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Tim Robertson

Accounts Payable Enters The Year 2018 With AP Automation
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Accounts Payable Enters The Year 2018 With AP Automation photo

 

Accounts Payable in 1988 and 2018

In 1988 approximately 15% of US households had PCs (personal computers), there was no internet as we know it today (although there was Internet Relay Chat), Motorola was selling mobile phones (mostly for installation in cars) and a cloud was a “visible mass of condensed water vapour floating in the atmosphere, typically high above the ground”.

Paper and paper processes were king – meaning if paper is still central to your 21st century AP process your AP team is still working with leading edge, circa 1988 technology!

It’s How Invoices Are Paid That Counts

Your accounts payable team is responsible for processing and reviewing the invoice transactions between your company and your suppliers. On the surface the process is fairly straightforward. You buy something, with or without a PO, and then you have to pay for it. Your payment must meet the terms and conditions agreed upon at the time of purchase.

As is the case in most things – the devil is in the details. And it turns out that this “simple” process is actually quite involved. It’s how you pay your invoices that counts.

  • Are your people opening the mail and routing paper invoices – or are they printing e-mailed invoices and then sending the paper for approval?
  • Who is coding your invoices, and who approves each purchase?
  • Does the invoice, based upon the amount, need more than one authorization?
  • Who checks to be sure that the PO-based invoices match the actual PO and if this is not the case, what happens next?
  • How do you know when the goods/services are received and what happens when there is a discrepancy? Who reconciles?

In 1988 this process could take several days – sometimes weeks. There was no other way. But “it’s 2018” and our solution is doing the following for clients:

  • reducing approval cycle times by up to 70%
  • reducing processing costs by up to 40%
  • having an up to 20% increase in invoice volumes without adding staff

In 1988 you had no choice – take that piece of paper, put it in an envelope, have someone walk it up 3 floors and around the building, wait for it to come back…

Make A Choice

Today you do have a choice – stay loyal to your paper processes or advance to a cost effective, efficient automated AP technology that empowers everyone who touches the payment process.

To find out more about EchoVera’s AP Automation that has a 95% approval rating and requires minimal I.T. involvement, click here.

Scanning Invoices Into Accounts Payable with Artificial Intelligence
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Scanning Invoices Into Accounts Payable with Artificial Intelligence photo
Scanning Invoices Into Accounts Payable with Artificial Intelligence photoIn a new report issued by PayStream Advisors, one of the biggest back office challenges organizations face is the capture of both paper and emailed invoice data into their ERP. See PayStream Advisors: Invoice Approval Workflow Automation Report.

Unless the organization has invested heavily in EDI, many AP departments spend a lot of time and resources handling large invoice volumes from various suppliers – without an efficient way to get them into their ERP.

In most cases emailed invoices are printed out and then manually keyed in. Paper invoices are processed the same way. Manual errors are rampant and for companies that are growing this task can be a considerable challenge.

Trends in invoice scanning technology now make it possible to not only make emailed invoice input relatively painless, but much less arduous for paper invoices as well.

Emailed Invoices
Emailed invoices are sent in their various formats, which could be PDF, Excel, XML, Word, EDI, Tiff, or JPG to name a few. Intelligent capture technology uses A.I. and automation to identify who the supplier is, intuitively map the data fields, and make the data useful for input to the ERP. Once the system is set up, the supplier sends their invoice (in whichever format they choose) to an established email address. The technology processes the information and provides the data within minutes of receipt.

Paper Invoices
Paper invoices are scanned by Intelligent OCR that can extract all of the information necessary for invoice processing. The technology can detect who sent the invoice as well as capture all of the data fields that are essential for processing. The paper can be discarded and the invoice data is available for audits and archiving.

Scanning Invoices Into Accounts Payable – The New Age of Data Capture
Not only does technology exist to extract the essential data from both paper and emailed invoices, companies are taking advantage of the intelligence gathering abilities inherent in “line-level” invoice data. This means that organizations looking to improve their business processes can access data that can help them achieve measurable results.

