Solution for Electronic Clearance of Invoices (ECI)
The ECI system in Nafta a.s. performs automated management of the processes relating to supplier invoices and invoicing data processing. Company Nafta has thus gained a detailed overview of movement and status of documents, and also accelerated, optimized, and simplified the invoice clearance and approval processes for the users.
Like most other companies, also Nafta a.s. used to process the supplier invoices in paper form. The same system was used for issue of invoicing orders.
Due to the geographic distribution of various facilities of the company, it was often difficult and demanding to find where the approved invoice was located at given moment. When preparing the supporting documents for invoicing or payment orders, the paper documents often had to go through the hands of people at different locations.
The documents were usually accessible at the central workplace. Whenever the particular document was required at a remote location or simultaneously at multiple locations, it was necessary to find it, scan it or make a copy and deliver it to the employee that had requested it.
The optimization efforts resulted in the decision to implement an electronic invoice clearance system that would cover the process of supplier invoices circulation, as well as the process relating to the circulation of issued invoices and that would make relevant documents accessible to responsible employees within the company based on assigned authorizations.
Company Nafta a.s. organized a tender and selected the solution based on MS SharePoint products (central document repository sufficient for the processed volume of documents) that was extended with Nintex Workflow product (tools for design, management, and monitoring of automated processes for MS SharePoint) and Kofax Express for supplier invoices digitization.
Documents are input into the ECI application through scanning station on which the Kofax Express software is installed. Document image is electronically cleaned after scanning. This improves its legibility and reduces the file size. The resulting file together with its basic attributes is stored in the system core.
The system core consists of a web application running on the MS SharePoint platform. That's where the documents are stored, where all documents processed within the ECI solution are located, and where their relevant processing procedures are managed.
The following figure illustrates an overall architecture of the solution.
A simple scheme of documents processing within ECI
The Success Story
In addition to the PDF documents coming into the system from the scanning workplace where they are registered as supplier invoices, it is also possible to create new documents directly within the system. This scenario is available to any company employee with access into the ECI system.
Rights to individual actions and operations within the systems are managed on group level and are fully controlled by the system administrator.
Versions are maintained for each document within the system so it is possible to easily determine who modified the particular document and how. The document history also records all reactions and comments of individual approvers.
Nafta a.s. operates an ERP system - SAP. Integration with SAP was implemented during the system implementation. Thanks to this integration, selected registers are synchronized and information for recorded invoices is retrieved (it is not necessary to input the invoice simultaneously into two systems).
Based on the rules defined in the "Competence Matrix", the system identifies additional approvers within the organizational structure (for example department head, section director) during the approval process. For licensing reasons, the ECI system limits the visibility of data originating from SAP only to the users with SAP license.
Homepage of ECI system
In addition to the approval process, there are four additional processes implemented within the system that are intended mainly for the accountants and enable them to find data for individual invoices and to manage queries to employees before releasing the documents for approval.
The approval process represents the most interesting part of the entire solution as it is completely managed by the unique "Competence Matrix". This matrix is stored in MS SharePoint within the same web as the ECI application.
This matrix contains information about the approval chain for given invoice type depending on its value and on specific invoice data like the cost center to which the invoice belongs.
Example of one record in Competence matrix
The Competence Matrix provides several interesting functions for identification of approvers.
Example: function PLANS searches for approvers within SAP on the groundwork of defined position identifier.
Function ASSET searches for approver in the register based on the data from the invoice.
All functions have been implemented in line with the applicable competence matrix and added in cooperation with the personnel of Nafta a.s. in order to improve the efficiency of the approval process and to cover all scenarios that might occur during documents approving.
The Competence Matrix is managed by the administrator and application manager on the customer's side. This solution is thus highly flexible and enables:
- Editing the rules for the process of financial documents approval without any intervention into the process model definition within the system,
- Solution extension by new types of invoices, also without any intervention into the process model definition and with no need for programming,
- Simple transfer of new settings from testing environment into the production environment with no need for comparing the versions of the software components, installing any software, or planning any production environment outages.
At the beginning of November 2013, the "Competence Matrix" of the ECI solution had 118 lines representing 118 different approval procedures implemented within the system for financial documents.
Request for invoicing form - new document created in ECI system
About Nafta a.s.
NAFTA is a modern company with broad experience in the field of natural gas storage and construction of underground gas storage facilities in Slovakia. Furthermore, it is the Slovak leader in the field of hydrocarbons prospecting and exploitation. Current storage capacity of the system of underground gas storages operated by company NAFTA amounts to 2.4 billion cubic meters.
NAFTA offers professional services, innovative products, and expertise in one of the most dynamically developing sectors directly within the heart of Europe. Combination of favorable geological conditions and advantageous location of the underground gas storages operated by NAFTA near the transit system supplying gas to the western and southern neighbors of Slovakia create prerequisites for establishment of one of the key nodes within the European gas system.