Expense reimbursements go paperless July 1

Author: Gail Hinchion Mancini

The University is phasing out the expense reimbursement paper form by July 1, in favor of the online expense reporting system found at travel.nd.edu. John Affleck-Graves, executive vice president, announced the change in a letter to the campus community in early March.

A robust training and support system is in place to help manage the transition, and a new certification program is helping place Super Users throughout the campus to mentor faculty and staff as they learn the system. More than 400 faculty and staff already have been trained to use travelND. New users can be trained by going to endeavor.nd.edu and searching “travel” or “expense.”

The electronic expense reporting process manages all expenses—travel, entertainment and other business expenses—and is a feature of the new travelND program introduced last fall.

A cutting-edge tool, Concur, allows travelers to book their plans and file expense information online in a way that streamlines the approval process and merges travel and expense data. The Concur tool provides the same streamlined input and approval process for non-travel expenses.

Early adopters of travelND, such as Sarah Greene, associate director of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), have embraced the experience with enthusiasm.

“The efficiency impressed my department immediately,” said Greene, whose colleagues travel the country to visit schools where ACE teachers are assigned.

ACE travelers soon discovered such advantages as being able to capture and file receipts by using a smartphone application. “We complete expense reports in the airport while we’re waiting for connecting flights,” she said. “When we’ve returned, we find the reimbursement in the bank.”

In Accounts Payable, where reimbursement forms are processed, most phone calls are inquiries from staff or faculty concerning the status of their reimbursements. Under the online system, users can track the reimbursement process from approval through payment, Paul VanDieren, assistant controller of Payment and Procurement Services, said.

Each year, the University manages 22,000 reimbursement requests through a paper process that included multiple steps in photocopying, document delivery, clerical filing and, ultimately, approval. With each report requiring numerous attachments and multiple copies, the electronic system is expected to save nearly 400,000 sheets of paper, the equivalent of 800 reams or 100 trees, according to Erin Hafner, Office of Sustainability program manager.

The online system is more adept at providing prompts that will ensure the reimbursement request is compliant. “In the past, the report might make it all the way to Accounts Payable office before someone discovered a missing element,” VanDieren said. “Both the approval and the check and balance process are speeding reimbursements to faculty and staff.”