By: Meghan Holland
City employees have purchasing cards (p-cards), which allow them to have more responsibility in business purchases. They must then report any expenses to the Finance Department.
The Finance Department handles purchasing, budgeting, operations, investments, cash management and all of the accounting and financial reports for the city.
Dawn Taborda, Business Application Specialist for the department, said before the updated purchasing process, when a city employee needed to make a purchase, it was recorded manually.
After they purchased an item, they would have to keep the receipt to put in a p-card packet with information on what they purchased, where they purchased it and the amount they spent.
They would then send it to the Finance Department for an audit review, and the information would be entered into the system, Taborda said.
“It was a very paper-intensive process,” Janelle Zerr, Finance Manager, said.
She said there were over 30,000 transactions in a year, and with the amount of paper being used and the time it took to complete the reporting process, it prompted a change in 2019 that was more user friendly and streamlined.
“Anything over $1,000 is run by the Purchasing Department right now,” Zerr said, “And so the purchasing cards in general were meant for those smaller purchases, so their departments had a little bit more flexibility and convenience in purchasing smaller items that they would need to do their daily business.”
Jon Economo, Business Application Specialist in Finance, said they tried to take a more human-centered design approach to making changes by going out and speaking with the employees that use the p-card system the most and asking them what would make the process better.
“A resounding response to that was less paper,” Economo said. “A lot of these guys are working out of their trucks, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of that stuff. If they had a system where they could just take a picture of the receipt on their phone, that would really help them keep track of all their expenses.”
Now, employees can send in their receipts from anywhere using an expense reporting system called Concur Expense.
“We elected a few different options as far as software, but nothing could match the robustness of Concur,” Zerr said. “We knew with the volume that we had to deal with that we wanted a system that could handle that and do so smoothly.”
Zerr said the greatest benefits of this change are using less paper and being more efficient.
They ran a pilot group in October 2020 with people from three different departments to identify any issues in the system, which Zerr said helped tremendously.
“It’s a learning curve with technology,” Zerr said.
She said overall the users have wanted to learn the system and have come to like it.
Their next goal is to get people on the mobile application of Concur.
“Now that we’ve taken this leap into the use of technology, it’s constantly evolving,” Economo said. “We’re constantly learning new things (and) tweaking little things here and there.”
With continuous innovation and technological improvements, the city strives to implement ideas that create value and great service to its citizens.
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