The Finance Transformer Project aims to transform the way in which finance services are delivered across UCL in support of students, staff and the wider UCL community.
What is the Finance Transformer?
Our vision is that through the transformer we will build an enhanced finance capability that reflects:
A professional and high-quality finance service for the UCL community
- User-led services
- Increased automation and self service
- Continuous improvement embedded in service delivery
Supported and empowered staff
- Clarity of roles and responsibilities
- Consistency of policy and process with quality onboarding
- Adaptability built in to roles/skillsets
- Investment in skills, communities of practice and career progression
Added value to the academic mission
- Advisory services delivered through true strategic partnering
- Smart use of data to enable decision making
- Right size and scalable function which is responsive to change and growth
We are focussing on three key services:
• Order to cash – income generation
• Purchase to pay – purchasing activity
• Record to report – financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting
We have been taking a comprehensive, end-to-end view of services, investigating how all of the people, processes and systems interact in supporting the UCL community.
To support this, we set up a service user group, formed of volunteers from across the UCL community and including staff with a range of skills, knowledge and experiences. Our approach focusses on collaborating with staff to design services which meet their needs, improve their experience and enable them to achieve their goals.
Progress and improvements so far
Since the project began in November 2018:
- We have engaged with colleagues from across the university, in Professional Services divisions and Faculties.
- Over 100 colleagues from across the community have been involved in the design phase through user groups, interviews and co-design workshops.
- We’ve talked with even more through showcases, engagements sessions and TOP Gallery Walks.
- We developed the Finance 2023 Vision.
- We have identified over 100 opportunities across 15 different work streams that could improve the current systems and processes to provide the best service for UCL.
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.
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.
Further planned improvements
We're working on the following improvements which will be released and shared over the coming months.
Future Purchase to Pay improvements
- Approval hierarchy review
Reduce the number of touchpoints in purchasing approvals, increase self-approval for low value purchases and allow vacation delegations. In addition, formally define roles, validate application and consistency across all departments and define new processes for ongoing maintenance, including a paperless request process.
- Automation of supplier set-up
Creation of an digital form for new supplier requests which can be interfaced into MyFinance following online approval.
- External visitor expenses
Introducing an online portal to allow external visitors to submit digital expense claims which can be managed, approved and paid via iExpenses.
- Catalogue/e-Marketplace optimisation
Improve the searching and purchasing process via the eMarketPlace and increase e-invoicing via catalogue purchases.
Future Order to Cash improvements
- Advanced collections
Activation of Advanced Collections functionality to streamline and automate tail-end credit collection processes (statements, dunning letters, etc.)
- Customer mass upload
Creation of a mass upload for new customers, removing several manual processes.
Future Record to Report improvements
- Existing report review
Full review and refresh of the Finance reports within Axiom to ensure all functionality is consistent and works as intended, as well as to improve the look and feel to meet user requirements.
- Development of role based guidance
Creation of a reporting catalogue that groups reports by user type and matches each report against identified requirements. This will be made readily available to users and supplemented by the provision of standing guidance on the nature and purpose of each report to provide more targeted role-based guidance.
- MyFinance project and project manager cleanse
Establish 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.
- Scheduling of core reports
Investigation and development of issuance of routine and/or core Finance reports to be automated either from Axiom and/or myFinance.
- Systems interface review
Review and repair the interfaces between Axiom and its primary feeder systems (e.g. Payroll, SITS, etc.) to ensure that they remain fit for purpose.
- Streamline suspense account reconciliation
Develop reports and processes to minimise the volume of transactions falling into suspense and streamline clearance.
- Assess and access additional functionality via Axiom upgrade
Assess and implement any new functionality in Axiom made available by virtue of the Spring upgrade.
- Automate MyFinance project set-up requests
Develop an online form to replace the current manual Excel-based process.
More about the Finance Transformer
If you would like to know more, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Read about how the TOPS Finance Transformer is working to co-design the future of our finance services
- Read about some of the potential examples of the opportunities for change identified in the design phase
- Watch the Finance Transformer Showcase: Income Generation (opens in Microsoft Stream)
- Watch the Finance Transformer Showcase: Purchase to Pay (opens in Microsoft Stream)
- Subscribe to the TOPS Newsletter for the latest updates from the TOPS Programme