To find out more about Intelligent OCR and Intelligent Capture with AI, click here.

Tackling Invoice Processing with “Line-Level” Invoice Data
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Tackling Invoice Processing with “Line Level” Invoice Data photoTackling Invoice Processing with “Line Level” Invoice Data photoThe trend in invoice processing is to extract maximum value out of the information invoice data can provide. Line-level invoice data plays an essential role in business process improvement.

In many industries there is a push for management information (MI) to help gain improvements in business processes. Invoice processing can play an important role, and line-level invoice data enables businesses to access the information that contributes to this process.

Line-level invoice data can help businesses understand patterns in purchasing, issues with supplies, what items are selling well, and more. This type of detailed data can provide insights into things such as what goods or services are most profitable, or which variables are influencing cost structures.”

Improving Business Processes
The benefit of improving business processes includes being less “reactionary”. As an example, a travel agent may block-book rooms. It is only when the invoice is received does the company see, at the line-level, what was booked and what took place. Did guests arrive? Did they check out early? Ask for other services? Stay longer than last year?

Without line-leave detail, organizations do not have the essential information necessary to make improvements.

One of the biggest barriers to digitalization and the extraction of line-level detail is the cost involved with traditional Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems. Not only is there a considerable capital cost to installing and adopting an EDI solution, once a system is in place it can become a constraint for the organization.

Suppliers can avoid the investment in this technology by taking advantage of PDF invoicing. That’s because a PDF invoice has data layers that can provide the line-level data we are talking about, as well as drastically lower implementation costs.

Data Mapping Technology
Data mapping technology takes the information from the PDF and sends it into an invoice processing system without any manual keying of the data. Because the data is taken straight from the invoice, 100% accuracy is achieved and manual data errors are avoided.

With PDF based invoicing, suppliers can be up and running within minutes. All they need is an email address that sends their invoices directly into the invoice processing system. This method of electronic invoicing has a substantial cost advantage over EDI, and a trend for business that is only going to accelerate over the next few years.

On-Boarding Of Suppliers Is Easier
PDF invoicing is a viable alternative for suppliers that want to adapt to their customer’s purchasing and payment workflow. It’s a convenient solution that is relatively painless to implement – something that’s not possible with traditional electronic invoice systems.

PDF Invoice Capture – Tapping Into Line-Level Data
PDF invoice capture provides faster processing, eliminates manual data entry and manual errors, and takes paper out of the process. As well as getting value out of every “yard line”.

For suppliers who are still sending paper invoices, Intelligent OCR can recognize the vendor, intuitively extract field data, and send the collected data to the invoice processing system.

For more information on how you can take advantage of line-level invoice data, take a look EchoVera’s ASAP.

Automating the Request to Pay Process
150 150 Tim Robertson

Automating the Request to Pay Process photo

 

Many of our customers struggle with their purchasing process.

This is because even though there are many stakeholders in the purchase cycle, actual responsibility and accountability can often be muddled.

This isn’t because the different roles in the organization are incompetent or at fault, but that in every organization and industry there is a real lack of transparency throughout various business processes. This is especially true in organizations that opt to use inefficient paper-based processes or when the company’s ERP is not capable of the flexibility required to support efficient workflows*

Whatever the case, organizations are looking to optimize the purchase process with a positive ROI and Request-to-Pay automation may be a great way to do just that.

The Request to Pay Process

With Request-to-Pay automation, everyone with a stake in the purchase is involved in the process, and the process is visible to everyone who plays a role. This high level of visibility actually supports accountability across all roles. Authorized stakeholders can actually see all relevant activity – changes made, when they took place and who made them.

Everyone from the person who makes the requests, to the approver who manages the budget, to the purchaser who makes the purchase, to the person who receives the goods, and to the accounts payable person who ensures payment – are part of the request to pay workflow.

