Docs system pays off for emergency services

Queensland's Department of Emergency Services (DES) has achieved a complete ROI on a year-old integrated document management system, which has dramatically reduced the agency's costs for document delivery to its suppliers.

Based in Brisbane, the DES employs 7100 staff and 70,000 volunteers across eight regional offices. The agency provides services to manage natural and national emergencies and disasters, delivering them through fire, ambulance and counter-disaster and rescue services.

As part of a broad e-business strategy to move as many staff and vendors as possible to an electronic funds transfer (EFT) system for accounts reconciliation, the department deployed a document management solution -- the DeliveryWare Platform by French document solution firm Esker Software -- to streamline the agency's postal and document management workflow.

The key driver for the project was to enable the agency to deliver remittance advices and purchase orders more quickly to its suppliers than a manual funds transfer would allow, and thus at lower cost.

The software platform integrates specifically with the department's SAP ERP environment.

"Once the DES had the SAP platform in place, the Esker solution was the icing on the cake. It enables them to send documents and invoices automatically, and reduces the costs and time involved in that process," said James Elkington, managing director of Esker Software Australia.

He said the platform has cut transaction costs involved in faxing and posting paper documents substantially and also reduced staff time spent faxing, posting and filing.

The product was initially installed as a printer on the SAP side, making integration with the SAP environment quick and easy, he said. The implementation took two days. After some configuration by Esker's SAP consultants the whole process was finished within a week, DES director of finance Gary Taylor said.

Taylor said because the implementation was so simple, the agency could distribute SAP-generated documents more efficiently, leaving DES to focus on other e-business initiatives. The system also sends instant notification of payments, such as expense reimbursements, to a user's account.

Ambulance service staff also use the system to deliver all internal ambulance call centre communications across the agency at a faster rate than before.

Management of the system lies mainly with staff rather than IT, which has helped to boost employee efficiency, DES officials said.

"There was no need for any major user training at the backend because the implementation was no-fuss. It freed staff for more productive tasks rather than processing invoices and documents manually," Elkington added.

Since bringing the supplier payment process online through DeliveryWare, the percentage of suppliers and staff paid through EFT has jumped from 44 to 80 per cent.

The platform was implemented in November 2001 and sends 4000 documents a month.

The initial cost of the solution was $50,000, which covers the automation of one business process.

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