How Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Automated the Travel Authorization and Expense Processes with Laserfiche

5 min read
  • Government
  • Accounting & Finance
  • Process Automation

Contributed by: David Crump, Senior Software Systems Specialist, City of Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Every time one of our 600 city employees travels on business, a travel authorization form must be submitted to the Finance department for approval. Once that employee has returned, a travel expense report must also be filled out and approved. In addition, either of these documents could contain a check request for reimbursement.

This travel authorization and expense reimbursement processes used to be manual and paper-heavy. Here is how Laserfiche allowed the city to streamline the document lifecycle and improve communication between various departments.


The forms involved in the travel processes are available on the City of Palm Beach Gardens’ intranet page for employees to download and print. The employee fills out the form with the help of his supervisor and provides supplemental information, such as airline confirmation, hotel registration and check request documents to go along with the reimbursement request.

The forms and all supplemental documents are scanned onto a network drive with one of the many multi-function printers distributed throughout the city. Laserfiche Import Agent monitors the network shared folder for any new documents and automatically imports them into the “Travel – _Process – Inbox” folder in Laserfiche.

Palm Beach Gardens “Travel Process Inbox”

One set of workflows processes both the travel authorization and travel expense reimbursement documents.

Approval by the travel coordinator

Laserfiche Workflow monitors the travel inbox folder for incoming travel request documents. When it finds a new document, Laserfiche Workflow sends an email to the travel coordinator letting her know that a new travel document has been submitted for review.

The travel coordinator reviews the document. If there is a check request included as part of the document, she moves it to the front of that document. She also applies and populates the “Finance – Travel” template.

“Finance – Travel” Template

When the travel coordinator is finished with her review, she changes the Travel Coordinator Approval status to either “Approved” or “Disapproved.” This action invokes a second workflow.

The next stage in the process is approval by the finance coordinator. Both the travel coordinator and finance coordinator must approve all travel documents.

Approval by the finance coordinator

If the travel coordinator approves the travel documentation, Laserfiche Workflow:

  • Routes the documents to the “Pending” folder.
    “Pending” Folder
  • Sends an email to the finance coordinator notifying him of a new travel authorization or expense report for review.
  • Checks to see if the travel document contains a last minute check request (the value of the Check Request Fields is set to “ASAP”). If there is one, accounts payable is alerted via email of a last minute check to be cut.
  • Renames the travel document to the accounts payable naming standard and appends “Pending Finance Administrator Approval” to the end of the name.
  • Notifies the finance administrator of a new request or authorization for review.

Once the finance administrator reviews the travel request, he changes the value of the Finance Administrator Approval Status field to either “Approved” or “Disapproved” and inserts comments into the template. The finance administrator’s action launches the third workflow.

If the travel coordinator approves the document but the finance coordinator does not, the document is then sent back to the travel coordinator with comments for a second review.

Final travel document processing

Before checking if the travel request was approved or disapproved, Laserfiche Workflow checks to see if the travel coordinator and finance administrator left any comments. If comments are found, they are copied and inserted into a Workflow Approval 1 Comments field. Since security settings prevent users in other departments from viewing any of the fields that have to do with the travel coordinator or finance administrator’s approval actions, the Workflow Approval 1 Comments field provides a way for requestors to see why their request was approved or disapproved.

Final Travel Document Processing

Next, Laserfiche Workflow checks to see if the finance administrator approved or disapproved the travel request. If the request has been disapproved:

  • The document is renamed and sent back to the Inbox folder.
  • If there was an ASAP check request attached to the authorization form, the accounts payable department is emailed that the check request was not approved.
  • The Travel Coordinator Approval field is reset and the Workflow Prior Denial field is added and populated.

If the request has been approved by the finance administrator, Laserfiche Workflow:

  • Renames the document based on the Travel Department’s file naming standards and moves it to the Travel folder of the department that initiated the request.Travel Folder

If the travel document contains a check request, Laserfiche Workflow:

  • Checks if there is a check request included with the authorization form by looking at the template field. If that is the case, Laserfiche Workflow creates a new placeholder document inside the “Accounts PayableProcessInbox” folder, where the check request will be moved.
  • Moves the check request page from the current document to the newly created placeholder document.
  • Creates a link between the check request and travel documents.
  • Emails the accounts payable department that the travel request has been approved. The AP coordinator will then apply the “Finance – Check Request” template which invokes a separate set of check request approval workflows.
  • If the check request is for petty cash, Laserfiche Workflow emails the accounts receivable department.
  • Emails the travel coordinator that the travel document has been approved.

Here is the part of the workflow that deals with check requests:

Click image to view larger in new window.

Benefits of Laserfiche

Implementing Laserfiche at the City of Palm Beach Gardens has resulted in the following benefits:

  • Only one copy of documents is now stored in Laserfiche, making them easily accessible by multiple people at the same time.
  • Robust security settings allow only authorized personnel to perform certain actions on documents, such as update or enter new metadata.
  • The travel expense authorization workflows can easily be used as models for automating various other processes throughout the city.
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