This is what the automated Request to Pay looks like:
  1. The requester completes a purchase requisition, and it is automatically routed for approval.
  2. Once approved the system changes the requisition to a Purchase Order.
  3. The approved PO is sent to the buyer who can now place the order.
  4. Delivery of the product or service is made, and the goods or service receipt is recorded in the system.
  5. The vendor sends an invoice for the product or service, and the system automatically matches the invoice to the PO and the goods receipt.
  6. If there is an exception, it is automatically routed to the proper role for review and exception handling. The exception is in a complete information “packet” that holds an invoice image, the PO, the goods receipt, and notes.
  7. If there is no exception, the invoice is automatically sent to the ERP for payment.
  8. The vendor receives a payment and all of the payment details are recorded in the ERP.

Find out more about Request to Pay automation here.

*Most ERPs have rigid approval workflows, but not by design! (see “Invoice Approval Workflow Gets Flexible!“)

 

Budget Software for Business Ties Transactions Together – Amen!
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Budget Software for Business Ties Transactions Together   Amen! photo

One of the best features of great budget software for enterprise is the ability to tie transactions together.  You can also monitor the actual budget amount used – useful as you process each piece of the transaction and for auditing purposes later.

So what does it look like?  The example below is based on the user having a specific GL account and department.

Keep in mind the user has the option to browse items that are approved for a specific budget AND/OR there are rules set on the item type to require a budget to be assigned AND/OR the administrator can leave the fields open for users to decide where assigning a budget is appropriate.


Budget Software for Business Ties Transactions Together   Amen! photo


Budget Software for Business Ties Transactions Together   Amen! photo


Budget Software for Business Ties Transactions Together   Amen! photo


Budget Software for Business Ties Transactions Together   Amen! photo

One of the key benefits of EchoVera’s Budget is being able to see the budget request, the requisitions, purchase order, delivery, and invoice – all as a complete package – for audit purposes.


Budget Software for Business Ties Transactions Together   Amen! photo


For more information about EchoVera Budget, click here.

How 5 Innovative Companies Automated PO Matching
150 150 Tim Robertson

How 5 Innovative Companies Automated PO Matching photo

PO matching, or matching invoices, purchase orders and goods receipts is always a challenge for growing companies.

For one, if the process is paper driven, the process is prone to error and considerable mind-numbing effort hunting down all the relevant information. Because no invoice looks the same, the data that has to matched can only be found after physically examining each and every document, line by line.

Some invoices have over 100 lines. Someone has to visually scan that. It’s not like reading a letter or other document that has variations, titles, and pictures, but closer to scanning a dry list of serial numbers – headache inducing at the best of times.

Secondly, because of all the people involved in a purchase, there is much finger-pointing over who is causing a bottleneck or is responsible for mistakes.

We have helped the following innovative companies using NetSuite automate PO matching with EchoVera’s ASAP for NetSuite. They’ve benefited from having an approval workflow for exceptions with email approvals that makes it easy to use, and automation that matches invoices, POs, and goods receipts (authentic 3 way matching) without all the effort.

They’ve decided that their teams have better things to do than trudge through the matching process manually – a very common practice in many companies today. And AP is no longer blamed for not keeping the process moving, as invoice status can be viewed 24/7 in real time, and the people holding things up can be gently nudged.

Roivant – Healthcare

How 5 Innovative Companies Automated PO Matching photoRoivant is a pharmaceutical company with over 70 subsidiaries. The high profile firm landed a $1.1 Billion investment by SoftBank and develops late stage drugs. The investment by SoftBank was one of the largest private financing rounds for a healthcare company in history.

Pharmaceutical firms abandon promising drugs for various reasons that have nothing to do with their efficacy. Roivant’s subsidiaries complete the development of overlooked drug candidates and try to get them to market quickly. Although their recent drug for Alzheimers has not panned out, there are many potential winners in the pipeline. With this many balls in the air the company needed to automate PO matching and increase their operational efficiency.

Roivant receives PDF invoices and PDFs of scanned invoice images. They are matching service and product POs as well as invoices and goods receipts. Once the PO is created, it is auto delivered. Whatever lines are available on the PO are used. For example, 30 lines on an invoice all have to be rolled up into one line. Most of the invoices are “pass-through invoices” with up to 300 lines of items.

