Winstanley Gains Visibility to Expenses and Cash Flow Forecasting through AP Automation
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Winstanley Gains Visibility to Expenses and Cash Flow Forecasting through AP Automation

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AvidXchange Case Study - Winstanley Enterprises ...

AvidXchange Case Study - Winstanley Enterprises

Over time, it became increasingly evident that Winstanley’s payables process was
antiquated, ineffective and prone to error. Determined to maintain its competitive edge, Winstanley set out to assess each step in the process and by leveraging the experience of AvidXchange’s implementation team, was able to incorporate “best practices” and create a game plan to streamline its AP department. “Our system was broken in that we would receive paper invoices at various physical locations,” said Brett Lazar, Vice President of Operations at Winstanley Enterprises. “We had no visibility into where invoices were sitting at any given moment.”

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Winstanley Gains Visibility to Expenses and Cash Flow Forecasting through AP Automation Winstanley Gains Visibility to Expenses and Cash Flow Forecasting through AP Automation Document Transcript

  • Winstanley Gains Visibility to Expenses and Cash Flow Forecasting through AP Automation “ Real estate companies have high-transaction volume with complex accounting requirements. With AvidInvoice, we have complete visibility into our expenses along with the ability to approve and code our invoices ” in less than three days. Brett Lazar Vice President of Operations Industry Maintaining a Competitive Edge Private Real Estate Company Winstanley Enterprises, headquartered in Concord, MA, is in the business of commercial Accounting ERP System real estate development, asset management, finance, advisory services and build-to-suit Intuit (MRI) Real Estate Solutions projects. Winstanley’s long-term strategy is to operate as a low-cost provider within the Geography New England real estate market. However, upon the arrival of Brett Lazar as their New England Controller in 2004, it was quickly determined that the AP department was one functional area not aligned with the overall approach of delivering a high level of value to their tenants Challenges in a low-cost delivery model. If left unaddressed, these inefficiencies would ultimately drive Zero visibility into what expenses were sitting on everyone’s desk up expenses, some of which would be passed through to clients and conflict with Filing cabinets were taking up Winstanley’s long-term strategy to operate as a low-cost provider in their current market. valuable real estate Over time, it became increasingly evident that Winstanley’s payables process was Manual process was too lengthy antiquated, ineffective and prone to error. Determined to maintain its competitive edge, Researching and locating old invoices was very time consuming Winstanley set out to assess each step in the process and by leveraging the experience of AvidXchange’s implementation team, was able to incorporate “best practices” and create a Solution game plan to streamline its AP department. “Our system was broken in that we would Deploy AvidInvoice to manage more receive paper invoices at various physical locations,” said Brett Lazar, Vice President of than 9,000 annual invoices across 113 properties Operations at Winstanley Enterprises. “We had no visibility into where invoices were sitting Use AvidXchange’s web-based at any given moment.” Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) AP workflow solution to create an Along with a new process comes the need for change and the ability to manage that automated invoice routing, coding change. Lazar had the capacity to fill that role coming from the software industry and and approval process understood the importance of “change management.” AvidXchange agrees with Lazar’s Results assessment in that there commonly needs to be at least one champion for change – an Real-time visibility to expenses and evangelist of sorts at each of our client organizations. “Our experience is that the adoption improved cash forecasting of any new process or technology is greatly accelerated when you have an internal Immediate access and retrieval of champion who can proselytize why it will be better going forward,” stated Michael Praeger, invoices anytime and anywhere Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at AvidXchange. Invoice coding and approval cycle time now under 3 days Ability to create automated reports for Status-Quo Was Unacceptable tenant and governmental audits requiring copies of invoices Prior to the set-up of AvidInvoice, vendor invoices were mailed to various field office Ability to grow Winstanley’s property locations within Winstanley’s portfolio covering the New England states. Once an invoice portfolio without the need to hire additional resources was received, property assistants and managers were tasked with pushing the payable through their manual process with many human touch points. The procedure included date- stamping, copying, filing, scanning and workflow routing. Once an invoice was fully approved in the field it would be forwarded, either by fax or overnight service, to headquarters for payment.
