Heritage Propane, like most other SAP customers, was excited about the broad efficiencies and automation benefits it was realizing from its SAP ERP implementation in 2004. But there was one process that the propane distributor just couldn’t seem to streamline.
When the company’s more than 500 sales locations submitted their month-end activity files, they typically needed some adjustments, including reconciliations and updated payroll entries, before the files could be entered into the ERP system. In many cases, the general ledger entries were done on paper first and then manually entered into SAP ERP Financials by any one of up to 20 different people authorized to post entries. With that many people posting entries, there were broad inconsistencies in entry descriptions.
Tim Curtin, IT Project Manager at Heritage Propane and 18-year veteran of the company, was head of the accounting department during this period. According to Curtin, entry descriptions could be as vague as “reclassification,” with no further detail or documentation on why an entry was being reclassified. At best, a print-out of a Microsoft Excel file would be stapled to the paper entry in a drawer, but more often it meant chasing down the right people and paperwork before the entry could be approved.
“I was on the lookout for a solution to drive more consistency into our financial processes.”
— Tim Curtin, IT Project Manager, Heritage Propane
“It took a lot more work to find the necessary documentation to review and confirm those entries,” he says. “And our Vice President of Finance was getting frustrated with the state of our general ledger entries. I was always on the lookout for a solution to drive more consistency into our processes, but for a long time we thought this was the only way to do it.”
In 2007, Curtin found what he was looking for. While at an SAP-focused conference, he discovered Z Option’s GLSU spreadsheet interface and was impressed with not only its core functionality, but also its ability to attach supporting documentation to corresponding entries in SAP ERP Financials. Curtin then set up a detailed demonstration of the solution, which he presented to the executive team at Heritage Propane, and soon thereafter received approval to license GLSU.
Now Heritage Propane posts all general ledger entries through GLSU, and the company also tapped its internal GLSU “super users” to design templates that have driven much more consistency in how entries are made.
“We also require that users attach any supporting documentation to that template and store it within the ERP system,” says Curtin. “So for entries that reclassify invoices, users attach an invoice to the entry so they can see where it was originally coded and why it was reclassified.”
GLSU has provided some “soft” benefits as well. For one, Heritage Propane’s financial processes now involve a lot less paper, which is both a cost savings and a process advantage.
“Another benefit we recently discovered is that our Controller can approve journal entries via email,” says Curtin. “The accountants can email her the entry, and when she approves it, that email is attached to the entry inside the SAP system. That’s huge because in the past, at the end of the month, the accountants would bring anything that needed approval in hardcopy format. Now, they don’t need to wait until the end of the month; they can do it as entries arise. And the auditors like that it’s all documented.”