What does Accounts Payable Invoice Automation look like?
Most end customers know when they have a problem and naturally, this varies from customer to customer. Typically, customers receiving an average of over 250 invoices per week really benefit from automation. By the time this reaches 500 invoices per week, with multiple lines per invoice, there’s little debate – automation will save time, effort and money.
Accounts payable invoice systems harness key technologies and methods to replace the manually intensive and repetitive keying inputs of human users. Firstly, invoices are captured via email or portal automatically without human intervention and invoices submitted in paper form can be scanned with existing copier/scanners. All invoices are processed as they arrive by a cloud-based process that locates and extracts the underlying structured invoice data-set; algorithms ensure that these fields each comply with data and business rules. This data field extraction and verification processing is at the heart of the system; it’s very sophisticated and uses machine learning to ensure accuracy and high levels of automation. Many tens of thousands of previously processed invoices have contributed to a large knowledge base pool of information relating to the layout of invoices which means that customer’s invoices are likely to be processed without difficulty.
Once completed, the invoice is typically presented to an AP user and any “suspect” fields are flagged as such – the data verification routines are very stringent and so in most cases, the AP user is able to simple “OK” or validate the data. In some cases, information can’t be located and other cases, information is completely missing from the invoice; these scenarios will require use intervention. However, the overall AP user’s “time per invoice” will typically be reduced by approx. 80% compared to manual processing. Put another way, each AP user will be able to process around 4 times more invoices with the same investment in time.
Again, this depends but based on already delivered projects, a customer can expect to be enjoying real business benefit between 2 to 4 weeks of installation. Our solutions include two capabilities they make this short timescale a reality; cloud deployment means a simplified and largely remote installation and secondly, the use of machine learning ensures that most invoices will already be “known” to the system and so no specific invoice setup is needed.
If users are familiar with browser-based applications, then the interface for AP Automation is quick and intuitive. Unlike “manual” invoice processing, there’s no need to have email, file explorer and your finance system open at the same time, these systems are handled behind the scenes. A single, easy-to-navigate screen allows for checking and confirmation. Where data can’t be extracted automatically, the user can manually input the data for that specific field.
There are a number of factors that affect overall automation rates and these include the percentage of invoices submitted as paper vs “born digital” formats, the quality of your suppliers generated data on the submitted invoices and your own finance system data that’s used to automatically verify the process. Overall, it’s typical for customers to report automation rates that yield an 80% reduction in the time and effort. The dashboard provided within the application allows managers to pin-point sub-optimal invoices; this allows for targeted remediation, i.e. cleaning up back-end data or working with suppliers to improve the quality of their invoices.
Some customers make the mistake of using the overall number of invoices that can be processed without human intervention as the ultimate performance indicator, this is sometimes referred to as the Straight Through Processing (STP) rate. However, due to external factors such as supplier invoice layouts and quality of submitted data, this is a flawed approach. It’s reasonable to expect that the majority of invoices will be checked and the occasional field entered or corrected; the key point is that this process can take 10 – 15% of the time to process an invoice manually – the success of the system is predicated on this enormous productivity gain that takes into account real-life exceptions.
User productivity is a key benefit, but these systems will deliver additional advantages. Firstly, because the system relies on data, invoices for goods and services not yet booked in are held automatically and flagged accordingly on the dashboard. Secondly, the system automatically checks and flags duplicate invoices so that the chances of paying the same invoice twice is eliminated. The system makes stringent checks on supplier and PO data which significantly reduces the chance of fraudulent supplier’s invoices being processed. As the user interface is clean, browser-based and eliminates the need to have email and finance systems open, the solution lends itself to flexible remote working; any colleagues with the correct credentials, training and access to a standard browser can use the system to process invoices. The system scales well and so if your industry experiences large swings in seasonal volume, AP invoice processing no longer hits the finance operation so hard. The biggest benefit reported by AP Managers is control – as invoices are processed quickly and without the large investment in human time, they’re able to gain an accurate picture of their invoice liabilities and thus in a better position to manage cash-flow; this is in addition to having more resources to devote to added value activities.
Many finance and ERP systems are already supported via specific Connectors; these include Microsoft’s Dynamics Business Central and Finance & Operations, Oracle’s Financial for the Cloud, NetSuite and many other leading Finance systems. Those that aren’t supported via pre-built connectors can often be supported using standard XML and CSV transfer files. For those systems with an AP, the solution includes a web services API to enable custom connectors to be built.
Dygitized has built and can support Sage and Xero accounting platforms. If required, other platforms can be deployed such as QuickBooks.
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Solutions for automated PO Invoice data extraction, validation and insertion into Sage Accounting.
Easily exchange supplier, product and deal data between HubSpot and Sage or Xero.