ESB Networks has over 2,500 staff who submit a timesheet containing overtime, allowance and costing information weekly. Processing and reporting on this was proving time consuming for the finance team, they needed to streamline this process,
The Inpute team leveraged intelligent capture and workflow skills to deliver a solution that captures, validates and exports both payroll and costing data from 2,500 handwritten timesheets weekly.
“The system is very good. We’ve had to do some modifications along the way for minor things and Inpute responded to that very well.”
Payroll systems development manager, ESB
Given the nature of the business, ESB Networks has over 2,500 staff who work in the field maintaining and enhancing the electricity network. Every week, each staff member submits a time sheet containing overtime, allowance and costing information.
The ESB’s payroll and costing teams faced a number of challenges. The organisation wished to centralise its four geographically dispersed payroll offices. Its offices were at the time located in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Sligo. In addition to calculating payroll data accurately, the company also needed to produce cost centre information. With the electricity sector now regulated, ESB Networks needed to produce a financial report on all the tasks undertaken by cost centres.
At the time ESB were using timesheets which were completed manually, verified and sent to the appropriate pay office. This was hectic, physically challenging work that spanned the week. Payrolls would be run every Tuesday and payroll, costing and allowance data would be inputted manually from Friday to Monday.
“The centralisation of Networks payroll operations to one location presented a number of challenges”, said Billy Boland, payroll systems development manager. “There was the physical job of keying in the information and the utilisation of the knowledge of the people in the four separate offices. Now all of that was going to be needed in one office and we had approximately 2,500 timesheets to get through on a really tight time schedule.”
ESB Networks soon realised that this would be an impossible task to get all the timesheets delivered unless it allocated extra staff, so it began to look at alternatives.
After considering outsourcing the data entry function, ESB decided to use a scanning solution and visited a number of companies engaged in that market.
At the end of that process ESB selected Inpute and their recommended solution. Inpute began the process of writing the specification and assisting the ESB redesign the timesheet to maximise the benefits of intelligent capture technologies.
The specifications for the timesheet had to be done in such a way that the rules and knowledge of the process could be automated. This was vitally important as these details ensured the correct payments were made. The specifications also included validation of payroll rules and being able to determine what time is overtime, double time, time and a half and so on. In addition, the costing data had to be accurate to ensure correct and valid data would be submitted to the regulator.
We had to increase the detail and accuracy in the allocation of costs to support a regulatory environment whereby program reporting to the regulator is a critical business requirement. So with that in mind we had to have two steams of activity; one payroll stream and one costing stream.
“I’d say the specification write-up, analysis and documentation from Inpute was excellent”, said Boland. He also admitted that previously the costing output would not have been a dominant issue, as staff payment would have been given the highest priority in a narrow processing time window. While recognising the above constraints and a lack of automation, the business decided the new system would have to reinforce costing rigour.
The whole project was a technical challenge for ESB and Inpute as it involved using three different servers and multiple databases platforms including Oracle. Initial hardware and software issues were ironed out and with Inpute in full support mode the project moved along and has had a few adjustments since the initial completion.
ESB Networks timesheet capture solution now takes full advantage of forms recognition technology. Weekly timesheets are scanned between Monday and Tuesday at ESB s payroll centre in Dublin. Once scanned, data from each form is extracted using ICR (hand writing recognition). Characters that cannot be read by the system or data that fails business logic (for example an invalid cost code or staff number) are flagged for review by the relevant team. Payroll related fields are marked for review locally while costing data is reviewed by the Limerick and Cork based costing team.
In addition to producing validated cost centre data, the solution also calculates and exports to ESBs payroll system validated payroll data including overtime and allowances. Timesheet images and their associated indexes are exported to the Inpute document server to facilitate future retrieval.
Management information and audit logs are available from the system via a thin client interface.
The result is a solution that captures, validates and exports both payroll and costing data from 2,500 handwritten timesheets, within the weekly payroll processing window. “The system is very good. We’ve had to do some modifications along the way for minor things and Inpute responded to that very well”, said Boland.
“The reporting functionality of this solution was a vital part of this project. As the cost centres were spread across several locations they needed a centralised single source of data. This functionality involved a seamless integration with existing systems to pull accurate data.”
Director of client services @ Inpute