UBC Reports | Vol. 53 | No. 4 | Apr. 5, 2007
Employee Innovation Spins off as Smart Forms
By Brian Lin
A UBC staff innovation that has drastically cut the turnaround time for expense claims is now the basis of the university’s latest spin-off company.
Smart Forms Software Inc. was established last fall by former UBC Financial Services Director Neil Kelly with help from the University Industry Liaison Office (UILO). It is only the second spin-off company (out of 120 to date) arising from an invention by staff.
Frustrated with mountains of paperwork and duplicate procedures -- which led to faculty, staff and vendors having to wait as long as three months for their expenses to be reimbursed -- Kelly and five colleagues from Financial Services put their heads together and developed software specifically tailored to meet the needs of a large academic institution.
“Our full-time staff of seven, typically supplemented by one or two temps, used to handle approximately 10,000 cheque and travel requisitions a month by reviewing hard-copy claims and entering the information into the Peoplesoft Financial System,” says Kelly. “Smart Forms allows employees to enter their expense claims directly on the web and it automatically checks for errors and initiates direct deposits into the claimant’s bank accounts.
“Funds can now be returned to claimants -- in some cases, students who don’t have a lot of wiggle room in their monthly budget -- within a week, not to mention the environmental benefits of a paperless process.”
The software is so easy and efficient to use that within the first couple of months, more than 500 accounting administrators across campus voluntarily adopted the system and more than 50 per cent of all UBC cheques and financial requisitions are now being submitted and issued electronically.
“There is similar software out there in the marketplace but nothing that quite fit the needs of a large-scale academic institution like UBC,” says Kelly. “Our employees are engaged in unique activities and are funded through various sources. The software is designed specifically with the academic environment in mind and is highly customizable to suit the needs of its users.”
Smart Forms Software Inc. is continuing to develop the software for broader commercial application.