US Regional Transit Authority Streamlines Procurement
PROACTIS strengthens authorisation controls while improving
Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) provides
public bus transportation throughout the city of Des Moines, Iowa
and nearby communities in surrounding Polk County - an area with
approximately 350,000 residents.
DART operates a fleet of 130+ transit coaches, 25+ smaller
buses, and 90+ vans to support fixed routes, general public
demand-response routes, fixed route deviation services,
complementary paratransit services and a vanpool RideShare program.
Vehicles are both purchased and leased. Maintenance and
administration functions are performed from a central facility.
Most services are operated in-house with a few services contracted
to taxi companies.
In 2009, DART had approximately 260 employees and operating
expenses of $23 million.
Transporting citizens safely, reliably and within budget can be
a significant challenge for public transportation authorities and
operators. Equipment and facilities must be kept in consistently
good working order while managing within tight budgets. The use of
grant funding must be closely controlled and tracked. And accurate
financial information must be provided to a host of agencies and
stakeholders on a regular basis.
When Sharon Cramer took over as DART's new Financial Director,
all this was especially challenging because the organisation's
operational and financial systems were out-dated and ineffective.
Financial reports required extensive use of spreadsheets outside
the main system and took an enormous amount of time and effort to
produce. The purchasing process was completely paper based,
resulting in loose approval processes, poor visibility of purchase
commitments, and frequent delays in urgently needed items.
"Paper requisitions had to be physically taken to someone for
approval. For lots of reasons, they would often sit gathering dust
while, for instance, a bus sat waiting for a part," says Cramer.
"At the same time, our Grant Manager, General Manager, and I did
not have clear visibility of expenses until invoices arrived. That
made it very difficult to manage budgets and produce meaningful
DART decided it was time for a complete systems overhaul and
selected PROACTIS partner TriBridge to implement a comprehensive
new system, including Microsoft Dynamics GP financials, a fleet
maintenance and inventory management system from AssetWorks, and
the PROACTIS spend control and eProcurement solution.
"In terms of purchasing, we knew we wanted a solution that made
the request and approval process electronic instead of paper-based
for a number of reasons," says Cramer. "The things that set
PROACTIS apart were the power of the business rules and workflow
engine, the fact that it's web based, and the way it uses email to
notify the right people when something needs to be acted upon.
Another key capability was the fact that it allows us to allocate
the cost of a single PO line item across multiple accounts. That is
something we often need to do - especially for capital items and
Today, DART is using PROACTIS for the purchase of just about all
goods and services, including inventoried fleet maintenance items.
It is tightly integrated with the Dynamics GP financials, giving
managers direct visibility of GL account, budget, and balance
information when they are approving purchase requests, and passing
electronic payment authorisations to GP once invoices are approved.
Integration with AssetWorks enables that system to automatically
pass inventory requirements to PROACTIS as requisitions which then
follow the prescribed authorisation process. Goods receipts are
entered into PROACTIS and passed automatically to AssetWorks to
show inventory availability.
"We're now able to consistently comply with clearly defined
authorisation rules for all types of purchases based on category,
dollar amount, and other factors," says Cramer. "Once a request is
entered into the system, it's instantly routed to the person(s) who
need to approve it. That may include the General Manager, a
department manager, and/or myself. It also includes our Grant
Manager if it is to be funded by one or more grants."
But improved authorisation control is only part of the benefit.
"Everything is so much faster and easier now," continues Cramer.
"We all love the way PROACTIS uses email to alert us when something
needs to be done, then gives us instant access to all the details
we need to either approve or question the request. Initiators
always know exactly where their request stands and who still needs
to approve it. Our Grant Manager has gotten rid of her spreadsheets
and now rarely needs to revise budgets due to surprises. People who
sometimes work away from their office can even approve requests
from their BlackBerry - our General Manager especially likes that
In Accounts Payable, many invoices are now electronically
matched with the PO and receipt and automatically approved for
payment. When discrepancies are found, invoices are routed via
workflow to the originator for review and approval. Approved
invoices go straight to Dynamics GP for payment.
"With PROACTIS tied into our other systems, we can now control
our budgets on a daily basis, and I can answer just about any
financial question the Commission asks quickly and confidently,"
The productivity improvements from the integration of the new
financial, maintenance, and purchasing systems have been great
enough that DART has been able to avoid what had been a planned
personnel addition within Finance even though operations have grown
significantly over the past couple years. Cramer has also received
kudos from DART's outside auditing firm for how much easier the
PROACTIS audit trail has made their job.
In summarising DART's experience with PROACTIS, Cramer says: "We
are extremely pleased with PROACTIS and the way it's integrated
with our financial and operational systems. It gives us far greater
authorisation controls while making us much more efficient. I would
recommend it to anyone!"