The UMBC Purchasing Card Program, part of the State of Maryland’s p-card program, allows departments to make small purchases (less than $5,000) quickly and easily. Although the adoption of this program reduced the amount of paperwork and processing time required for such purchases, the UMBC Department of Procurement and Strategic Sourcing (Procurement) is still required to strictly enforce the State’s policies and procedures for purchasing cards. This means that each application, agreement, and authorization must follow its own strict approval sequence to include the appropriate department head, as well as approvers from Procurement and Financial Services.
When the approvals were captured on a paper form, the signing process was quite an ordeal. Executive Director of Procurement & Strategic Sourcing Elizabeth Moss regretted the inefficiency and inconvenience of the need for staff to hand carry documents to each signer, often leaving the form to wait among dozens of other forms on the signer’s desk, before finally having each completed form filed away with the hope that it could be located if it was ever needed. The cost of paper and ink for printing all of these forms, when combined with the time spent transporting, storing, and retrieving countless documents, made it apparent that Procurement needed a more efficient solution.
As a result, Procurement turned to DocuSign, the electronic signature and digital workflow platform that UMBCs Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has integrated with the business processes of numerous departments on campus. This automated system eliminates as much excess as possible while simultaneously injecting a modest amount of urgency into the process in order to boost compliance.
DocuSign does more than just create electronic versions of paper forms. It also enables users to create digital envelopes that will travel via secure email along a predetermined signing route. Each signer just clicks on the “View Document” button and is transferred directly to the form, where they are guided through each required field in their portion of the form. Once they have signed, the form is automatically sent to the next signer in the workflow, during which the initiator may track the form as it progresses and view timestamps recorded when each signer viewed and submitted their section. When the form is completed, each signer gets another email allowing them to review the completed document, which can be automatically uploaded to a specified Box cloud folder and sent to a designated Request Tracker queue.
Using this tool, Procurement can fine tune the process to be as efficient as possible. Senders can specify the exact information each signer needs to provide while offering tooltips to clarify each field when necessary. Senders also can always see where the form is in the workflow and send reminders in order to rush a particularly time sensitive form.
“Typically, people don’t immediately sign every paper document as soon as it reaches their desk. Most will wait until they have reached a stopping point with their electronic work to turn to those papers that have accumulated in their inbox. With DocuSign, people are much more likely to approve the form quickly since they can sign it electronically as soon as it reaches them through email, and send it on its way immediately,” Moss explains. “This allows us to promptly act upon the information in whatever way needed by the card holder.”
By taking a sizeable chunk of their purchasing card paperwork out of the process, Procurement has made a big step towards a more streamlined and sustainable workflow for p-cards.
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