Customer Stories

ARVO Automates Manual Tasks Through BILL's Intelligent Back Office Platform

Research organization has greater visibility into cash flow transactions and trends in addition to significant time savings.

The Customer

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world with over 12,000 researchers from 75 countries and an annual budget of $12m.

The Challenge

With researchers all over the world, the team was dealing with inefficient and time-consuming back-office processes that included walking invoices to 20 approvers around the office and physically writing and signing paper checks. These manual and cumbersome tasks resulted in unnecessary costs for the nonprofit.

The Solution

BILL’s intelligent back office platform automated the approval process, gave ARVO insight into past transactions, and added wire functionality eliminating time-consuming bank runs.

The Benefits

In addition to greater visibility into their cash flow transactions and trends, ARVO has seen significant time savings. The team can now spend more time on employee development, resulting in improved retention.

“In today’s fully remote work environment, BILL and our associated tech stack make operating seamless. Due to disruptions in our programs, we are using BILL to manage our cash flow more strictly. The tools built into BILL allow ARVO to be strategic about how it handles its invoices.”

— Jason Spessard, CFO

ARVO’s Story

When Jason Spessard joined the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) as CFO six years ago, he was surprised with how laborious the accounts payable process was. Each payment required shepherding an invoice through a plethora of different approvers, waiting for signatures, cutting checks which needed to be signed and mailed, and then filing all of the paperwork. One of Spessard’s first priorities was overhauling the paper-inundated back office. With a background in outsourced CFO functions for nonprofits, Spessard has always been on the lookout for systems that deliver greater efficiency and order. BILL checked all of the boxes and seamlessly integrated with their accounting software, Intacct.

The timing was optimal. Not only was Spessard able to completely revamp ARVO’s chart of accounts, but the team decided not to fill an open position because of the improved system efficiencies as a result of the transition. One headcount down and with BILL on board, Spessard and his staff of three are managing all of their previous responsibilities and still save several hours per week due to the automation of many bookkeeping tasks and the reduction in manual processes like filing. Approval workflows have been automated for increased efficiency, greater internal control and visibility, and all approvers now receive BILL-generated reminder emails, improving the time from receiving an invoice to final payment of an invoice. Spessard also offers his colleagues access to payment details such as when an invoice was received, when it was approved, and payment date, allowing them to have a direct and open relationship with vendors so they can bypass the accounting department, which improves vendor relationships. Using BILL also saves ARVO from the pain of hunting for lost invoices, and although some paper invoices are still submitted and scanned into BILL, Spessard invites all vendors to sign up with BILL to enter their own banking details and receive payments, a feature that he really appreciates as he is not handling confidential bank information.

ARVO also uses BILL’s wire transfer capability which reduces the extra step in dealing with their bank wire platform. Audits are another key area where the nonprofit has saved time with Spessard assigning read-only access to the auditors, freeing his team from all of the one-off questions and requests. In addition to time savings and efficiencies, the nonprofit values BILL’s pricing structure, which charges based on the number of transactions, optimal for ARVO’s cyclical and seasonal billing.

Along with BILL, the ARVO tech stack consists of NetForum association management software for member profile management and dues, Intacct accounting software, Paylocity payroll software and a LMS system for online education and content management. BILL was set up for ARVO’s two entities, ARVO and the ARVO Foundation, with all department codes viewable from both entities, eliminating the need to cross charge between the entities.

When Spessard reflects on the benefits that the time and cost savings BILL has afforded his team, in addition to working on more meaningful strategic tasks, one more of the significant outcomes is that Spessard can provide his employees with professional development opportunities, leading to improved employee retention. “The opportunity to invest in my employees and show them that I value their efforts is the cherry on the top,” said Spessard. “In addition, in today’s fully remote work environment, BILL and our associated tech stack make operating seamless. We have the same access we have in the office, and we are also able to use BILL to manage our cash flow more strictly. Disruptions in our programs have led to this necessity and the tools built into BILL allow ARVO to be strategic about how it handles its invoices.”

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