Real estate development firm sees $1 million return on AP automation investment.
Though the accounts payable team at BentallGreenOak did their best to manage 9,000 vendors and 1,000 paper invoices every day, the sheer volume of documents traveling through the organization was a difficult burden to overcome. Implementing enterprise software solutions from Hyland helped BentallGreenOak streamline the accounts payable process companywide, speeding the payment cycle and saving $1 million annually.
Identifying an opportunity
BentallGreenOak is Canada’s leading real estate advisory and service organization, serving major institutional and private investors, supplying a range of asset management, property management, leasing and development services to clients that represent more than $22 billion in real estate investments.
Managing accounts payable processes across 50 office locations was a time-consuming, multistep process involving several desks, couriers and offices. Throughout the process, employees made multiple copies to retain records, creating an environment with duplicate paperwork, redundant data entry, an inability to track invoices and a turnaround time of up to 30 days.
"Processing invoices from desk to desk with multiple people touching and entering the same information was quite slow and onerous for our payment staff," said Ben Adams, director of business process at BentallGreenOak.
Seeing an opportunity to improve and exert more control over the invoice process, the management team implemented Hyland's Perceptive Content, a document management, imaging and workflow solution, as well as Brainware, an intelligent capture solution.
"We chose Perceptive Content because it gives us an automated solution that integrates with JD Edwards, improves transaction data quality and is easy to use," Adams said.
With Brainware, we can capture an invoice in one location in the morning and cut a check from our head office that afternoon. That was never possible with a desk-to-desk process.
— Ben Adams, Director of Business Process, BentallGreenOak
Accelerating the process
BentallGreenOak streamlined its accounts payable process from start to finish, trimming weeks from the payment cycle. Invoice data is now captured at each location, coded and routed electronically for approval, accelerating the process at every stage.
"With Brainware, we can capture an invoice in one location in the morning and cut a check from our head office that afternoon," Adams said. "That was never possible with a desk-to-desk process."
With Brainware's automation capabilities, BentallGreenOak can process a higher volume of invoices and transactions with fewer staff. Not only was the company able to eliminate redundant efforts and reallocate resources, it can also access reports on employee performance.
Improving data quality
Employees scan invoices immediately as they arrive at distributed office locations. Using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, information such as the vendor, invoice number, date and amount is automatically extracted to an e-form, where users can validate the information. Because Perceptive Content and JD Edwards are so tightly integrated, data in the Perceptive Content repository is pulled from JD Edwards in real time, making it impossible for users to select vendors that are not qualified and active.
"The integration between Perceptive Content and our JD Edwards system ensures data is accurate" Adams said.
It's critical that invoices go to the correct person at the correct time, but that wasn't always easy with a paper system. With the new solution, once the invoice is coded and ready for approval, AP clerks route it forward through a workflow that follows rules based on the invoice data, such as invoice amount.
"We have routing rules in Perceptive Content that ensure 100% compliance to our business rules, 100% of the time," Adams said. "It's a clean, controlled environment."
The organization also uses Perceptive Content to process more than 3,000 purchase card transactions each month, which account for nearly 20% of its invoice load. Leveraging the same approval workflow, BentallGreenOak has reduced the time it takes to settle with the bank from 42 days with a manual process to 32 days with Hyland.
The biggest benefit of Hyland solutions for BentallGreenOak is that it allows us to save a million dollars annually through creating efficiencies and streamlining our AP processes.
— Ben Adams, Director of Business Process, BentallGreenOak
Adams said another advantage to the solution is the enhanced invoice visibility and reporting capabilities. Users can look up invoices when needed, regardless of where documents are in the process, eliminating waste from making copies before forwarding documents.
"There is no such thing as a lost invoice anymore," Adams said.
"Authorized users can look in Perceptive Content to see where invoices are in the process and take action if needed."
A paper-based system could lead to disputes over invoices, but audit trails in Perceptive Content eliminate questions about who did what. Approvers see not just the invoice but exactly where it is being coded and every detail, what actions were taken, when and by whom.
Managing contracts and obligations
Perceptive Content also helps BentallGreenOak fulfill and manage its contract obligations. Contracts are stored electronically, and as deadline dates approach for certain obligations or other defined events, alerts are automatically sent to asset managers via email to review the contract and take action. Using the solution ensures asset managers don't miss contractual agreements because contracts aren't manually retrieved from a file cabinet.
Implementing Perceptive Content and Brainware provided a way for BentallGreenOak to save a significant amount of money across the organization. Though the company instituted dramatic process enhancements and invested in complex technology, the organization achieved payback on its entire investment in just 11 months. BentallGreenOak calculates the hard-dollar savings at $1 million a year.
"The biggest benefit of Hyland solutions for BentallGreenOak is that it allows us to save a million dollars annually through creating efficiencies and streamlining our AP processes", Adams said.