October 2019 - Sustainability Champion of the Month: Ivan Ditmars

October 18, 2019

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Ivan Ditmars
Heather Rush, Erica Ray, Scarlett Schwarz, Cia Moore, Ryder Fletcher and Ivan Ditmars

Our Sustainability Champion of The Month this October, Ivan Ditmars, Financial Policy and Controls Administration Manager in Financial Affairs, has a lot to be proud of. His hard work behind the expansion of the CTE card, a pioneer in paperless transactions, is paying off. CTE cardholders jumped from 20 to 300 in a little over a year! And numbers keep growing, with over 900 employees trained in the process. 

 

What is the CTE card?

CTE stands for Corporate Travel and Entertainment Card. Each Card has one FOAPAL connected to it and at the end of each statement cycle FAR debits the FOAPAL to pay the balance of all CTE Cardholders. Cardholders reconcile and gather approval signatures (Adobe Certificate encrypted digital signatures) for their expenses once a month for all travel and entertainment during the cycle, on the forms designed for the program, and email them to CTEcard@ucsc.edu. The whole process is intended to be paperless with receipts attached digitally as well. 


The start of the CTE program might have felt like an impossible task, correct?

Never impossible, I thought about how to best design the workflow and the new CTE Travel and Reconciliation Form after meeting several times with OPERS and partnering with Marie Logan Director, Operations & Strategic Initiatives (BAS). Their feedback led to the implementation of several new forms and resources that I could not have done without the help of Ryder Fletcher of the Controller's Office, who assisted in developing these forms and resources. Cia Moore Disbursement Assistant of Financial Accounting and Reporting reviews every reconciliation assists with answering CTE process/policy questions and supports me with CTE training as needed. FAST performs the full audit on each reconciliation, FAST Supervisors Erica Ray and Heather Rush assist with ensuring policy is adhered to, manage CTE cardholder USBank accounts and place new orders for CTE Cards. Scarlett Schwarz, Assistant Director of Accounting Services ensures delinquent accounts are current, reviews/approves the transfer of expense that Data Entry prepares, and reviews new material that is created/published on our website. There is much more detail and complexity to each of our roles managing the program but this is to highlight the critical areas. It takes a village and I am amazed at how all of this came together successfully in one year.  


How did it feel to move forward with the idea?

It felt wonderful to have the opportunity to provide the Campus with a more efficient solution to their daily workload. Walking around FAST/AP during the FY17/18 close I saw mountains of paper so high it looked like a scene out of the movie Office Space. When Ed Moran, Director of Accounting Services asked me to see how I could grow and develop the CTE Card program that he started in 2017, the paper was the first thing that came to my mind. I knew that whatever was designed it would need to reduce the following:

  1. Paper usage
  2. Printing
  3. Time spent on booking travel, events, and reconciling
  4. Carbon emissions from mailing forms all over campus and beyond

 

Tell me about the motivation behind this endeavor, and the decision-making process to undertake this ambitious project.

Ed Moran, Director of Accounting Services challenged me to find a better way to grow and utilize the CTE Card, so I took on the challenge and met with OPERS, our largest initial cardholder group. After meeting with OPERS I realized that all CTE expenses are "payments made to or on behalf of the traveler" This logic applies to entertainment events as well, which the cardholder's department pays for each statement cycle. With Ed Moran’s approval on all new resources designed, The Travel and Entertainment Reconciliation form and Entertainment Reporting Addendum were created to simplify the reconciliation process. Shortly after the new forms were created I sought approval to create the ctecard@ucsc.edu email group where all reconciliations could be submitted electronically. An example that drastically increased the momentum of the program’s growth occurred when our largest event supplier stopped accepting Purchase Orders and the only solution was the CTE Card.  


Was sustainability one of the factors that motivated you?

It was the most important factor in motivating me. Sustainability in many areas that impact the Campus such as printing/mailing, fuel cost/carbon emissions, and the amount of time we spend working on travel and events, just to name a few.

 

What does sustainability mean to you?

