Pandemic Accentuates Need for Business Technology

Electronic management of procurement paperwork proves critical in keeping essential business running during coronavirus outbreak

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During any normal business year, a fast and efficient procurement process for public services is critical to keeping school districts, city halls, police departments and other needed operations humming. But during a national public health crisis and economic emergency, keeping orders fulfilled, invoices paid and payrolls met becomes even more important. More than ever, technology can make the difference when getting the job done.

Look no further than the state of New Mexico for proof. Nearly 500 public education institutions and other public entities rely upon Cooperative Education Specialists (CES) for procurement of goods, services and work vital to the state’s educational operations.

For almost forty years, CES managed a mountain of paperwork. Once a contract is in place with a vendor (known as a procurement partner), member organizations can purchase from that partner through the terms of the agreement. The CES member submits a purchase order (PO) to CES, who then generates a PO to the Procurement Partner. Once the goods or services are provided, the Procurement Partner invoices CES, and CES invoices the member. When the member payment is received, CES pays the Procurement Partner. Trouble is, procurement requires a lot of paper processes, in fact CES receives more than 60,000 invoices per year.

“It just became unmanageable,” said David Chavez, executive director of CES.

As a result, three years ago CES began investigating digitization as an option to improve efficiency of document management. The company eventually converted their entire procurement process to a cloud-based document management service called ImageSilo® from Digitech Systems. Then they automated ongoing document processes using the built-in tool, PaperVision® Enterprise WorkFlow. What they discovered was that process automation and digitization not only helped their internal business operations, but also enhanced their ability to provide great client service.

By making the transition to managing files electronically, CES has been able to:

· Decrease the time to complete customer requests from 20 minutes to seconds.

· Clear out a 1,500 square foot document storage garage.

· Save the organization $111,000 annually on supplies and staff.

The implementation dramatically reduced operating costs, and the technology enabled CES to continue to operate even when employees couldn’t be in the office. This became critically important as COVID-19 began to force businesses to shut down and employees to stay at home.

When the state of New Mexico encouraged citizens to stay-at-home and avoid congregating in offices. The CES team recognized there would have been no way for them to continue to conduct business remotely if they had not already digitized records and converted to an automated process.

“We haven’t had a slowdown because schools, cities and counties still need to procure and pay,” said Robin Strauser, deputy executive director at CES. “Without ImageSilo, there would be no way for us to work from home. Our business continues.”

And Kelly Basham, AP specialist at CES, pointed out the critical role the company plays not only in keeping members supplied with critical products, but also in helping money flow into vendor businesses, many of which are local to New Mexico.

“We pay $5–8 million per week to vendors, and if those payments stopped, some of them would be forced to lay off staff or close their doors,” she said. “It feels good to know we’re helping not just our own organization, but our customers and vendors to stay in business as well.”

As a result, CES has eased New Mexico’s struggle during the shutdown and provided relief for thousands of public employees and their families.

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