Why the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) Ditched Manual AP for the Cloud
January 12, 2021
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
College leaders realize the importance of data but don’t always have the tools to drive results. For them, the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) helps build a data-backed approach and improved decision-making in higher education. Internally, their finance team has already mastered the art of using analytics in financial reporting. “Our entire accounts payable (AP) process is cloud-based,” says Director of Finance, Charles McCumber. Now working remotely, AP data retrieval and analytics take place in real-time.
“It was simple to set up and use and allowed quick and easy payment approvals” – Charles McCumber, Director of Finance, AIR
But just a few years ago, paper was everywhere. AIR’s accounts payable team was storing documents inside physical boxes and paper-based AP tasks often got lost in the back and forth between the employee and approver. “One of the main challenges was getting approvals by passing voucher batches (supporting documents) around to the appropriate people,” says McCumber. The manager would have to physically sign every single check and return them to the AP team for processing. “Manual document recovery was a big challenge,” says McCumber.
On a typical day, an AP clerk would enter the invoices and forward to the director for review. “After approval, checks would be printed and given to the CFO for signature. Then the checks were scanned, put in envelopes, and mailed. Finally, the vouchers were filed by vendors in filing cabinets,” McCumber describes. The cycle became even more laborious if the approver needed details.
AIR recognizes the value of data, but useful insight can get lost in a sea of information if not easily accessible. Their key roadblocks lied within invoice approvals and payments. McCumber wanted to automate both. “We chose Beanworks because it integrated with Sage 50, our main accounting system. It was simple to set up and use and allowed quick and easy payment approvals,” McCumber highlighted.
What was one of the first practices that McCumber did away with as soon as AP became automated? “I love that we don’t have to physically print or mail checks anymore,” says McCumber.
Instead, AIR uses Beanworks’ ACH system to make payments and it has cut down delays drastically. Their team is only spending 2-3% of their day on this workflow now. “We have more than 50% of our vendors using ACH,” McCumber adds.
“If our AP process with Beanworks had not been in place before the pandemic, it would be extremely complicated and nearly impossible to manage.” – Charles McCumber, Director of Finance, AIR
With everything centralized, employees don’t have to chase paper trails or analyze email threads for answers. “We no longer have filing cabinets full of files with printed voucher batches. Finding archived items is much more efficient now. We spend much less time processing the monthly payables than we did before,” says McCumber.
Currently, there are 11 managers delegating approvals. Even with all of them working from home, accounts payable continues to sail smoothly. “If our AP process with Beanworks had not been in place before the pandemic, it would be extremely complicated and nearly impossible to manage,” McCumber points out.
AIR is already at the forefront in empowering higher education professionals to make better decisions using data. Their financial arm is using the same vision to push towards a more organized workflow. Employees are enabled to act on data, streamline processes, and keep pace with the company’s growth. “Beanworks has helped our approvers by simplifying the approval process,” McCumber says.
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