Aleva Stores – Retail Ecommerce

How 5 Innovative Companies Automated PO Matching photoAleva Stores began in 1957 as a small prosthetics manufacturer in Pontiac, Michigan. Over the last 60 years, the Gaskins family has upheld the values established by founder Joseph Gaskins, creating a family of retail brands that specialize in foot, leg and orthopedic care. Some of the online stores include Sock Addicts, Pike to Peak, and Doc Ortho. With warehouse space of over 60,000 square feet and sales north of $30M annually, Aleva was looking to automate the PO matching process and optimize their AP processes.

What they are matching: Aleva receives invoices in the format of PDF and PDFs of scanned invoice images. They match merchandise purchase orders to invoices and goods receipts. Aleva issues a PO, receives an invoice from the supplier and a goods receipt from the warehouse. Some invoices have over 100 lines, and up to 20 pages.

Boston Globe – Media

How 5 Innovative Companies Automated PO Matching photoThe Boston Globe is an American daily newspaper founded and based in Boston, Massachusetts since its creation by Charles H. Taylor in 1872. In 1993 it became a wholly owned subsidiary of The New York Times Company when the Times acquired Affiliated Publications for $1.1 Billion. In 2013, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry was part of a group that bid $70 million to buy the paper, and remains in place as the owner today. The Boston Globe hosts 28 blogs covering a variety of topics including Boston sports, local politics and the paper’s opinion writers. The Globe wanted to reduce its reliance on paper processes and digitally transform the back office. They turned to EchoVera ASAP to automate PO matching.

The Globe receives invoices in PDF format from its suppliers, including scanned images in PDF format. It matches between service and product purchase orders and invoices. Matching is done by approvers in the email approval workflow.

Ulabox – Grocery Ecommerce

How 5 Innovative Companies Automated PO Matching photoThe VIKOW Group is based in Barcelona in Spain. It’s a group of marketing digital companies offering a range of services and products around ecommerce. One of its properties is Ulabox, which operates as an online supermarket of food, groceries, beverages, household and personal care products. Ulabox was incorporated in 2010 and has received several funding rounds totalling €5,750,000.

With around 7,000 deliveries per week from a range of 20,000 products, the highly automated internet company relies on data to review the cost of orders, deliveries, profitability and business data. As well, Ulabox needed the best technology for PO matching and AP automation.

Ulabox receives PDF invoices from their suppliers, and well as PDFs of scanned invoice images. EchoVera ASAP is matching merchandise purchase orders, external purchase orders from their fresh food system (which is separate from NetSuite), as well as invoices and goods receipts.

Transtelco – Voice & Data Services

How 5 Innovative Companies Automated PO Matching photoTranstelco provides telecommunication solutions for carriers, enterprises, and small to medium businesses in the United States and Mexico. Cofounded by Miguel Fernandex in 2001, it provides voice and data services to Fortune 1000 companies with a fiber optic network that spans 10,000 kilometres between both countries. It recently raised new debt capital from Deutsche Bank in order to fund new opportunities. Mr. Fernandex has been featured in the Huffington Post dispelling the myths of the Mexican – U.S. border. The company reached out to EchoVera for help with automating their AP and matching POs.

Transtelco receives PDF invoices, Excel and MS Word invoices, and images scanned as a PDF. ASAP matches product purchase orders, service purchase orders, invoices and goods receipts.

Find out more about EchoVera ASAP PO Matching for NetSuite here.

Where CAPEX Software Makes a Difference
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Where CAPEX Software Makes a Difference photo———————
Companies are digitally transforming their procurement and purchasing processes, and that includes software that helps them manage their CAPEX expenditures.

Where does CAPEX software make a key difference?

