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Since the fall of 2022, Stanford Financial Management Services (FMS) has been making continuous improvements to the Accounts Payable (AP) invoice holds workflow functionality and system notifications in response to feedback from the fall 2021 FMS Client Satisfaction Survey. Challenges with the invoice payment process and confusion about workflow notifications were a top concern cited by the university community. 

Current improvements on invoice hold notifications (June 2023 to February 2024)

On Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, FMS completed improvements to the description in the Hold Reason field that displays in the Requisition and Purchase Order query tool as well enhancements to the invoice hold notification emails to ensure they contain more actionable information and improved timing for recipients. 

Hold Reason Enhancements

For the most common invoice holds, the Hold Reason description was clarified and updated so that preparers, financial approvers, and PTA owners can quickly and efficiently understand the reason for the hold and access resources to help them take actions to release it. 

Please note: The prior Hold Reason description will display for invoices put on hold and released before Feb. 26, 2024. 

There are also numerous invoice holds that do not prompt a hold notification email because they are typically resolved within two to fifteen business days by Accounts Payable, or in conjunction with another department. For these types of invoice holds that generally do not require action, the Hold Reason was simplified and streamlined to specify required actions only if the hold is not resolved after a certain number of days after the invoice hold date (see screenshot below of where to locate the invoice hold date in the Requisition and Purchase Orders Query tool).  

Screenshot of invoice upload functionality and new drop down menus to support entering the correct non-sponsored Project, Task, and Award


Refer to Resource: Managing Invoice Holds for an at-a-glance table of all the Hold Reasons that display in the Requisition and Purchase Order Query tool, what each hold means, and actions required to release the hold. 

Invoice Hold Notification Email Improvements

Based on focus group input, FMS completed improvements to invoice hold notification emails on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 to ensure the following:

  • More actionable information: Invoice hold notifications have the most relevant information for recipients to act on.
  • Improved timing and recipients: The invoice hold notifications are initially sent to recipients (e.g., requisition preparer, department uploader, financial approver, PTA owners etc.) who can take the most immediate action rather than recipients who may not be able to take action. 

The table below outlines the improvements that were made to the invoice hold notification emails:

Type of invoice hold Previous Process New Process
All invoice holds Approvers previously received all invoice hold notification emails when invoices were initially placed on hold, with follow-up alerts at 7 (seven)-day intervals until the hold was resolved.

Improved timing and recipients
Approvers will only receive invoice hold notification emails after 28 days to allow sufficient time for the purchase order preparer (or department uploader, see row below) to take the necessary actions to resolve the hold. 

Preparers and department uploaders will still receive an initial invoice hold notification email, with follow-up alerts at 7 (seven)-day intervals until the hold is resolved. 

Please note: If the approver and the preparer or department uploader are the same user, the approver will receive an initial invoice hold notification email, but they will not receive duplicate notifications or alerts. 

All invoice holds In rare cases, departments will upload invoices on behalf of suppliers. Previously, department uploaders did not receive invoice hold notifications.

Improved timing and recipients
Department uploaders will now receive an initial invoice hold notification with follow-up alerts at seven (7)-day intervals.

Please note: If the department uploader is the same user as the preparer or approver, they will not receive duplicate invoice hold notifications or alerts. 

All invoice holds The names of the purchase requisition preparer, department uploader, and the approvers were not included in the body text of the invoice hold notification email. More actionable information
The names of the purchase requisition preparer, department uploader, and the approvers will be added to the body text of the invoice hold notification email.
All invoice holds There is no direct link to the Invoice Details pages in the Requisition and Purchase Order Query tool  from the invoice hold notification email. More actionable information
The Invoice Number referenced in the invoice hold notification email will provide a direct link to the Invoice Details pages in the Requisition and Purchase Order Query tool. 
All invoice holds The Hold Date and Hold Reason were not included within the invoice hold notification email. 

More actionable information
The Hold Date and Hold Reason are now included in the invoice hold notification email for easy reference. 

Insufficient funds PTA owners received an invoice hold notification after 30 days Improved timing and recipients and more actionable information
  • PTA owners will only receive an invoice hold notification after 60 days. The preparer and department uploader will continue to receive an initial notification and follow-up alerts at seven-day intervals. 
  • The Actions Required section of the notification was updated to provide best practices for adding funds to a PO
PO with invalid PTA (related to insufficient funds)   More actionable information
The Actions Required section of the notification was updated to provide best practices for adding funds to a PO.
PO with invalid PTA (related to closed or unavailable PTA)   More actionable information
The Actions Required section of the notification was updated to note that submitting a change order requisition is required for PTA changes on invoices with an “on hold” status. Refer to How To: Change a PTA on an Approved Purchase Order for more information.  
Invoices > $5,000 require approval by preparer or financial approver. The department uploader does not receive a notification for invoices over $5,000 that need department approval because the preparer or the financial approver must take actions to release the hold. 

Improved timing and recipients
The department uploader will now receive an FYI invoice hold notification email. 

Please note: This department uploader will not receive an FYI invoice hold notification email if they are also the purchase order preparer or an approver. 

Future discovery effort to evaluate invoice hold tolerances to reduce administrative burden

FMS is reviewing the current thresholds for required department approval (e.g., invoices over $5,000) to identify any opportunities to adjust these controls in a way that would still preserve effective risk mitigation and reduce administrative burden.

Resources

Stay tuned to this project page for news, updates, and for links to resources and materials to support these improvements. In addition, you can learn more in the following ways:

  • Refer to the Topic Overview: Purchase Order Invoice Processing, which includes a table of the most common invoice holds and actions required to release the hold. 
  • View Resource: Managing Invoice Holds, which provides an at-a-glance table of the most common invoice hold notifications and actions required. This Resource page also includes descriptions of invoice holds that do not prompt a hold notification email and typically do not require action, but may display in the Hold Reason field of the Requisition and Purchase Orders query tool. 
  • Subscribe to Purchasing and Contracts Updates and Hot Topics page to receive email news and announcements.
  • Follow our Slack channel, #Stanford-FMS-news, for ongoing updates and more.
  • Check the Procurement Services Events page for upcoming AP-related information sessions and office hours 
  • Contact the project lead, Gil Hoh, AP Manager, Procurement Services 

Updated the most common invoice holds
The initial improvements to the invoice hold resolution process included updating notifications about the seven most common AP invoice holds to clarify the hold’s purpose and the actions required to release the hold. 

These improved notifications, along with several process improvements to how holds are generated and tracked, made it easier for departments to review and take appropriate action so that AP can release common invoice holds without requiring support from the Financial Support Center, resulting in easier hold resolution and invoice processing and payment.

Additionally, an at-a-glance table of the most common invoice hold notifications and actions required was added to the Topic Overview: Purchase Order Invoice Processing. Language in the How To: Release Invoice Holds was also updated.

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