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July 12, 2012


envelopeTo the editor:

I would like to make a correction to my June 28 Senate Matters column, entitled “On paper,” in which I advocated the elimination of paper forms from all internal University processes.

I have been informed that when receipts are faxed to Payment Processing (as part of an online travel and business expense form — a T&B), they are automatically sent directly into an ImageNow imaging system and are linked, via a bar code included in the printed package, to the University’s PRISM system. This means that no paper is sent or maintained in Payment Processing for T&Bs submitted online.

I would like to thank Heather Lynn Lego from Payment Processing for bringing this to my attention and for providing additional information.

However, in my opinion, there is still a lot that can (and should) be done to simplify this and many other University processes using information technology.

For starters, in FY11 only 65 percent of the T&B forms processed by Payment Processing were online. In other words, for 35 percent of the forms (11,534 forms in FY11) a staff member prepared the form on paper (using a computer and a printer), and then another staff member in Payment Processing had to type the information from the paper form into the PRISM system for it to be processed.

Secondly, using a fax machine as the primary method of submitting receipt packages is far from efficient. Resolution of fax machines is subpar compared to modern scanners that are commonplace nowadays and often integrated with copiers. Furthermore, many receipts are now electronic (e.g., in PDF), which necessitates first printing them and then faxing them. Payment Processing already offers an email option, but anecdotal evidence suggests that only about 15-20 percent of T&B requests use it. Fully electronic submission of receipts should be utilized more broadly and the option of uploading files along with the online T&B should be explored.

Finally, one more way to encourage electronic submission is to provide added benefits to end-users, for example to support archiving of receipts for T&B submitters.

Although T&B processing seems to be more electronic than originally described in my previous column, the overall recommendation that the University administration increases its efforts to convert all processes to electronic form still holds. Given the low adoption rate of online T&Bs, it also is crucial that the University community increase its adoption of information technology. It is still my firm belief that when supported by appropriate IT, the University as a whole will be more creative, productive and successful.

Alexandros Labrinidis

Associate professor

Department of Computer Science

Co-director, Advanced Data Management Technologies Lab

Co-chair, University Senate computer usage committee


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