Case Studies

Improving Control Over Purchases Using Lotus Notes

January 2001


This client owns and manages over 30 malls throughout the U. S. While wanting to give the malls as much autonomy as possible, headquarters wanted to achieve better control over purchase commitments made by the malls. Purchase controls are critical not only for cost control, but to ensure effective spending on marketing and advertising programs. The client's business system vendor had recently developed a PO module. Microsoft Mail was the e-mail system in use at the time.


The PO module for the business system was not well integrated with the other modules, allowed few options to customize business rules, and required the mall users to be continuously connected to headquarters. Microsoft Mail was becoming corrupt at several mall locations each month, forcing reinstallation of the program.


Convert to Lotus Notes for e-mail and groupware capabilities, and develop a PO system in Lotus Notes tailored to this client's business. Key aspects of the PO system include:

  • Assistant managers prepare a purchase requisition.
  • Managers review the requisition and submit it for processing.
  • The Notes server accumulates budget and actual information from the main business system every night.
  • The Notes server evaluates the requisition against budget, actual, and committed expenses.
  • If certain criteria are met, the requisition is automatically approved by the Notes server and becomes a PO, with the server notifying the relevant persons that the requisition has been approved.
  • If certain criteria are not met, the Notes server routes the requisition to one or two levels of executive approval, as required. The Notes server tracks the responses, and notifies the relevant persons of the approval or rejection of the requisition.
  • The Notes server interfaces approved PO's to the main business system.
  • As goods and services are received, mall personnel record the receipts in the receiving fields of the PO form.
  • The Notes server calculates the voucher amount, based on PO price and quantity received, then interfaces the voucher to the Accounts Payable system.
  • The AP staff receives the vendor invoice, then matches it to the interfaced voucher.

Screen shot of budget expenses shown in a drill-down format

Budget, actual, and committed expenses are shown in a convenient drill-down format. These amounts are updated each night. Various security controls allow each mall to see only its results.

Screen shot of a purchase order in Lotus notes showing items that have been received, paid, or closed.

This purchase order has four line items, affecting various periods. The first item has been received, paid, and closed (status of C). The second item has been received but not paid (status of R). The last items have not been received (status of O).

Results & Benefits...

The client has achieved better control over purchasing decisions, which are now made with full knowledge of their effect on financial results. Mall managers now know their budget and actual expense status on a daily basis, rather than having to wait for the monthly financial statements.


This client used the groupware capabilities of Lotus Notes to improve its processes in the purchasing area, an area critical to the success and profitability of the company.

For More Information...

To discuss how technology usage and business process improvements could be applied to the issues facing your business, call us at 336.297.4200 to schedule a no-obligation consultation, or click here to contact us online.

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Todd Herman Associates is a business technology consulting firm focused on non-routine technology issues such as replacing QuickBooks, getting two systems to "talk" to each other, shrinking process cycle time, and taming large volumes of data.