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September 23, 2002

Accounts Payable office does more than pay bills

By Eric Rangus

If there is one thing Emory’s Accounts Payable (AP) office doesn’t lack, it’s work. Each month, AP processes upwards of 5,000 employee reimbursement requests for travel and other expenses. The office takes care of 20,000 vendor invoices every month, as well, ranging from payments for pencils to postage to printing.

“Our primary mission,” said AP Manager Loette King, “is to make sure all expenses of the University are paid in a timely and accurate manner.”

“But we also are trying to take more of a business consulting approach and help customers in the day-to-day processing of payables and find more innovative ways to make their jobs easier.”

The way the office is accomplishing that is through a frequently updated website, more timely—and technologically advanced—service, and an outreach program geared to help Emory employees utilize the office’s amenities.

“People know that Accounts Payable exists, but they don’t know all of the different services we offer,” said King, whose office serves all of the University and Oxford. “I think sometimes people work with vendors trying to solve invoice problems, but that’s what we’re here for. If you’ve got a problem with a vendor, if you need a credit on an invoice—those are things you should turn over to Accounts Payable. Let us handle those things. That’s what we’re here for.”

Perhaps the easiest introduction to AP’s inner workings is through its website (https://
), which is linked from the main Emory homepage. It offers further links to information regarding several of the office’s services (travel expense reports and purchasing cards, for example) as well as detailed policies and procedures and a multitude of forms both electronic and paper.

Paying bills, of course, is the office’s primary function. Accomplishing that mission can be tedious, or it can be user-friendly. AP is aiming for the latter.

Since taking over as manager three years ago, King has worked to streamline the office’s 17-person operation. Previously, customer service and data entry responsibilities fell to the same people; now they are separate. A smooth system calls for invoices to be date-stamped, processed in date-order, and have checks written to vendors (or reimbursements sent to employees) within five days. Often the circle is completed in as little as two.

“We’re getting feedback from customers that things are being processed quickly, and they appreciate that,” King said.

While a more economical system has sped the pace of processing, new technology has played an important role, as well.

One of the more technologically advanced aspects of AP is its WebOPTIX system, which allows electronic viewing of invoices. When the office receives an invoice, it is scanned, creating a digital image. Rather than send a copy back to the office where the invoice originated, AP personnel—after receiving an ID and password—can view the scanned image online for record-keeping purposes, thereby saving more than a few trees.

It was this type of state-of-the-art technology that drew Thelma Blount to Emory. She took over as assistant manager last month after spending several years as an AP manager for Racetrac Petroleum.

“I come from an environment where we paid 60 days out,” she said. “When I found out the checks here were cut every day—to me, that’s just fabulous.”

The office’s easy-to-navigate website also is an important tool. Not only do well-defined links point users in the right direction, but content is constantly added. When users were having problems with converting foreign currency, a link was added that did just that.
Speed and technology are not the only things AP has been focusing on; it also has been reaching out to the Emory community by offering to train employees on the use of the office’s services.

Training is led by Katrina Turner. She has visited more than 20 departments over the past year to teach employees how to navigate AP’s website and fully utilize the office’s services. She even does one-on-one training when requested.

“People are really impressed by what Accounts Payable is doing and wonder why someone didn’t think of [these services] before,” Turner said.

Right now, the office is promoting some of its new features, like a corporate travel Master-Card that allows discount parking at Hartsfield Airport. It also is continuing to encourage use of purchasing cards (also MasterCard), which decreases paperwork.

For more information orAP customer service, call 404-727-6090 or send e-mail