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New Tool For Business Expense Reimbursement
Durham, NC - A new online travel reimbursement tool makes it faster, more convenient and more cost effective to reimburse Duke faculty and staff for out-of-pocket business expenses.
Forty units across Duke University and Duke University Health System have implemented the new online reimbursement process for business related expenses. Every school, department and unit at Duke will switch to the new process by the end of this year.
"We've been rolling out the new process to about a dozen new units each month," said Barbara Holbrook, manager of Employee Travel and Reimbursement, who oversees the initiative. "Reimbursement can touch everyone at Duke, so we want to make sure the implementation goes smoothly."
Rosemarie Ellis, a fiscal specialist for the Duke Clinical Research Institute, known as DCRI, was one of the early adopters.
"I put in my reimbursement request for parking, mileage and supplies purchased for training classes on a Wednesday afternoon. Less than two hours later, the trip was approved and by Monday the money was already in my bank account," Ellis said.
The new online process does away with paper spreadsheets and streamlines reimbursement by replacing original receipts with digital scans attached to the new electronic form. Staff and faculty are able to complete the form anywhere with internet access, allowing for easy tracking of daily expenses. Once submitted, the electronic form is reviewed and approved using the Duke@Work portal.
The Employee Travel and Reimbursement team handles approximately 6,500 requests for reimbursement each month. The new online process allows the team to focus on auditing the forms for compliance with policies and results in a faster turnaround time for reimbursement.
Routing the form electronically for approval eliminates the time-consuming delivery of paper forms from office to office for signatures. However, the greatest efficiencies in the process are the elimination of duplicate data entry by the Employee Travel and Reimbursement team and the convenience of having electronically stored documents available to departments.
The new tool has been well received by faculty and staff. According to Heidi Halstead, business manager for the Department of Music, the speed of reimbursement is a key benefit of the program. However, having documents online also allows faculty and staff to easily review expense reports and track the approval process.
"We are using so much less paper than we used to for reimbursements," Halstead said. "I love it."
Halstead served on the 16-member advisory committee that worked with the designers of the new system to make it as simple as possible for faculty and staff, while meeting the complicated needs of the university.
Suggestions from the advisory team included use of user-friendly terms instead of accounting terms, de-cluttering the screen by reducing the number of buttons and providing input on the frequency of email notifications sent to people who need to approve forms online.
"I commend the Employee Travel and Reimbursement office for including people in the front lines in the planning of this whole transition," Halstead said. "This was a case of Duke functioning at its best."
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