  • Winstanley Gains Visibility to Expenses and Cash Flow Forecasting through AP Automation “Our system was broken in Status-Quo Was Unacceptable – continued that we would receive paper invoices at various physical As long as invoices were processed without error or any exceptions, the likelihood of an locations and our corporate on-time payment was favorable. However, in a frenzied environment that lacked visibility to accounting group had no where invoices were or when they might arrive at Winstanley’s corporate accounting group, visibility into where invoices they experienced shut-off notices from utility providers and spent thousands of dollars each were sitting at any given year on late fees. moment.” To avoid service interruption, Winstanley’s AP personnel would drop everything and scramble to resolve the issue. On average, they would dedicate two full days per week communicating with unhappy vendors and researching the whereabouts of a particular invoice. To make matters worse, filing was typically three months behind schedule and since most research requests occur within the first 60 days, locating a document across many locations, was difficult at best. With deadlines looming, invoices were typically entered into the accounting system on their due date and payments were issued through unscheduled, emergency check-runs which further added to the inefficiencies. One by-product of this reactive process was that only a modest amount of scrutiny was given at any particular step in the approval process. With invoices having multiple points of entry, there was little control over approval rules and limited assurance that the right people were approving invoices at the right steps in the process. Furthermore, since the process was both manual and paper-based, it was impossible to measure how long it was really taking. With no light at the end of the tunnel, these time-consuming events became routine and continued to escalate each month despite the best efforts to correct the issues. Maintaining the status quo was unacceptable to Winstanley. Lack of Visibility and Scalability At a corporate level, the organization lacked visibility into its outstanding expenses. Even under the best conditions, the manual steps provided little insight into the whereabouts of a specific invoice or its status from the vendor’s point of view. This made it extremely difficult “Everyone is now under for Winstanley to manage each property’s cash position, let alone make informed business the spotlight because decisions. “Everyone is now under the spotlight because management has complete management has visibility into everyone’s queue and knows where an invoice is in the approval process,” complete visibility into stated Lazar. everyone’s queue and knows where an invoice is Winstanley desired to have a scalable solution that enabled it to remain a low-cost provider in the approval process.” while simultaneously experiencing rapid growth. With the manual approach, each new property required additional resources to manage day-to-day activities. Winstanley’s leadership team wanted to quickly adapt and grow as their portfolio grew and business needs changed which led to the need for an automated AP process.
  • Winstanley Gains Visibility to Expenses and Cash Flow Forecasting through AP Automation Why AvidXchange “When interviewing AvidXchange in 2004, we saw very clearly that the AvidXchange team was very passionate about payables and making AP more efficient. It is the sole focus of their business which results in 100% of their energy being applied to improve this one business process. AvidXchange was built from the ground up with a spotlight on payables automation. They now have more than 60 employees dedicated to helping companies like ours automate their AP,” according to Lazar. “As such, we knew we could rely on them and that they were in it for the long run. I really believe that AvidXchange sees ‘AP automation’ as the final frontier. All the other processes in a company are covered except AP.” “Further validating our decision was the strategic partnership AvidXchange forged with Intuit Real Estate Solutions (MRI) in 2006. There was a high level of comfort in knowing that our accounting system will be fully supported and integrated with the automation of our payables,” added Lazar. Best Practices and Being Part of the AvidXchange Community “Working with AvidXchange feels more like a partnership than a vendor/client relationship,” stated Lazar. “I know the team is committed to enhancing the product suite and I help drive that effort through their annual conferences where they hold open forums with their client base and look for continued input. Participating in their community website and blog is yet another example of how I stay connected and help advance the capabilities of the application.” “AvidXchange has the most experience in the industry and was very helpful in making sure we were using best practices,” said Lazar. “You want to