Proactis helps City of Wolverhampton Council with its transformation to ‘No PO, No Pay’

Executive overview

Profile

Sector
Public 

No. of staff
4,500

No. of services provided
70

Customer since
2015

Objectives

  • Transparency and control of ordering and invoicing information.
  • To enable ordering without complications.
  • Removal of manual invoicing processes.

How Proactis helped

  • Automated the City's finance processes and removed resource-intensive tasks.
  • Implemented a workflow for invoicing that worked seamlessly with Unit4 Business World.
  • Satisfied legislative requirements.

Benefits

  • Introduction of a ‘No PO, No Pay’ policy.
  • Reduced the number of suppliers from 25,000 to less than 7,000.
  • Streamlined invoice payment process and full visibility of spending.
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Profile

City of Wolverhampton Council is the governing body of the City of Wolverhampton, England and serves over 250,000 residents in the area. The Council's vision is for Wolverhampton to be an excellent place to do business, work and live. It employs over 4,500 staff and provides 70 services across the region.  

The Council operated an IBM mainframe solution which, as with many companies, had been bought, speedily put together and built up over time. This resulted in the invoicing process being both extremely resource-intensive and paper-based.

Objectives

“The end-to-end invoicing process was very outdated. A Budget Manager would decide they wanted to buy goods or services, they’d contact the supplier, have the work done and only then the invoice would come in,” stated Darren Herries, Head of Services Finance, City of Wolverhampton Council. “The invoice would often be addressed to the Council and it would say something obscure, such as workwear, resulting in it often bouncing around the building.”

The 70 devolved services were spread across a large geographical area and payment runs were done twice a week. Once received, each invoice had to be date stamped, signed, checked against the batch header and manually entered into the finance system before payment – an incredibly cumbersome and time-consuming process.

“We also had a supplier master file in excess of 25,000 records,” continued Darren. “The use of purchase orders was minimal, mostly paper-based and the policing of that was ad-hoc. There was a clear disjoint between payment, procurements and strategic finance, with no visibility of spend.”

How Proactis helped

City of Wolverhampton engaged with Proactis to implement a workflow for invoicing and invoice capture, one that would work seamlessly with a newly implemented financial system - Unit4 Business World. This was initially piloted on a small scale with just the core commercial suppliers as a proof of concept, enabling Darren to prove what was possible.

“It was quite apparent to me early on that a lot of the issues, the resource and late payment problems in particular, were linked to invoices that came in without a purchase order number. This created quite a convoluted piece of work just to match the invoice against the right budget code, due to the devolved cost centers across the board,” stated Darren. “Our long-term aim was to automate our finance processes, so we combined Proactis Invoice Capture with our new Unit4 finance system to achieve this.

As well as being able to satisfy the changing legislative requirements, Proactis has helped the Council move to a policy of ‘No PO, No Pay’. 

“We used the new system to convince our suppliers why we need a purchase order, essentially to streamline the process and ensure they get paid!” Suggested Darren. “On top of streamlining the invoice payment process, we wanted much more visibility of what we were spending. For example, we were quite surprised at the number of businesses that sent in Word documents or scraps of paper!”

Benefits

Proactis is used for scanning invoices, and combined with the finance system, suppliers can see their invoices and where they are in the process. Proactis uses optical character recognition (OCR) for scanning and lifting data and this has removed a lot of the manual processes. 

The Council has also been able to reduce the number of suppliers from 25,000 to less than 7,000, which it hopes will result in more financial visibility, reduced administration costs and risk, and improved supplier relationships. Purchase orders now go out electronically, the work is completed, and then the system is marked as goods receipted. The invoice comes in and Proactis scans and matches it – the whole process is automated. For any exceptions, for example if the order value is exceeded, a notification is sent, and it is managed as necessary.

“For me, efficient operations are the ability to measure what’s been spent against what was expected and what’s been ordered. To be able to track invoices, to identify how long it takes to pay invoices and why some take longer than others, gives us a great idea of what can we do to address these challenges,” concluded Darren. “In the old way of working we didn’t have that, but the introduction of purchase orders drives better control. Additionally, I can now run reports, allowing me to complete a much more streamlined accrual year-end process as opposed to a manual finger in the air!”
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