Q&A: Edwards Aquifer Authority
Shelly Hendrix Abernathy is the Controller and Director of finance for the Edwards Aquifer Authority. We recently sat down with her to talk about life before Sage Intacct, yellow folders, how things have changed, and advice she’d give to others.
Sage Intacct: Hi Shelly. Can you tell us a little bit about Edwards Aquifer Authority?
SHA: The Edwards Aquifer Authority is a groundwater district that was formed by the state legislature in Texas. Our mission is to conserve, manage, and protect the aquifer, one of the greatest resources in the south-central Texas area. It's a water source for approximately 2 million people in the area.
Sage Intacct: Why did you decide to look at a new financial software solution?
SHA: In 2012 when I came to the Edwards we were on a software system that was not providing the visibility needed at the time or for our growth that was happening. We started a new program in 2012 that required us to account for things in a different manner and be able to provide reporting based on those new requirements.
When we started our search for a new software we were predominantly looking for a cloud solution. When we issued our RFP for the software we received several different types of solutions. Ultimately the cloud solution was the best fit for what we needed. Sage Intacct provided transparency, visibility, and ease of access. It provides all the things that we needed to take us into the future.
It was important to us at the Edwards to be able to provide a system that the employees could use and have information at their fingertips. The use of the reports on the dashboard allows our employees to check on the status of their purchase orders, whether or not invoices have been paid and also answer vendor questions themselves. It's helped my staff considerably. We're a small team and just having that autonomy available for the employees has been a big benefit for us.
Sage Intacct: Did you work with a Sage Intacct reseller?
SHA: Express Information Systems helped us implement the software. We had a very short timeframe to do so. We signed a contract in October of 2016 with the deadline to go live of January 1, 2017. Express Information Systems was integral in making that happen for us. They helped us with the customization of the software, they learned our business and were an integral part of the implementation. They got us to where we needed to be in order to hit our deadline.
Sage Intacct: What have Sage Intacct dashboards done for you?
SHA: My staff and the employees love the dashboards. We have our various stages of purchase orders on the dashboard and employees can find information for themselves. They can drill down into a purchase order and see what state it's in, whose approval queue it's in. That saved us a lot of time and my accounting department staff’s time. It also helps the managers know that they have information out there that they need to take care of. It puts more accountability and responsibility back onto the staff rather than just in the accounting department itself.
Sage Intacct: What are some of the benefits of using Sage Intacct?
SHA: One of the great things about moving to Sage Intacct has been the ability to operate outside of your desk. You have everything at your fingertips, whether you're on your tablet, your phone or your computer. You're never far away from doing what you need to do to take care of business. We've been on it now for 10 months and my approvers that are approving checks are now approving the checks in Sage Intacct and we're doing electronic signing. It's now clicking down the list of information to approve. So while they were sitting at lunch one day at a meeting off premise they were able to take care of what they needed to so that we could pay bills.
Our financial close has improved considerably with Sage Intacct. Before implementation of Sage Intacct we were reporting on a manual basis. With the exports into Excel we'd create reports. If something were to change after reviewing those reports the process started over again and was extremely time-consuming, not only on my staff's part but my part as a reviewer. With Sage Intacct, that's no longer an issue. We can see onscreen what those reports look like and drill down and identify where there are corrections that need to be made or any adjustments that need to be made. It's really been a great timesaver for us.
One of the other great things about moving to Sage Intacct was the visibility and transparency that it provided us. Now employees or my staff, whoever it might be, has the ability to go into the software and see where something is at any point in time. If someone wanted to know if a vendor was paid, they have that at their fingertips. Through the dashboards that we've built, they have the ability to go in and drill down into that information so that they can correspond with the vendor directly. They could also see if their expense report has been paid. It's always important to know where you are in that process too.
Sage Intacct: Do you have an example of a major improvement that your team has seen since implementing Sage Intacct?
SHA: Prior to the implementation of Sage Intacct our vendor approval process was walking vendor invoices to the specific directors that would approve them. We had yellow folders that we used and that was one of the things that was easy for people to identify whenever it would get lost on their desk is they've got vendor invoices to approve and they're in a yellow folder.
We would take that folder to the individual approving it. If they weren't there, we'd leave it. If they happened to be on vacation, that folder would sit. So my staff would have to round up to go see where that folder was, get the next level up to approve it. All of that took time. Not only time but effort in knowing where those invoices were, or who had them. Walking from floor to floor, office to office, whatever it might be.
If there was an invoice missing we would have to go back and trace our steps to find that invoice again. All of that was fixed whenever we went to Sage Intacct. Those invoices are now attached to a transaction and the approver approves the invoice. No more running up and down steps chasing down yellow folders. I think we may have burned all of our yellow folders.
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Brittany Benson is the Senior Corporate Communications Manager at Sage Intacct.