A2B PentagonFor companies that have done business with the U.S. Department of Defense for at least 16 years, there have been two eras — the paper era and the paperless era.

The paperless era, which can now be called the iRAPT era, has been very beneficial to a multitude of companies that sell provisions to the Pentagon. How beneficial? “Vendors who are able to electronically connect system-to-system are seeing a decrease in the time it takes to generate a document and get it into the correct government hands for acceptance,” according to “8 Benefits to iRapt Application,” a blog that was posted on our website. “What normally took 10 days can now be accomplished in one day, if not minutes.”

The paperless era began in fiscal year 1999. The method the Pentagon used was called the Wide Area Workflow (WAWF) invoicing system. In 2014 the WAWF system became the iRAPT system — the Invoicing, Receipt, Acceptance, and Property Transfer (iRAPT) system. What’s the difference between WAWF and iRAPT? “It just has a new name,” the blog “DOD Invoicing Demystified” helpfully explains.

The iRAPT system is a bit different than the WAWF system as the blog “Moving from WAWF to iRAPT: What This Means for the DoD Commerce World” explains. The similarities, though, are far more important. Now is a good time to break down the functionality of the paperless iRAPT system — a system that allows contractors who sell weapons, planes, food, clothes, office supplies, communications equipment, gas, and lots of other stuff to the Pentagon to submit invoices and other records electronically rather than via paper.

The functions of iRAPT include:

* Reducing Employees’ Time On Bills:
The iRAPT system “decreases processing time by several orders of magnitude,” the “8 Benefits” blog points out. Before 1999, Pentagon vendors sent bills via mail. How much time did government employees spend waiting for a bill, worrying about the charges, writing the check, recording the disbursement, worrying whether the check was received, phoning government contractors about incoming invoices or outgoing checks? The decreased processing time dramatically reduces the time government employees and vendors spend on bills and, thus, improves the Pentagon-vendor relationship.

* Reducing The Charges On Bills:
And it reduces the arguing about charges. Simply put, the iRAPT system minimizes the government’s risk that it will pay its bills late and be hit with late charges. The Prompt Payment program requires the government to pay interest charges if its payments are late. On the surface, vendors might want the extra money but the charges can create friction — and less money for the government to pay for future purchases.

* Streamlining The Payment Process:
A paper-based process requires employees to manually enter purchase dates, purchase prices, repair dates, the date the products were taken out of commission, the kind of product that was purchased, the quantity of the product, etc. The paperless iRAPT application eliminates this work as well as the work required of employees who manage clerks, bookkeepers, accountants and others. “The electronic capture, storage, and retrieval of required documents, succinctly removes the need for the mail, file, and copy rooms, as well as the associated personnel, that a paper solution requires,” the “8 Benefits” article explains.

* Reducing Errors:
The multi-step paper-based payment process meant there were multiple opportunities for errors. It is estimated that data entry employees make one error every 100 entries. Invoices often include billing of more than one product, price, date, and so on so more than one percent of invoices can include an error. Fixing those errors takes time and money. The electronic iRAPT application has a 16-year history of far fewer errors than the paper system.

* Improving Security:
“Where’s the general ledger documenting our transactions with the Pentagon?” “Didn’t we move the file cabinets with the ledgers when we expanded our office?” “Do all our satellite offices have their own ledgers?” Oy vey. A paper-based system was a real hassle, but the iRAPT application has resulted in all documents being securely stored electronically in ONE place. What a relief! Vendors can access these documents over the web, but the security process requires stringent password restrictions reports “How iRAPT (Formerly WAWF) Affects Your Asset Reporting.” In fact, you need a new password every two months.

* Improving Fact Checking:
“How much did we charge the Pentagon for office supplies last month?” “How many desks have we sold them?” “Did we give them a discount?” In everyday office life, questions about invoices, products, and prices come up all the time. Finding the answers to these questions is much easier thanks to the iRAPT system.

If you asked Pentagon vendors if they wanted to time travel “back to the future” to the paper era the way Marty McFly time traveled back to the years before he was born in the movie, you will probably get few if any “yes” responses. Nevertheless, adjusting to the iRAPT system requires work.

The University of Wyoming has some tips for newbies in this May, 2015, news release. They include registering in the federal government’s System for Award Management right after you sign a contract with the government so your company’s bank account can receive electronic funds ASAP.

We also provide some tips on our blog on asset reporting. The tips include advice on deciding whom to name as the person responsible for checking the information in the iRAPT system. This person is known as the Group Administrator or GAM.

The bottom line is that the paperless era is here to stay. “In layman’s terms, it is easier and cheaper to store and transfer electronic documents, than it is to handle paper documents,” concludes the “8 Benefits” blog.