M-Files AP Automation for a Global Industrial Services Company

Featuring Microsoft Dynamics & Power BI

The Client

Our client is a global industrial services organization that provides specialized industrial services as well as manufacturing industrial equipment. They currently have 5,000+ employees and operate over 220 locations across the US as well as England, Trinidad, and Singapore.

INDUSTRY: Industrial Services

Client Background & Project Objectives

In early 2018, Smartbridge implemented M-Files as the solution for a Digital Technician initiative the client had started. (Read the M-Files implementation case study here.)

Based on the success of the M-Files implementation, another opportunity was identified in late 2018 to improve processes for the accounting department in the eastern hemisphere.

The client’s leadership wanted to improve the accuracy, efficiency, timeliness, and auditability of its accounts payable (AP) approval process. Three critical components were defined to reach these future state goals:

M-Files partner

Smartbridge has extensive experience in enterprise content management solutions

  • Conduct an assessment to determine the feasibility of M-Files for improving and automating the AP approvals processes for purchase orders and vendor invoices.

  • Integrate M-Files with their existing Microsoft Dynamics application to reduce the manual effort of scan and capture.

  • Leverage existing delegation of authority rules to automate approval routings and streamline the processes even further.

Key Challenges

  • The accounting department worked in a decentralized and manual fashion which meant processes had several inefficiencies leading to delays in approvals and making payments to vendors in a timely fashion. This also meant early pay savings/discounts were often being lost.

  • The client was using a version of Microsoft Dynamics SL which was outdated and lacked advanced capabilities to improve the processes.

  • The existing delegation of authority was managed on an Excel spreadsheet. This complicated requirements for ensuring tracking and auditability involving 140+ users.

  • The delegation of authority user roles were not standardized across the various regions.

The Smartbridge Solution – M-Files AP Automation

m-files ap automation

Smartbridge developed a series of deliverables that provided clarity and capabilities for the centralization, standardization, and automation of the accounts payable processes. These deliverables included the solution configuration in M-Files, integration with Microsoft Dynamics SL, defining and migrating master data, and a business intelligence dashboard.

Smartbridge configured the ECM solution in M-Files to automate and streamline the process around approvals for purchase orders and vendor invoices. Smartbridge replaced the old email routing and manual tracking by developing:

  • Workflows for both types of documents

  • Logic for delegation of authority stored within the system and referenced against parameters found on the document to correctly route approvals to the right approver

  • Automatic email notifications for relevant users based on the state the document entered (status changes)

  • VB Scripts to customize out-of-the-box features for getting data from related objects and structure built out in M-Files

Integration with an older version of Microsoft Dynamics SL was a requirement to digitize and automate the capture of purchase order documents into M-Files. Smartbridge supported this by:

  • Configuring M-Files to ensure POs with metadata were accepted by M-Files in near real-time when a new PO was generated in Dynamics SL by the purchasing admin

  • Providing details on M-Files configurations and testing with a 3rd Party Vendor, Velosio, for Dynamics SL who developed custom logic in Dynamics SL to communicate with M-Files

ap automation

Master data is a cornerstone to an ECM solution that relies on metadata as its core foundation. With great detail and assessment, Smartbridge created:

  • SQL Views to combine and read data from region-based databases for purchase orders, PO line items, vouchers, vendors, and projects to be used as a source for necessary master data

  • Dell Boomi processes (per environment) to pull data through the SQL Views created (instead of directly hitting the databases) and migrate them to the M-Files master data source databases that are ultimately configured to sync automatically with M-Files Objects

  • SQL Stored Procedures to update only those records passed by the Dell Boomi process where data had been modified or if the record didn’t already exist in the system

Capabilities for research, audit, and reporting, including a dashboard of in-progress requests, also needed to be addressed. For this, Smartbridge:

  • Configured compliance features available within the M-Files AP Automation solution to enable dynamic searching, detailed logging for auditing, and scheduled data exports for reporting

  • Defined metrics to measure efficiencies and performance of the automated processes

  • Developed a Microsoft Power BI dashboard that showcased the metrics defined to provide near real-time insights (scheduled data exports) on the purchase order and vendor invoice approvals processes

Value Delivered

The results of the M-Files AP Automation solution delivered by Smartbridge provided the client with advanced capabilities and process improvements that addressed the key challenges the accounting department had faced.

  • Eliminated delays and errors through automated capture from Dynamics SL and error handling

  • Allowed admins to prioritize efforts on higher-value tasks by reducing or eliminating tasks:

    • Removed need to manually assign approvals with logic in workflows using embedded DOA rules
    • Reduced need to chase users for approvals with automated emails sent within workflows
    • Reduced need to create duplicate reports with custom search filters and export options
    • Reduced need to identify errors manually with error handling developed within the workflows
  • Increased accountability on users through increased visibility and transparency of process statuses and tracking for all users involved such as admins, requesters, approvers, and executives

  • Increased security, compliance, and auditability by enabling M-Files compliance features such as:

    • Automatic permissions enforced on each workflow state based on control lists and user role
    • Version history and tracking enabled on all documents identifying all events and information
    • Advanced logging enabled to track events including user activity and changes in the system
    • Automatic log exports enabled to a secured location in order to ensure backup and visibility of data
    • Custom logic scripted to handle errors, assignments, and searching capabilities
  • Improved decision making through insights on the efficiency and impact of the processes by leveraging custom metrics shown on the Power BI dashboard

    • Tracking all statuses of purchase orders and invoices in respective workflows
    • Average cycle time (days) to determine the performance and timing of processing invoices
    • Amounts approved or rejected for purchase orders and paid/due for invoices
    • Average lead times between various states in the workflow
    • Aging buckets to determine the count of documents sitting in the current states
    • Charts highlighting performance and activity over various time periods
  • Improved efficiency for locating information by leveraging metadata and OCR search capabilities

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