrating how electronic voucher systems can integrate with other software systems and other departments to eliminate duplicate paperwork, paper file storage, and inefficient use of staff time.
Employing 1,000 people DHS is one of the largest departments in Allegheny County. The Department provides far-reaching services to county residents through an extensive network of providers and vendors, all requiring detailed contractual agreements and invoice tracking. Prior to implementing KeyMark’s workflow solution, DHS was spending enormous amounts of time manually tracking vendor vouchers, accounts payable invoices, and vendor payments. If a question arose about the status of an account, DHS staff had to spend more time searching through records to provide additional details.
All of the records then had to be delivered to the County Controller’s Office for processing and payment. The Allegheny County government complex is spread out across downtown Pittsburgh. The Controller’s Office, where the records had to be delivered, is located six city blocks from the DHS administrative offices. Every time records had to be delivered to the Controller’s Office for processing, a DHS staff member had to spend time out of the office to deliver the information in a timely fashion.
“Eliminating the need to walk those vouchers over was a big benefit to us and a huge time saver,” said Mary Soroka, Administrator for Special Projects.
KeyMark’s implementation of OnBase Workflow gave DHS the ability to tackle its voucher workflow and develop a process that eliminated redundant paperwork and wasted staff time.
The first piece that DHS tackled in implementing an efficient workflow was to digitize all incoming account payable invoices, so that they could be brought into OnBase system and routed appropriately. Prior to the installation, invoices were being received via mail or email, requiring different processing. The new process eliminated the need to open the mail, create a voucher, make a copy, and then walk everything to the Controller’s Office, where the Controller’s staff would make duplicate paper copies for their records in order to process payments. Now, once DHS images the invoice, the Controller can access it in the system with no need for additional hard copies.
Initially, there were reservations about the software’s signature authorization process used for approvals, but once it was learned that OnBase allows for embedded password access that is only available to two authorized users, the approval process was no longer a concern. Anyone using the system knows that once a document reaches a certain point, all authorizations have been made.
Several years prior to going live with the KeyMark-structured OnBase solution, DHS had transitioned to a JD Edwards, accounting software, which completely changed the way the Department did business. The previous implementation experience made DHS realize that a great deal of preparation, planning, and training is necessary for things to transition smoothly.
“That process prepared our employees for change so that when we implemented KeyMark’s OnBase solution several years later, they were more accepting of the challenge,” said Soroka.
There was, though, still a fear of doing things differently, and she credits the early success of the transition with employees that she calls “super users,” who were designated in each program area. The super users tested the OnBase modules, identified issues for special consideration, and developed expertise in OnBase that they shared with other employees. OnBase champions throughout DHS helped to address the challenges and got support for the transition.
The Department of Human Services has seen a reduction in costs and the amount of staff time required to process accounts payables. Employees are now able to quickly and easily identify where a voucher or payment is within the system. The greatly improved response time has improved vendors relations. The department also has the ability to view document histories so that employees can track exactly where the document is, has been, if there is a problem, what it is, and why.
“That goes a long way in helping us deal with problems and answer questions immediately,” Soroka said.
Since the majority of the accounts payable documents are digitized and brought into OnBase, the Department does not have to deal with as many file storage boxes or worry about sending older paper documents to the county’s storage facility. The success with account payables has led DHS employees to investigate how they can reduce the amount of paper documents in other areas — such as adoption records — in order to drastically reduce the paperwork being kept on site.
“We’re not here to stand still,” Soroka said, adding that DHS continues to research ways to connect with other non-financial systems to improve efficiencies and services to clients.
About Allegheny County Department of Human Services
Located in the southwestern part of Pennsylvania, Allegheny County is home to the City of Pittsburgh and 1.3 million residents. The county forms the nucleus of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and is the second largest county in the state.
Allegheny County Department of Human Services is dedicated to meeting the needs of county residents — most particularly its vulnerable populations — through an extensive range of information exchange, prevention, early intervention, case management, crisis intervention, and after-care services.
In 1997, Allegheny County consolidated the services of a variety of departments, creating the Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS is charged with providing and administrating various publicly-funded human services to Allegheny County residents. Five individual program offices make up DHS, including Aging; Children, Youth & Families; Behavioral Health (Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol); the Office of Intellectual Disabilities; and the Office of Community Services. Services provided by DHS include programs for older adults, mental health, drug and alcohol services, child protective services, at risk child development and education, hunger services, emergency shelters and housing for the homeless, and energy assistance.