How to Automate Accounts Payable in Higher Education

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

Laserfiche Solution Contributed By: Chancellor’s Office at California State University

The accounts payable department at the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office is responsible for processing invoices for the head office of the CSU system. Three dedicated technicians process about 1,000 invoices each month. Here is how the accounts payable department automated invoice review and approval with Laserfiche Workflow.


Invoices are received by mail and scanned into Laserfiche by the accounts payable technician (AP tech). During the scanning process, the “Invoice Type” and “AP Tech Name” metadata fields are manually populated. Once scanned the documents are routed to the appropriate AP tech’s folder with Laserfiche Workflow.

After document scanning is complete, the AP tech opens each document residing in his folder and manually populates additional metadata fields.

  • The “Reviewer” field is required.
  • The “Vendor Name” and “Invoice Date” fields are completed to assist department users in identifying the documents.
Csu Chancellor Capture

Invoice Approval

The reviewer is notified once per day by an email when there are documents needing to be reviewed. This email contains a link to the reviewer’s work folder in Laserfiche.

The reviewer looks over each invoice in his folder. If the reviewer does not have delegated authority to approve invoices, he will select “OK to Pay” from the “Dept Status” field and designate another person to review the invoice by selecting that person’s name from those listed in the “Reviewer” field. The process will then repeat for the new designated reviewer. If any of the reviewers selects “Reject Back to AP Tech,” the invoice will be sent back to the original AP Tech.

“Okay to Pay” Option

Each time the “Okay to Pay” option is selected, the following stamp is automatically applied to the image:

The reviewer name and current date are automatically applied by Laserfiche Workflow.

  • The reviewer name is derived from the user’s system login ID.
  • The box is outlined in red to indicate that approval to pay has not yet been obtained.

This process was developed to allow departmental staff the opportunity to relay information to the delegated approver that the invoice is correct and may be approved for payment. This process may be repeated as many times as necessary before the document is assigned to the approver—the person with delegated authority.

Once the last review has been completed, the name of the delegated approver is selected from those listed in the “Reviewer” field and the document is routed to that individual. The approver then chooses one of the following from the “Approval Status” field:

  • Approved
  • Rejected
  • Approved with exception
  • Approved manual send

If the invoice “Dept Status” is “OK to Pay” and the “Approval Status” is not “Rejected,” then the reviewer provides payment information by inserting a sticky note on the invoice with the purchase order or accounting information. Once a decision is made, the invoice is immediately sent back to the original AP tech. If the “Approved manual send” option is selected, the user can determine when the document is returned to the AP tech. The AP tech will be notified once per day by an email when there are documents in his folder.

“Approved” Options

When any of the “Approved” options are selected, the following stamp is applied to the image:

The name and date are automatically applied by Laserfiche Workflow in the same manner as the “OK to Pay” stamp mentioned above. The box is outlined in green to indicate approval to pay has been given.

Security is applied to the Reviewer and Approver user groups to dictate allowable actions users in these groups may perform. Reviewers will only have access to the “Dept Status” field while approvers are only allowed to update the “Approval Status” field.

When the AP tech receives the reviewed invoice, he can make a decision by choosing one of the following from the “AP Tech Instructions” field:

  • Approved
  • Resend
  • Reject

If approved, the invoice will be routed to the “CSUAccounts PayableInvoices” folder. If the invoice is rejected it will be routed to “CSUAccounts PayableInvoicesDead Invoices.” If “Resend” is selected, then the invoice will be sent back to a designated reviewer and the review process restarts.

Here is a diagram of the whole process.

Whole Process Diagram
Click image to view larger in new window.

Laserfiche Workflow

This whole invoice approval process is powered by Laserfiche Workflow. A series of workflows routes the documents and sends the email reminders based on the various metadata field options selected.

Here is a screenshot of the workflow that routes the invoice to the reviewers. Based on the reviewer’s decision, this workflow then does one of the following:

  • Routes the invoice to the AP tech.
  • Waits for an annotation and then routes the invoice to another reviewer.
Invoice to The Reviewers Workflow

Another workflow runs regularly every night. This workflow invokes other workflows, which scan the repository for invoices that still need to have an action taken and remind the appropriate people by email.

Workflow Invokes

One of those workflows also looks up information in the external Oracle PeopleSoft database and uses it to populate the rest of the metadata. This workflow can also be triggered on demand by setting the “AutoIndex” field to “Now” on any document.

Csu Workflow

Here is how the “Custom Query” activity is configured:

“Custom Query”

Advantages of Laserfiche

Implementing Laserfiche in the accounts payable department at the California State University Chancellor’s Office resulted in the following benefits:

  • Original documents remain in the Accounts Payable folders—only document short-cuts are routed, viewed, and approved directly in Laserfiche.
  • Approval time is reduced because the time required to route documents via the internal mail process is eliminated.
  • Employees in other departments no longer need to contact accounting if they have a question about an order or a submitted document. They can obtain this information on their own directly from Laserfiche.
  • Since metadata is now updated based on the data stored in the PeopleSoft database, manual data entry errors have been eliminated.
5 Steps to Accounts Payable Automation
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