Five Easy Ways To Streamline Your Higher Ed Invoice Process

Caitlin Strickling

For decades, higher education institutions have been utilizing an “it’s good enough” operating model. But that model is no longer sustainable.

Today’s educational institutions are experiencing several unique challenges. First, changing public perception has left students and parents alike questioning the necessity of traditional college degrees. Enrollment is declining, regulatory pressures are increasing, and for many public institutions, state funding is being cut.

The challenges aren’t limited to these external impacts. Institutions are still operating with outdated, paper-based systems and department silos, restricting their ability to adapt to the changing environment and maintain a student-first strategy. Budgets are shrinking and, as a result, resources are becoming more strained. The bottom line: It’s time to change the “good enough” approach.

Where do you start?

Fortunately, adopting a new model isn’t as complicated as it may seem, especially when you begin by taking a look at your invoices. If your institution is like half of respondents in a recent Webinar for higher ed, your invoice process is paper-based and manual, and data is still hand-keyed, making it difficult to see and accurately control your spend. Even so, it may seem like your invoice process is a difficult first task to tackle. However, it’s actually easier than you may think.

  1. Work with the systems you are already using: Adopt a solution that integrates your invoice process with Banner and your ERP systems, and automatically match POs to invoices to validate purchases. To take further control of all your school-wide spend, pair your invoice process with your expense data so you have all the information you need in one place. The result? Your institution could see an average productivity increase of 11%, all by making your invoice process mobile.
  1. Empower users with their own devices: Your faculty and staff are already using their mobile devices daily, so why not adopt a mobile-friendly invoice process that uses tools your institution already has? Mobile devices could allow for approvals to be made on the go, so invoices won’t be in limbo while the approver is in meetings across campus.
  1. Consolidate the data you already have: Whether across departments or across systems, your spend data is already out there. But if your invoicing is paper-based, or even just partially automated, it is difficult to see all that spend in one place, let alone capture what is being initiated directly from your staff. By connecting your invoice spend to the rest of your user-initiated spending, you’ll get a more complete picture of your finances, so you can make strategic decisions for your institution, like negotiating better vendor rates and finding areas where you can cut costs.
  1. Bring out the best in existing staff: You already have valuable staff in your departments; leverage them for analyzing and identifying inefficiencies, not chasing down information and approvals. By automating and streamlining your invoice process, you can decrease staff time on invoice management by 34% so they can get back to helping your institution adapt to today’s challenges.
  1. Repurpose your budget: Research from Ardent Partners showed organizations can reduce their invoice processing costs by up to 70% through automation. By capitalizing on those cost savings, leveraging early-payment discounts, and negotiating better vendor rates, AP begins to look more strategic, and not just a back-office function. Cost savings here means money back to student-first initiatives and more smiles for your decision-makers.

A better way for managing university spend

Higher education has many new challenges to tackle. And likely, your institution’s current operating model isn’t cutting it.

Understanding the current status of your finances is important, but making adjustments today is necessary to ensure the financial success of your institution tomorrow. Establishing the areas in which your invoice process can easily improve is the first step to ensuring a successful spend management model. And, when you can showcase the value your departments gained from small changes, you can help shift your culture in ways that lead to lasting improvements in spend and beyond.

With an automated accounts payable process, your institution can eliminate manual invoice routing, approvals, and payments as well as the costly errors that go with them. Plus, you can get full visibility into your users’ AP spending so you can control it before it’s spent. What’s holding you back from making lasting changes in invoicing? After all, your faculty, staff, and students deserve better than “good enough.”

Learn how SAP Concur helps higher education institutions streamline spend management. 

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Caitlin Strickling

About Caitlin Strickling

Caitlin Strickling is an associate content marketing manager for the Enterprise Americas team at SAP Concur. Caitlin earned her degree in Communication from Santa Clara University and enjoys leveraging her experience in SMB, enterprise, and product marketing to create thought leadership content for organizations of all sizes. When she isn’t in the office, she’s out exploring Bay Area breweries or relaxing with a good book.