Through the Finance Transformer we reduced the administrative burden surrounding core financial processes and enabled additional capacity within Central Finance.
The Finance Transformer Project was initiated in November 2018 with the aim of transforming the delivery of finance services across UCL for the benefit of the user community and, at the same time, building a platform for a finance capability that was better placed to respond to the emerging needs of the organisation.
Our vision was to will build an enhanced finance capability that reflects:
- A professional and high-quality finance service for the UCL community
- Supported and empowered staff
- Added value to the academic mission
The business case was approved in July 2019, following a comprehensive service design and road-mapping exercise, and development work began the following November. The delivery phase of the project ended in February 2021. Through the transformer we:
- significantly reduced the administrative burden surrounding core financial processes,
- increased the value of – and confidence in – ground level financial reporting at UCL,
- and enabled additional capacity within Central Finance.
What we delivered
The transformer focussed on three key services:
- Order to cash – income generation
- Purchase to pay – purchasing activity
- Record to report – financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting
We took a comprehensive, end-to-end view of these services, investigating how all of the people, processes and systems interact to support the UCL community.
To support this, we set up a service user group – formed of volunteers from across UCL and including staff with a range of skills, knowledge and experiences – and collaborated with staff to design services which meet their needs, improve their experience and enable them to achieve their goals.
Purchase to Pay improvements
- Digital staff expenses
Claims can now be submitted and processed using receipt images only, removing the need to send paper receipts to Accounts Payable. This enhancement significantly reduces the administration attached to 45,000 expense claims a year and ensures faster reimbursement. Further information, guidance and FAQs.
- Revision of invoice exception limits
By expanding price and delivery cost limits, less invoices will be placed on hold - currently 7,000 per annum. This will reduce the number of invoice hold notifications sent to Authorised Signatories by 50% and also reduce the number of retrospective POs raised for delivery charges. This benefits departments who will have less invoices to approve and Accounts Payable who will have less invoice matching exceptions to handle.
- Supplier data cleanse
A monthly data cleanse will now be carried out on the supplier list, deactivating all those accounts that have not been used in the preceding 18 months for a purchase order or invoice transaction. This will reduce the number of active suppliers held on the system by around 25,000 and ensure that only active accounts, with up to date details, are available to choose when raising requisitions. The process to set up a new supplier or reactivate an old supplier can be found at New Supplier Requests.
- Automated email issue of non-catalogue purchase orders
This enhancement enables an approved non-catalogue purchase order to be emailed automatically to the relevant supplier, using either the default address attached to the account or a specific address entered by the requisitioner. This replaces the previous multi-step process and reduces the administration attached to processing 125,000 purchase orders per annum. Read the guidance notes.
- Simplified invoice hold notifications
This enhancement restricts the number of invoice hold notifications that are sent to requisitioners and approvers to only one per invoice, simplifying the administration attached to the processing of 50,000 invoices per year. This replaces the previous process, under which separate email notifications were sent out for every instance of hold at a PO line level (resulting in multiple notifications for a single multiple-line invoice). In addition, a summary of all outstanding receipt holds will be sent to requisitioners weekly, providing them with an easy to manage overview. In all other aspects, the format and content of hold notifications has not changed.
- Approval Notifications
In collaboration with Research Services and the TOPS Research & Innovation Support Transformer, we have now launched an enhancement to the approval notifications process. All requisition and expense claim approval notifications will now display the funding source associated with the project code charged for the expenditure. For grant funded approvals in particular, up-front identification of the funder will streamline the process to validate expenditure against the relevant terms and conditions. This replaces the previous multi-step process and reduces the administration attached to approving 100,000 requisitions and 35,000 expense claims per annum.
- Limit requisition attachments to header level
This enhancement streamlines the approval process for requisitions by ensuring that supporting file attachments are always visible to a signatory on the approval email (avoiding duplicate rounds of queries, or approvers separately logging-in to MyFinance at every stage). Files can now only be attached to a requisition at header level. Read the guidance notes.
- PO Commitments Maintenance & Closure
A new two-step process has been introduced to ensure that redundant PO commitments can be cleared from the system on a timely basis and with minimal manual intervention. Low risk balances will be closed automatically at the end of each month, removing much of the volume and allowing departments to focus their time on the higher value orders that matter. This monthly clear-down is then followed by a quarterly departmental review: departments are presented with a list of outstanding POs and asked to confirm which to close and which to retain. Monthly and quarterly processes will run to a prescribed timetable that is set out in the guidance notes which can be found here.
- Digital Student Expenses
This is a new and innovative iExpenses solution which allows our students to submit claims online in much the same way as staff. This replaces the previous manual process for approximately 13,000 claims a year and provides a substantially improved experience for all involved. The enhancement dramatically reduces the administration attached to the process and addresses a long standing pain point for the Finance community.
- Catalogue/e-Marketplace optimisation
Improved the searching and purchasing process via the eMarketPlace and increased e-invoicing via catalogue purchases.
- Approval hierarchy review
Reduced the number of touchpoints in purchasing approvals, increased self-approval for low value purchases and allowed vacation delegations. In addition, formally defined roles, validated application and consistency across all departments and defined new processes for ongoing maintenance, including a paperless request process.
Order to Cash improvements
- Access to PDF view of sales invoices
Enable users to view a PDF image of a sales invoice from the Accounts Receivable transaction. This new functionality allows the user to view the image from the AR transaction screen within MyFinance, simplifying 20,000 transactions per annum.
- Automated email issue of sales invoices to customers
New functionality has been introduced to MyFinance that enables a sales invoice to be automatically emailed to the relevant customer following financial approval. Staff with the appropriate Accounts Receivable (AR) system responsibility will be able to attach an email address of their choice on the sales invoice itself, replacing the previous multi-step process required to issue and reducing the administration attached to 20,000 sales invoices per annum. Read the guidance notes.
- Advanced collections
Activation of Advanced Collections functionality to streamline and automate tail-end credit collection processes (statements, dunning letters, etc.)
Record to Report improvements
- Existing report review
Full review and refresh of the Finance reports within Axiom to ensure more intuitive, standardised financial reports with embedded guidance
- Scheduling of core reports
Development of scheduled batching for automated issuance of regular reports
- MyFinance project and project manager cleanse
Established a process that informs and supports the maintenance of masterdata for active project codes and project managers in MyFinance, including automated closure of project codes that have fallen inactive.
- Systems interface review
Reviewed and repaired the interfaces between Axiom and its primary feeder systems (e.g. Payroll, SITS, etc.) to ensure that they remain fit for purpose.
- Assess and access additional functionality via Axiom upgrade
Assessed and implemented new functionality in Axiom made available by virtue of the Spring upgrade.