The Boston Red Sox has to deal with some unusual challenges, including conquering a Green Monster of an accounting system.

The baseball team has been taking steps to automate its invoicing processes. I talked recently with director of finance Ryan Oremus about how the team’s accounting process has been escaping the avalanche of paper invoices, which are only really enjoyable during a ticker tape parade.

External vendors can now send invoices to an Internet site that the Sox have set up. Accounting staff receive an electronic copy of an invoice and it is passed through to an internally developed Microsoft SharePoint site for approval and comments. The electronic invoice then automatically feeds into the Red Sox general ledger system, and a check is cut for the invoice.

“The goal, which we’re still working on, is that no paper is ever created,” said Oremus. “The invoice is electronically able to be approved and have a check cut on it without ever having to print out another piece of paper.”

The team has been on the system for over a month now, and Oremus noted that his desk is getting a little cleaner. For existing paperwork, the team has been using Nuance’s eCopy PaperWorks software to turn scanned paper documents, including huge telephone bills, into searchable PDF files.

Users don’t have to print out multiple copies of the invoices. They can go to the SharePoint site whenever they want to access them. There were challenges with putting together the system, including how much flexibility to build in to accommodate variations in invoices, and accustoming the staff to the new system. “Getting user adoption is our biggest challenge right now,” said Oremus.

In some ways, the Red Sox does not differ from other organizations that have to process payroll, pay vendors, collect money, and publish financial statements. “We’re very similar to any company, whether baseball or not,” said Oremus.

However, he acknowledged that the Red Sox face some unique challenges. The seasonality of baseball sometimes can be a challenge, as is trying to track all ticket sales down to the individual ticket level. The team also has to tax the players in every location in which they play. When the team plays in California, for example, tax and payroll records need to be submitted to California. “It adds a lot of recordkeeping to the payroll process,” said Oremus. Any given year includes both the Major League team as well as the Minor League teams that the Sox own, along with other employees. “We’re trying to track upwards of 2,200 people,” said Oremus.

For merchandise and concessions, the team contracts with an outside concessionaire provider that keeps track of the detailed transactions, and provides a summary of the sales by game and where the sales are taking place. Spring training counts as a separate season, but the tickets are sold in the same process as a regular season is.

The Sox have not only gotten away from the Curse of the Bambino, but they’re also escaping from the chores of a paper-based accounting system.

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