Time Savers and Improved Customer Service

Payroll, Accounts Payable and Grant and Contract Accounting Now Offer More Personalized Service, Electronic Solutions

SMU Director of Finance Vickie Bumgardner and her team have made several changes in their departments and processes over the past year, and they are excited about the positive results. Bumgardner, who oversees four areas (Payroll; Accounts Payable [“AP”]; Grant and Contract Accounting [“GCA”]; and Tax Compliance), says several changes made to financial and hiring transaction processing have created a more efficient way of doing business and have elevated customer service.

Rollout of the e-PAF

Bumgardner cites the e-PAF (Electronic Payment Authorization Form) as an excellent example of saving time for SMU staff.

The Payroll Department processes hiring forms for all non-benefit eligible employees including student workers, adjunct faculty and temporary staff (other than those processed by Kelly Services). Before the e-PAF was introduced, every time an SMU staff member hired an employee, the staff member had to devote time to filling out paper forms by hand for each individual, then manually route the forms for approvals, including special approvals, before sending to Expressway Tower for processing. “Now, with the new e-PAF,” says Bumgardner, “the hiring staff member completes the form online, presses ‘submit’ and it starts the routing process for approvals. This new process is an enormous time saver for everyone.”

The e-PAF has several additional advantages, including the ability to submit, view, track and evaluate e-PAFs from any web browser; automated approval routing; and systematic creation and updating of job records, resulting in faster generation of job-based network security, time records and SMU web clock access. “We’ve eliminated the paperwork, eliminated lost forms, have electronic approval, and can track the transactions online,” says Bumgardner.

In the first two months since launching the e-PAF, over 200 people attended e-PAF training sessions. To date, employees have submitted over 600 e-PAFs. The ability to take e-PAF training online was added in early August, meaning employees can complete training on their own schedule instead of having to wait for one specified day. Users can request the security and online training for initiating e-PAFs by submitting the “ePAF Permissions” ticket via the OIT Help Desk online ticketing system.

An additional feature introduced with the e-PAF is the batch upload process, which eliminates the need for data to be keyed into each separate e-PAF record. The e-PAF batch upload process provides the option of populating an Excel template with the job information for multiple hires/rehires. The template is emailed to the Payroll Office, which uploads the data into the e-PAF system. The batch upload process creates and submits all of the e-PAF records and starts the approval workflow routing. This tool is especially helpful for departments that hire a large group of employees. Prior to the e-PAF and batch upload process, staff had to devote hours filling out individual paper forms for every person hired; now they can utilize the new functionality to create all the e-PAFs needed. The flow is greatly improved.

AP specialists now assigned to schools and areas; elimination of paper payment request for invoice payments; and daily ACH processing

Several initiatives have also been put in place over the past several months for Accounts Payable.

In addition to eliminating the paper PAF form in the Payroll Department, Bumgardner says the requirement for a paper AP payment request form to pay an invoice has been eliminated. Approximately 70 percent of payment requests previously submitted were for payment of invoices. A paper payment request form is still required for a non-invoice. Some examples of non-invoice payments are stipends, reimbursements not processed through Concur and refunds. AP is now accepting scanned copies of accounts payable documents, which allows for quicker processing as the delay for routing paper forms has been eliminated.

“We also restructured the duties of the AP specialists and assigned those specialists to schools and areas,” says Bumgardner. “Previously the AP specialists were assigned requests based on letters in the alphabet [e.g., A-L, M-Z] but we thought that system wasn’t providing the level of customer service needed. Now, for example, Dedman College has one processor, who is knowledgeable about the requests for the College, to contact. We’ve received positive feedback on increased customer service since the change.

“We have implemented a new process for processing ACH reimbursements [“Automated Clearing House,” i.e., direct deposits],”says Bumgardner. “We process ACH payments daily instead of twice a week, which means employee reimbursements processed through Concur are received more quickly now by employees.”

Improved customer service: Grant and Contract Accounting 

Bumgardner says the GCA accounting team relocated from Expressway Tower to Perkins Administration Building Room 205 in March in order to provide better accessibility and customer service to Principal Investigators (PIs) who oversee individual grants and contracts. The Office of Research and Graduate Studies is located in Perkins Administration Building and, by having both departments located in the same building, the PIs have better access to both departments for pre- and post-award questions.

Another change that has increased customer satisfaction is the reassignment of the GCA accountants. “Each school or area now has a designated GCA accountant assigned to them,” explains Bumgardner. “The reason we restructured is that we want our accountants to be familiar with and knowledgeable about all aspects related to the grants and contracts within the school or area assigned. We wanted the PIs to have one contact to work with for anything to do with their particular grants and contracts. Previously the accountants were assigned specific tasks for all grants and contracts; by making the assignments by school and area we can provide better customer service. The feedback received from the assignments has been extremely positive from the PIs and administrators.”

Find out more

Grants and Contract Accounting Representatives by Responsibilities/Areas Assigned

  • Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences (except for Biology):
  • Janice Kranz, janice@smu.edu, 214-768-2649
  • Simmons School of Education & Human Development: Carmela Wells, cjwells@smu.edu, 214-768-2020
  • Biology and all others: Susan Wright, siwright@smu.edu, 214-768-4634
  • Manager: Janet Burton, janetb@smu.edu, 214-768-3761
  • Billing and Reporting: Jim Barrett, jimbarrett@smu.edu, 214-768-3838