UW System and its member campuses make thousands of purchases each year, and each of them has to be tracked and reconciled to ensure compliance with financial rules and regulations. In October 2018, UW System Administration began using a new financial module that allows for daily, automated reconciliation of all checks written and paid, a process that was previously conducted on a monthly basis. In January 2019, the module began rolling out to a handful of UW System campuses, with the eventual goal of universal use by 2020. By automating and standardizing this key business process to eventually allow for remote use, this project will increase efficiency and allow for the reallocation of key resources.
In late 2016, UW System began implementing a regional, shared-services model of travel expense report auditing, aimed at making this key business process more accurate and efficient. Instead of having staff members on each UW System campus receive and process travel expense reports using multiple processes, regional auditors now perform this service for employees on multiple campuses using a standardized process. Almost all UW System campuses are part of the system, with the current exceptions of UW-Superior and UW-Madison.
The new system offers multiple advantages, including increased employee compliance and access to improved data and reporting, which, in turn, leads to more effective negotiation with vendors. For example, the latest negotiation with one of UW System’s major airline carriers resulted in an additional discount based on volume of bookings.
Financial Administration can also run queries to look for areas where policies and practices can be further improved or enhanced training could be provided.
One such query revealed that hundreds of travel expense reports were being returned to employees for correction because they included an inaccurate date. To reduce that number, the system was changed to allow auditors to make minor, non-cash-related changes to travel expense reports,
“Under this new system, everything is standardized,” explained Julie Gordon, UW System’s Associate Vice president for Finance. “People know what to expect.”
Implementing a pair of regional travel managers to deliver travel services to UW employees has formed the basis of a model that has improved the user experience and facilitated improved travel-data collection. In addition to focusing on improved customer service, regional travel managers are working with travel vendors for improved services and efficient processes. They’re also are able to interface and troubleshoot with UW travelers and travel expense auditors, identifying problems with compliance and working on policy improvements.
Accounts payable is one of several business processes under consideration for inclusion in the new University of Wisconsin Shared Services unit.
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