Payment Processing: Better Tools Provide Better Results

Payment Processing: Better Tools Provide Better ResultsIt’s been said that a craftsman is only as good as his tools. The same can be said about tax processors.

Since its 1835 creation by the Texas provisional government, the State Comptroller of Public Accounts (CPA) has seen taxes come and go, tax laws and regulations change and the volume of tax payments fluctuate. And more recently, the agency has seen a significant change in the tools available to process those tax payments. 

The Comptroller’s office is the steward of Texas state finances, serving as tax collector, chief accountant, chief revenue estimator and chief treasurer for state government. Add to this several other programs administered by the agency, and you get a sense of the substantial workload faced by employees day in and day out.  

In 2000, the Comptroller’s office acquired what was, at the time, a state-of-the-art enterprise content management (ECM) system, several Kodak scanners, OMATION envelope openers and a handful of DeLaRue document counters. The agency still conducted much of its payment processing manually, due to the nature of the work and the available equipment. Employees opened envelopes, removed payments and coupons, sorted and batched them, then scanned and entered data by hand. 

New Tools

In 2015, the Comptroller’s office found itself with an aging ECM system stretched to its capacity. Among other challenges, the system didn’t allow the agency to take advantage of single-pass check processing offered by Check 21. Knowing it was time to upgrade its tools, CPA published a request for proposals to improve both its ECM and its payment processing equipment.     

Data Bank’s response proposed that, in conjunction with its solution, the agency should consider partnering with OPEX Corporation to acquire new and more efficient tools.  

Data Bank’s recommendation incorporated an entirely new ECM system that would automate much of CPA’s manual workflow, allow for digital tracking of document retention and destruction rules and minimize manual data entry. The original hardware would consist of seven OPEX 7200 scanners, updated a few years later to FalconV universal document scanning workstations, devices that can simultaneously capture quality images of checks, associated MICR data and all documents found within a transaction, such as payment coupons and any attached correspondence. The OPEX and Data Bank solutions also could take advantage of Check 21 processing, entirely eliminating a cumbersome step.  

Bigger Savings 

This solution has dramatically improved CPA’s workflow, reduced turnaround times and provided significant cost savings. In just three years: 

•    Data entry (as measured in keystrokes) has been reduced by nearly 60 percent. 
•    Data processing times have been cut by more than half, from 77 to just 28 hours.  
•    The time needed to process payments has fallen from 9.6 to 7.25 hours. 

Moreover, the implementation of Check 21 has slashed the agency’s check processing costs and made the process more straightforward and cost-effective. 

OPEX products have generated significant cost savings and increased efficiency for CPA. Since the project began in 2015: 

•    Full-time staffing needs have fallen by 16 percent, from 96 to 81 employees.
•    Reliance on temporary labor during peak times has fallen by 99 percent.
•    Costs for temporary staffing have decreased dramatically, from $172,000 to $1,860.

Better Results

Additionally, the one-touch process unique to OPEX hardware has significantly enhanced document integrity and security. Each document is only handled once from the envelope to electronic imaging, in contrast to nearly 30 touches and handoffs involved in the previous system. This has cut overall processing time in half.  

Since integrating the Falcon scanners into its process, the Comptroller’s office has dramatically reduced the time it takes to develop new forms for each of its programs. Under the old process, creating and testing new forms could require up to several months; today, the process takes mere days to complete.  As a result, the agency is more agile and responsive to its customers’ needs. 

“The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, with the implementation of its new Enterprise Content Management System, is well-positioned for current and future operations,” says Ches Stubblefield, a Comptroller program specialist. “The new system consists of modern, up-to-date hardware, software and scanning equipment, and is readily supportable by agency staff for both upgrades and new applications. Significant cost savings in staff hours and new innovations such as our Check 21 system have been achieved.”