Six Benefits of Workflow Automation in Upstream Oil & Gas Accounting12/19/2018
In upstream oil and gas accounting, the pursuit of efficiency is never ending. Manual processes lead to wasted time, forgotten actions, and miscommunication. With an automated workflow, however, your accounting department can streamline many processes and all but eliminate time challenges.
Join us as we discuss six benefits of using automation that allow accountants to accomplish more in less time and provide them the freedom to focus on important tasks.
As companies grow, it’s only natural for stress around undocumented processes to increase. Here are some common stressors surrounding scalability:
- Sending the proper notifications to the proper recipients
- If an employee who holds the knowledge leaves the company, they take the institutional knowledge with them – leaving the company in the dark.
- The inability to scale faster than one or two people at a time.
If processes are documented as part of a workflow tool, a new employee can understand both the steps and their importance – therefore, rapid growth isn’t hampered as you bring on new employees.
With a workflow tool, it’s easy to scale up, scale down, and keep process integrity. A team may start small, such as an approval process, then scale up by adding delegation authority, system connections, or audit tracking.
Accountants generally rely on standard processes to accomplish their tasks but can still arrive at the end of the month to find that everything is off. How does this happen?
A vital step was missed.
Reconciliation is a fundamental piece of modern accounting that requires matching entries. If you discover unmatched entries after processing all joint interest billing (JIB), you’ll need to reprocess and reverse JIB, or even distribution, due to those uncaught errors. Getting it done right the first time is the only efficient way.
An automated workflow ensures that steps aren’t being skipped, regardless of the ever-present time crunch and unplanned work that can arise.
Without a workflow tool, a JIB audit – where you need to provide three years’ worth of JIB in specific months on certain wells – can take days to track down the necessary information, scan, and then return. You can save significant time, disruption, and work when preparing for an audit with a well-defined workflow.
You can provide auditors with everything (reports, source documents on accounts payable invoices that are billable, JIB deck set ups and changes, approvals, etc.) upfront because of the ability to capture all key documents in one place as part of the process. You’ll also have the ability to define and label output files in an organized manner for easy access. You can then search the files you need without putting paper in binders, hunting for printouts, and making copies for auditors.
This decreases time spent in the file room looking for needed paperwork, chasing down documents from colleagues, and talking with people in other departments about a deck change. It provides a clear line of sight into who, what, when, where, and why, and can scale audit preparation time down from weeks to hours.
Incomplete process documentation is a real challenge for many oil and gas accounting departments. If the knowledge of a process is in someone’s head and not fully written out, what happens if they are out of the office for an extended period of time or retire?
Many accounting departments use manual checklists to ensure a process is being followed, but these checklists usually don’t tell what outcome to look for. What if there are any variances? Is that variance within an approved percentage? Perhaps the variance is a retuned check and the books are now off by the amount of the check. If the step to review outstanding checks is skipped, you would never know and could spend hours trying to reconcile the amounts.
Use these checklists to create your own automated workflow – you can even automate that the variance be within an approved percentage prior to moving to the next step! This all becomes part of the process documentation and audit trail. Instead of spending time processing data, time can be used to improve processes and costs, create new projects, etc.
Reducing Repetitive Tasks
Let’s take a look at material transfer data entry. If you have 20 material transfers, then you must enter the data in five different screens for each transfer. That is 100 screens! And just for the accountant! This doesn’t include what the warehouse or field must enter.
Imagine what it would be like to enter this data only once and have it directly posted in each necessary place. You can have one area of record with a workflow that pushes the data to the necessary systems. This way, you’re entering data once and the workflow integrates the different systems, like land, accounting, production, forecasting, reporting, etc.
Another repetitive and time-consuming task is sending emails and alerts. Workflow automates sending alerts to the necessary people when something happens within the system, such as a gathering system being unlocked, accounts payable checks being run, or a manual journal entry ready for approval.
Reduction of Human Error
Human error happens more than we’d like to admit, and in ways that aren’t always obvious. As systems become more connected, the potential for inaccurate data decreases.
A workflow can minimize entry errors by reducing ‘fat fingering’ or transposing numbers when using data that already lives in the database. With a workflow, errors can be caught during the approval step before any data makes it into the system of record. This helps standardize data since it’s entered into the system only once and then pushed to multiple applications for processing or reporting.
Another benefit of an automated workflow is efficiency in data checks. If an accountant runs a multi-page report to look at all journal entries and manually checks the data entered against what was posted, variances can still be missed – such as the wrong GL account, wrong Authorization for Expense (AFE), missing AFE, wrong JIB deck, etc.
Data checks run through a workflow, however, will automatically look for any variances. If there are no variances, no manual check needs to be done. If there is a variance, it’s easy to find, fix, and approve prior to posting.
Why Choose Workflow Automation
It’s safe to say that automated workflows make the lives of those who work in oil and gas accounting departments easier. Not only do they save you time by lessening the amount of rework and creating an easier audit preparation process, but they also improve efficiencies by allowing you to use your time to find cost reductions rather than run processes. Your organization can go from getting the bare minimum done just to operate, to a place where they have better insight and visibility into the health of the company. Using an automated workflow has allowed some organizations to cut hours, even days, off manual processes due to less time scanning, double data entry, reprocessing, printing, emailing, or checking for data errors. Why not have your oil and gas organization join them?
About The Author
Brandi Greek, Product Manager of P2 Workflow, joined the P2 Energy Solutions team three years ago, after spending numerous years as an accountant in the oil and gas industry. She devotes her days at P2 to devising ways to make the day-to-day lives of our customers easier with automated workflows. While Brandi is a Denver native, her love of travel has led her to spending some time living in South Korea and New Orleans – but will always call Denver home.