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How Your Remote Accounting Department Can Get the Job Done with Digital Workflows

The challenges of operating successfully when most employees are working from home are often felt keenly by accounting departments. If your organization has been putting off beginning a digital transformation or has only taken the first steps, you will find that what once was a nice-to have technology is now a must-have. It’s time to implement digital workflows to share documents securely, automate approvals, increase accountability and improve transparency.

In an article in the International Tax Review, Vaida Lapinskiene, Partner at professional services firm Ernst & Young, explains that accounting teams can look at the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to increase their agility if they implement digital processes. “Once the business functions were shifted from a single work location to homes, the need for clearly defined and documented end-to-end processes emerged. The option to casually meet and resolve any matter has disappeared and more formal protocols must be observed to run business and financial processes as usual,” she says.
How does automated workflow bring distributed accounting team members together?
iStock-1127161956Benefits of automated invoice processingLet's start by defining workflows in their simplest form.  A workflow routes a task to multiple people or departments to review it, make decisions about it and then pass it on to the next person or kick off the next step in a process. A digital workflow enables your staff to automatically route digitized information to other process owners securely.

You can use a digital workflow to bring multiple team members together to review an invoice and approve or reject it. These workflows can be serial (one step after another), parallel, or they can change based on decision points chosen along the way.
With paper-based workflows, you can only take action when you and the document are physically in the same place. With a digital workflow, you can be anywhere and still be part of the workflow. If an invoice comes in while you’re out of the office, for example, you will receive a notification via email. When you’re using a document management system with mobile capabilities, it’s easy to quickly pull up the relevant documents, review them and approve or flag them, all from a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.

Working from home without the hassle 

Federation of Organizations uses DocuWareFederation of Organizations (Federation) is a multi-service, community-based social wellness agency and a major provider of health and wellness, senior and children’s, housing and support services in New York City and Long Island. They operate in Suffolk, Nassau, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Manhattan.
Their Accounting, HR and IT departments are DocuWare’s primary users. Staff no longer depend on scanning documents from a multifunction printer now that most documents come in electronically. They can print electronic documents directly into DocuWare: the documents are sent to a monitored folder that automatically distributes them into the correct DocuWare in-basket. Specially designated email addresses are also monitored, and emails are sent to the watched folder as well. 
“This is one of the ways DocuWare enables us to continue to accomplish the full scope of our work remotely. Workflows run as efficiently as they did when we were all in the office,” IT Director Michael Serrano says. DocuWare Cloud is also integrated with their Abila MIP accounting software.
Workflow provides automatic remindersManagers and staff also appreciate the system’s automatic notifications and reminders. “For example, once an invoice is ready for approval, the manager is notified by email. Before automated reminders, approvers would block out time in their schedules to do approvals. If something else came up during this block, it could cause delays,” he explains. “Now managers receive an email alert and click on a link that brings them into DocuWare. This makes it more likely that they will approve documents immediately. DocuWare ‘remembers’ what needs to be done and keeps the process moving without human intervention.”
Federation of Organizations’ experience is just one example of how document management software and workflow management can help your accounting department streamline its activities. By implementing a document management solution with automated digital workflows combined with integration with your accounting system, your organization is better equipped to respond to any business challenge that comes its way. 
Putting invoice processing automation in place with DocuWare for Invoice Processing, a preconfigured cloud solution means your organization can get AP automation up and running within days. With preconfigured templates for the most common processes, the solution can be easily modified, scaled and adapted as your business needs change. Federation of Organizations’ experience is just one example of how document management software and workflow management can help your accounting department streamline its activities. Digital transformation couldn’t be easier or more efficient.
Editor's note: This post has been updated for accuracy and new content has been added.  How to simplify and automate AP processes for a remote team in just days with DocuWare’s invoice processing solution