spend time ensuring that the workflows and processes are designed properly before you implement AvidInvoice. If you don’t, you are just making a bad process faster.” “AvidInvoice turbo charges the accounts payable process. It’s a medicine – a Living the Paperless Process prescription for AP health.” Today, Winstanley Enterprises has a highly-streamlined AP process in place. Immediately upon receipt, invoices are scanned and indexed into AvidInvoice. Established workflow rules automatically route invoices to the appropriate person where they can view, approve and code online and in real time. “AvidInvoice turbo charges the accounts payable process. It’s a medicine – a prescription for AP health,” declares Lazar. Previously, the AP department maintained 36 lateral file cabinets across various properties and organizing the documents typically ran three months behind. Lazar noted, “Real estate companies have high-transaction volume since every building is typically its own entity. For that reason, there are hundreds of invoices and it’s very difficult to find them. With AvidInvoice, hard copies and storage of paper are a thing of the past. The cycle time to process an invoice has dropped from an average of 45-60 days to 1-3 days and Winstanley check runs are now on schedule and predictable. Missing invoices and days spent researching their whereabouts and shut-off notices are now obsolete. Late fees from vendors and overnight charges to shuffle paper around are gone. If errors are found, they are caught early in the process, eliminating duplicate payment or fraudulent activity. The “History” feature within AvidInvoice allows users to view each step in the life of an invoice. All records, comments and disputes are stored inside the application and cannot be modified or deleted. There is no longer a need to track emails with vendors and fellow associates to establish accountability.
  • Winstanley Gains Visibility to Expenses and Cash Flow Forecasting through AP Automation Living the Paperless Process – continued Lazar further added, “The application has completely revolutionized the way we handle our accounts payable. For example, we just went through a sales tax audit. I’m not sure if “I don’t know how we you’ve ever experienced the joys of sales tax audits, but this one was most interesting could do business without because it covered the years 2004 through 2006. We implemented AvidXchange at the AvidXchange – having an beginning of 2004. For every invoice from when we started up until 2006 – the end of their automated AP system audit – it was a snap. The auditors wanted to see copies of these invoices and we were only makes sense today.” able to go get them quickly. Locating invoices prior to 2004 was the most painful thing imaginable. I don’t know how we could do business without AvidXchange – having an automated AP system only makes sense today.” Management now has the ability to retrieve and view any outstanding invoices by general ledger, property, type, etc. With accurate information, managers are able to better manage both their cash and portfolio at a granular level. Acquisition of new properties no longer coincides with an increase in staff. In 2004, Winstanley had two full-time associates to manage the 40 properties within its portfolio. When they acquired an additional 10 properties, post-implementation, only one person was needed. With AvidInvoice, Winstanley could potentially double its portfolio without adding to overhead. Through automation, they were able to hire one full-time associate at a higher skill level for the same salary as two or more associates. According to Lazar, “there have been a lot on intangibles coming along with the implementation of AvidInvoice, not just the cost reductions that we have seen in terms of being able to grow without having to hire more people." Change in Company Culture Another goal of this automation initiative was that Winstanley wanted to improve the overall quality of work life for their team. Prior to AvidInvoice, associates were tasked with very manual, mundane tasks and often carried home portable filing systems, overflowing with invoices, in hopes of catching up after close of business. Through AvidInvoice, Winstanley’s entire team is thinking about things in a completely different light. They are being exposed to new technology and the automation has freed up a lot of time previously spent on duplicative and manual tasks. Associates are now tasked with more thought-provoking projects which translate into a happier and more productive staff. With redundancy and repetition removed, property managers now spend a fraction of the time approving invoices and can shift their focus towards their tenants and the buildings within their portfolio. With new technology, additional projects are becoming more enjoyable and challenging. Broadened skill sets are helping the staff to think outside the box. Reducing redundancy has allowed staff to work on additional projects and introduce improvements into other areas of Winstanley’s business. “It made good sense to train staff on technology versus hiring additional staff,” commented Lazar.