Increase Productivity and Corporate Control While Reducing Cost and Errors
In Inpute’s 26-year history, we’ve witnessed many changes in how companies deal with incoming invoices. Back in the Dark Ages, paper documents gave you few options. Invoices came in the post, you manually keyed the data into the accounts system, then filed the copy. A labour intensive process that was always tedious and prone to error. Together with missing documents, invoices jumping from desk to desk and payment issues, these processes have birthed innovations like Intelligent Invoice Capture.
Over the last decade imaging systems have allowed AP staff to scan invoices and manually index them for future retrieval, or attach barcode labels to incoming invoices to better track them. But, over the last five years, invoices are majorly arriving in as PDF attachments to emails. Ask yourself, is your office guilty of printing PDF’s only to scan them in again?
If so, then welcome to the Age of Enlightenment! In today’s world, off-the-shelf technologies transform these processes, killing off tedious tasks, freeing up resources and crucially, eliminating the risk endemic to the old ways of doing things.
With our Intelligent OCR (Optical Character Recognition) systems, invoice attachments are automatically sucked in by the system, paper ones are scanned in. The system then seeks and extracts key data then sends it directly to the accounting system, and/or begins a workflow process for invoice matching or approval.
It’s clever, it’s seamless and it works.
So how is it done?
These days, most organisations set up an ‘accounts@’ email address, and ask suppliers to direct their invoices there. Of course, as with any email address, you don’t just get invoices. You also get statements, requests and all kinds of business correspondence.
The software pulls each attachment, then relies on a database of standard forms to say what it is. We know what is typically contained in an invoice, in a purchase order (PO), we know what words and phrases are used in a statement.
Once the system has satisfied itself that it’s got an invoice, the next job is to apply a series of business rules to locate key fields within it. The system looks for what we call header and footer details – a supplier name, an invoice number, an invoice date, a PO number, the net, gross and VAT amounts.
It’s also possible to dive deeper and go beyond header and footer details to apply line level recognition. Some sectors – pharma being a case in point – require the extraction of additional information: quantity, description, price per unit, batch numbers and product codes. Every customer is different; we customise the system to requirements.
When we’re setting up a system with a client, we’ll understand what validation rules they apply to an invoice for example, and when do they get their invoices in. Then we calibrate the system with the set of business rules which correspond to the validation process, allowing matching to happen automatically. Invoices are only flagged for review if they fail these tests, if the software doesn’t recognise details correctly, or if it turns up duplicate invoices. We can also send the data into a workflow system for invoice approval.
Immediately the benefits are visible. With automatic matching, intervention is only required in a minority of cases. Our software intelligently works out the content of the document based on key words and phrases –and that encompasses a range of languages to facilitate international suppliers. What this means is that you can use our systems, straight out of the box, from day one.
If, for example, an invoice is flagged for review because it lacks an invoice number. The operator pulls up the scanned image and sees that there actually is an invoice number – the system just failed to spot it. He or she can click on that section of the invoice, and the next time that supplier sends in his invoice, the system will know exactly where to go for the invoice number.
Intelligent Invoice Capture systems like ours transform accounts payable departments. Just getting rid of the paper frees up time and space and ends the folly of staff from chasing paper from desk to desk when problems arise.
It’s smart, it’s fast, and it starts paying for itself from day one.