“I needed a way to review documents, bills, and contracts easily, instead of relying on paper. I really wanted to get away from check writing – actually physical check writing."
- Sharon Desser, Accounting Manager, EnergyWatch
Company size: SME
Accounting software: Quickbooks Online
EnergyWatch is an energy management software company that helps reduce energy costs, simplify energy reporting, and measure energy performance. Their cloud-based platform offers insight into energy data management so that organizations can use advanced analytics to reach their energy management goals. With their headquarters based in New York, the firm provides services across the US, Canada and Mexico.
When Sharon Desser joined EnergyWatch as an accounting manager in 2019, she noticed that the accounting workflow was manual and paper-based, and this was an issue. “Everything was paper dependent, very few things were handled on the internet. We used a desktop-based general ledger software, QuickBooks.” There were several workflows to orchestrate – writing checks, receiving checks, paying checks, tracking documents for audits, generating digital reports, data-entry, storage, coding, bill payments – and all of this was done on paper. There wasn’t a standard process to manage AP in a coherent fashion. Sharon describes it as, “very much stuck in the 20th century.”
Another challenge was controlling costs. Paper documents were not only taking up space in filing cabinets, they were costing the business hundreds of dollars annually without yielding any beneficial results. “Everything involved in stuffing, mailing, stapling, and filing seemed very inefficient.”
There was no central hub to track and manage invoices either. If an approver had to probe an invoice, they would have to go through a trail of paper and follow ups. “This presents a problem for me because I cannot review what I cannot see.” As an example, when she had to look through financial reports, she couldn’t refer back to the source document. “I couldn’t tell if a particular entry had been posted correctly. Should it be capitalized? Should it be expensed? Is it a prepaid asset or is it a monthly recurring? I just didn’t know.” The issue extended to bill payments as well, which lacked a centralized workflow. The entire process was laborious, resulting in delays and fatigue.
“I needed a way to review documents, bills, and contracts easily, instead of relying on paper. I really wanted to get away from check writing – actually physical check writing.”
It was evident to Sharon that EnergyWatch’s accounts payable arm was in need of transformation. She wanted to eliminate paper, centralize the AP workflow on a single platform, have instant access to digital reports, and overall become efficient with smart AP controls. She had worked on an accounts payable automation software before, so she knew what she was looking for. Next came the process of evaluating automation software.
An easy-to-use and intuitive system
Sharon had experience working with Beanworks before, and was excited about introducing the software to EnergyWatch. But it was important that the rest of the team experience a smooth transition as well, so she involved her bookkeeper in the evaluation process.
“I wanted to make sure she was happy with everything she saw because ultimately she’s the one who will have to use it. And we agreed that Beanworks was the best solution for us.”
They evaluated a few other software systems and decided to settle with Beanworks.
Some of their key requirements included:
- Visibility across the AP workflow with the ability to easily look up documents and status
- Online AP reports on a centralized platform
- Intuitive and easy-to-use interface
- Cloud-based access to keep operations running remotely, without paper
“I’m a big fan of Beanworks. I’ve used it in the past, I know it’s easy to use, it’s intuitive, and does everything I need it to do.”
Faster approvals and fewer manual tasks
Beanworks was rolled out quickly and the team realized benefits immediately. First and foremost, it gave them digital controls to process invoices faster than before. The approval chain moved much quicker – the approver could instantly track an invoice online, leave notes for clarification, and approve for payment. Manual data entry was replaced with auto-capture, reducing the chance of errors. This immediately removed a lot of pain and ambiguity in invoice processing.
“There’s much great time savings and accuracy savings.”
Next, audits became easier and efficient. “Instead of digging through filing cabinets for documents that had been filed away, taking up room, taking up paper, I now have digital records to present to the auditors.” This worked internally as well. Sharon says she is able to generate reports much earlier in the month as opposed to in the past when creating financial reports manually was time consuming and tedious. With automation, the timeline has reduced significantly. AP data and workflows are on a single platform, making access to records and reports instant. “Now we are just reviewing data.”
Customer support at Beanworks was a major driving factor in having Sharon select Beanworks as their AP automation provider. She was aware of how the system operated but it was important that her team understood it well enough or at least had prompt support access from someone other than her.
“Beyond everything else, I knew that the customer support was unparalleled in any software company that I have ever been associated with or worked for.”
From a traditional to a SaaS business model
With the impact of COVID-19, EnergyWatch is considering how to make permanent changes to ensure business continuity for the future. From a high degree of on-premise and manual processes to automation in accounting and other departments, it is evolving its software use from traditional to SaaS. “Once you go into the SaaS business model, technology rules the roost. You need to be innovative, adaptive, quick to engage and pliable.” They’re already seeing the results. They have migrated out of QuickBooks Desktop into QuickBooks Online. Beanworks provides a seamless integration with their financial system. AP has become much more simple and transparent.
The Road Ahead?
Sharon says that remote work has highlighted the need to automate payments. During COVID-19 when the entire team was working from outside the office, check signing and mailing emerged as a major challenge. The shortcoming of the situation made it clear that an online payments system was going to be critical. “We’re a lean company, we need to be very, very efficient.” As the manual processes go down, the quality experience of AP for the team goes up. Sharon and her team realize that. “The current situation has made it abundantly clear that moving to a centralized digital platform at the right time was a good move for us.”