The Project

NEXT Academy is an online community for coders in Southeast Asia to assist young developers in learning new languages and state-of-the-art techniques while giving them the necessary tools to work with. They are a rapidly growing community with profuse interaction of the internal staff with overseas clients.

The Challenge

A lot of traveling was involved for the internal staff and the employee expense report was done manually by processing paper receipts and reports. This took a persistent amount of time for processing the authorizations and reimbursements. Managing employee expense reports proved to be a daunting task as the accountants found themselves in a constant battle with a lot of paperwork to file and scan. The backlog of the unprocessed reports was growing bigger every day and the efforts of the financial officers were being wasted.

The Solution

NEXT Academy and our team discussed the improvements in their internal workflow by developing an automated, web-based solution. As their backlog of unprocessed reports was growing bigger every day, it was decided that the solution to the problem was going paperless.

The following points illustrate the initial target for the app:

  • Understand their goals and objectives.
  • Find a medium for the employees to submit claims and expenses.
  • Simplify the reporting process.
  • Give managers the ability to quickly process the reports.

The above targets were analyzed and a proper schematic was proposed which included building visualizations and providing actionable metrics to track the data.

The following methods were incorporated into the solution:

  • Trello was used to manage the project collaboration as it helped in quick response to feature requests and kept the conversation organized.
  • Ruby was used to code the project along with the robust Rails framework.
  • For the deployment of the model, Heroku was used.
  • amCharts were used for visualization of the claims and graphing of the total expenses.
  • Usage of an SMTP relay through Sendgrid, enabled the employees to send their claims to an admin-customizable company email, which would then auto-upload the attachments to the system.

The solution was divided into various phases where bi-weekly meetings were set up with NEXT’s HR manager to discuss iteration of each phase.

At the initial phase, the priority was given to the critical functionality. Creation of a basic user interface enabled employees to initiate a claim and upload relevant attachments. The approved claim was sent to the finance officer for final appraisal and payment and the system used the result by tracking the figures, to update records in the database. This, in turn, helped in solving the problem of unnecessary paperwork and the slow speed of processing.

The next phase focused on optimizing, streamlining, and providing more useful functionality.

The Results

Internal research shows that claims made through the app were more than 70% faster to process than paper reports. Access to the metrics such as amCharts, we were able to improve the quality and speed of their audits and budgeting.

The application has a  versatile design and scalable architecture. If the product is further developed, other companies will be able to benefit from a SaaS version in the future.

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