5 Steps to Achieving Touch-Free Invoice Processing

The pitch for accounts payable automation is tantalizing.

5 Steps to Achieving Touch-Free Invoice Processing

The pitch for accounts payable automation is tantalizing.

“Never handle supplier invoices again.”

But most accounts payable solutions are falling far short of expectations.

Long after automating, most accounts payable departments must still rekey invoice data, shuffle paper, chase down information, and waste lots and lots of time reworking errors and mistakes. That’s not to say that accounts payable automation is a bad idea. It’s the approach that most businesses take towards automating their accounts payable that needs reconsideration.

The problem with traditional approaches to automation The most common approaches to automation set accounts payable departments up to fail:

OCR systems: Most optical character recognition (OCR) systems require complicated and costly implementations and force accounts payable departments to spend lots of time and money creating templates for each type of invoice they receive from suppliers. When the system cannot interpret the data printed on an invoice, or when the data on an invoice is not where the system expects it to be, staff must manually review and rekey the information.

Complicated matters, many OCR systems cannot integrate with legacy ERPs. This means staff must manually match invoice line-item data with PO information residing in the ERP and rekey or manually upload information on approved invoices into the ERP for posting. Electronic invoicing: It’s easy for accounts payable professionals to get excited by the notion of purchase orders and invoices digitally flowing between the ERPs of buyers and sellers, without anyone ever having to touch them. But that vision remains out of the reach of most accounts payable departments. It can be hard to convince suppliers, particularly small ones, to submit invoices electronically. This means that, short of mandates requiring suppliers to submit invoices in a specific format, accounts payable departments can expect to continue receiving paper invoices long after they have migrated to electronic invoicing. And most electronic invoicing solutions view paper invoices as an afterthought. They don’t provide good tools for processing paper invoices. Some providers don’t process them at all.

Accounts payable departments are left holding the bag on the paper invoices they receive. Procure-to-pay systems: As their name implies, most procure-to-pay solutions were built for procurement, not accounts payable. While these systems may be adept at integrating with legacy ERPs, they usually don’t have robust tools for capturing and validating invoice data. It’s no wonder that most accounts payable departments must manually handle most of the invoices they receive. All that paper handling drives up costs, increases the possibility of errors and mistakes, delays approvals, impedes visibility, and throws the door open wide to fraud and compliance risks. Say goodbye to manual invoice processing With the right approach to automation, accounts payable departments can post 90 percent or more of the invoices they receive from suppliers directly to their ERP, without human operator intervention.

Here’s how touch-free invoice processing solutions do it.

  • Accounts payable mindset. Touch-free invoice processing solutions were designed by accounts payable practitioners who understand the ins and outs of invoice processing. They know that invoice formats change, that pristine invoices are a rarity, that it’s hard to force suppliers to change the way they submit invoices, and that busy operators will mis-key data. And they designed their invoice processing systems to address these types of possibilities.
  • Combine capture technology with a training layer. Providers of touch-free invoice processing solutions know that OCR isn’t enough. That’s why they combine their capture technology with a training layer that helps it locate and interpret the data printed on invoices.
  • Validations. Few things grind invoice approvals to halt like passing bad data downstream. Before a supplier can be paid, staff must rework any errors or mistakes. Touch-free invoice processing solutions dramatically reduce the chance of downstream errors by incorporating dozens of validations to ensure the accuracy of the data extracted from supplier invoices.
  • ERP connectors. The ERP is the financial nerve center of the enterprise. It manages financial data and business processes. But most accounts payable systems are poorly connected with legacy ERPs, requiring staff to rekey information on approved invoices. Touch-free invoice processing solutions upload invoice data directly into an ERP.
  • Global support. Buying goods and services internationally can make it harder to post invoices directly to an ERP. Decentralized invoice receipt. Multiple languages and currencies. Multiple ERPs. Regional tax requirements. Touch-free invoice processing solutions aggregate all invoices onto a single platform and use advanced technology to classify documents, extract and validate data in any language, manage regional tax requirements and currencies, and upload information directly in any ERP. As a result, supplier invoices can be posted touch-free from across town or across the globe. These capabilities empower accounts payable departments to achieve touch-free processing.

Want to learn more? Contact HighIQ to see a demo of our touch-free invoice processing solution.

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