 Finding a balance in all aspects of work and life. We hear the comment all the time that "this is not sustainable", so as our campus community grows the balance begins to shift in the wrong direction when we do not address the infrastructure in how we process day-to-day transactions. Feedback has been extremely positive with reducing the number of resources used to reconcile monthly travel and/or event expenses so we are doing our part to bring balance back.  


When did the CTE card program start operating, and how many people are participating now? Can you give us an overview of its participation growth since it started?

The CTE Card was launched in 2017 with approximately 20 cardholders when I was charged with expanding the program. August 2018, I began my project and today, a little more than one year later, we have over 300 cardholders across UCSC, trained over 900 employees, and we have the only corporately billed travel and entertainment card program systemwide that is reconciled using this process. 

 

I understand it began as a “pilot” program. Are we now out of the pilot phase?

The pilot status has ended and the official website has been published. There is still much work to do but we have made tons of progress in one year. The official announcement will be sent out when all of the finishing touches are completed on the website.

 

Since its inception, were there any pre-existing processes that were “eliminated” and added to the CTE functionality? If so, what are they?

CTE cardholders are not required to fill out a Travel Advance Request Form, complete and gather expense approval signatures on the Post-Travel Expense Forms after every trip, intercampus mail the forms, submit paper receipts, and issues requiring corrections can be completed via email with our office rather than receiving the documents back via intercampus mail. Cardholders are not required to complete an Entertainment Reporting Form (ERF) to gather event expense approvals. Many of the Food & Entertainment purchases were previously completed through the CruzBuy Purchase Order process and now cardholders may simply use the CTE Card to purchase food and supplies for their events. Cardholders have the ability to arrange travel for UCSC visitors, students, and any employee on campus with a legitimate business need and appropriate expense approvals. My favorite benefit would be elimination of incurring any out-of-pocket expenses and waiting for reimbursement(s).

 

Do you have any sense of overall savings, of time and paper, that the CTE has allowed so far? I would imagine that if hard to quantify it at this point, since its growth was pretty significant over time, but any idea even in abstract terms?

The paper savings must be in the high thousands by now and will continue to grow exponentially as more CTE cardholders come on board. Time savings are exactly what our campus employees really need right now and I know from much of the feedback that most have experienced a great deal of improvement in efficiency with their day-to-day travel arrangements and event planning. Expense approvers have also provided positive feedback with expense review and tracking. Not all feedback was great either, but to improve the program this was the most essential piece of the puzzle. To get to the point, I would estimate heavy users save two-five hours a month and low volume users one-two hours per month, however, expense approvers are also saving time. The time savings will grow as training continues and our web resources develop. 

 

Will CTE card be a requirement for all UCSC units at some point? What do you envision?

 At this time I do not see the CTE Card as being a requirement in the future, but I would imagine once this becomes routine and part of our campus business culture that some of the Divisional Business Offices will require their employees responsible for arranging travel and events to use CTE Cards. Feedback from Event Coordinators has been very positive!


Are other UCs looking into implementing CTE card program as well?

I am not aware of any other UCs looking to implement this program.

 

The CTE website, I understand is now a Google site. Any plans to incorporate it into the WCMS and if so, when do you expect that to happen?

The CTE website is now published along with a training sign up page, and if you have five or more interested in CTE Training I will come to their location rather than have them drive up to Scotts Valley. 

 

What is next for you now that the CTE is a success (I am assuming it has been recognized as a successful program)? Elaborate as you find fit.

Managing, growing, and training will be an endless requirement for the program and critical for its continued success. Additionally, Enterprise Financial Systems and Accounting Services have teamed up to develop our first online Travel and Entertainment application using Chrome River. I will facilitate training for all users and expense approvers when the pilot phase begins. Stay tuned, no spoilers, but I know everyone is going to really enjoy using Chrome River.

 

Lastly, for units interested in joining, what is the first step they need to take to implement the CTE card program?

I always start with the Divisional Business Office first to obtain approval if they have not already been trained on how best to manage the CTE workflow. I assist with developing the CTE Card business processes/controls and how best to manage them internally through Google Drive, this way every unit is on the same page with their Divisional Business Office’s direction. If there are units on campus that would like to learn more about implementing this program they may contact me directly through CTEcard@ucsc.edu for details.