Specifically, CAPEX software allows companies to allocate a specific budget to a larger investment project and have visibility and control over the entire process. Some of the benefits include:

  • Ease of delegation
    Workflow administration levels designate who can buy what within the organization. Built in alarm functions send out an alert when a set percent of a CAPEX budget is exceeded.
  • The right suppliers, the right products
    By setting up delimitations for each supplier and product category, only preferred suppliers are used with defined product categories.
  • Faster procurement process
    Purchase orders that match certain parameters are automatically approved. Invoices that match to the goods receipt can go immediately to the ERP for payment – bypassing manual handling and the resulting errors.
  • More visibility 24/7
    Users can query information such as supplier name, budget request ID, status, the role of the approver in charge, product categories and requisition numbers. Purchase orders related to specific budget requests can be included in reports as well.

EchoVera CAPEX is a cloud-based solution that integrates with your ERP. Find out more here.

Intelligent OCR for SAP Business One uses AI
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Intelligent OCR for SAP Business One uses AI photo

Businesses using SAP Business One are discovering the value using “intelligent” OCR to scan their invoices. It’s all part of a larger trend for growing companies.

  • In spite of increasing invoice volumes, growing companies want to avoid adding to headcount
  • New technologies in the cloud and browser-based allow for minimal I.T. involvement
  • Businesses want to leverage their investment in SAP Business One

Invoices come in many different formats. Whether they are delivered in the mail and have to be scanned, or sent by email in an electronic file format such as Word, Excel, PDF, EDI, and XML – the data needs to be captured quickly and efficiently.

Traditional OCR is Outdated

Traditional OCR software has some constraints. For example, a company might receive an invoice by mail and scan it, but the data it collects is not available because of integration issues. Scanning could be avoided if the invoice comes by email, but in many cases the email invoice is printed out and the information is keyed into the ERP manually. Both of these methods are time and resource-intensive.

For SAP Business One users who need to capture the data in their supplier invoices, Intelligent OCR is a cloud solution with a browser-based interface that intelligently captures all of the information needed – and with 95% accuracy.

Intelligent OCR uses A.I. and intelligent automation to extract data from any format of invoice, whether it was sent electronically or through the mail.

Intelligent OCR searches, interprets, validates, and extrapolates semantic meaning from any format or file type. It intuitively detects and learns each unique supplier invoice based on layouts and a tagging technology called Intellitags.

The technology recognizes who the invoices are from, maps essential fields and captures the data, and puts all of the information into a central dashboard. That means data entry and the effort involved to get usable data from an OCR file is drastically reduced.

After the data is captured, an approval workflow takes over, sending the invoices to the proper approver in the organization, or matching the invoice against a PO.

For more information or to book a demo of Intelligent OCR for SAP Business One, click here.

Invoice Approval Workflow: Leveraging Microsoft Dynamics ERP
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Invoice Approval Workflow: Leveraging Microsoft Dynamics ERP photoThere are many constraints in all of the Dynamics ERPs – NAV, AX, and GP. This is especially evident in how user fees are structured,  and the lack of functionality around invoice approval workflows.

User Costs Around Invoice Workflows
  • Dynamics workflows are scripted, and scripting means using IT resources as well as requiring users to input requirements.
  • Customers must purchase Dynamics user licenses for requisitioners. If the user touches two modules of Dynamics, such as Purchasing and GL, that can mean additional costs.
  • There is a user cost for coding – approvers must be licensed in the same way if they want to code an invoice (G/L and AP).
Functionality Issues
  • Without support for punch-out capabilities, PRICAT (Price/Sales Catalogue), or webshops users cannot access supplier catalogs or websites.
  • Users have to look at each line in order to determine a mismatch for Purchase Order matching. Much manual legwork goes into finding the discrepancy, and the routing is limited by rules.
  • Accounting accruals take time and unrecorded liabilities become an issue.
  • Dynamics lacks an audit trail for the invoice approval process.
  • Business documents are not stored in an image repository for retrieval.
  • Data capture is a manual process in many cases, which is restrictive with large invoice volumes.

Extending Dynamics Functionality

The good news is that it is possible to leverage your investment in Dynamics by using best-of-breed third party software that provides the functionality Dynamics is missing – with minimal involvement of valuable I.T resources. With the right application, you will have:

Reduced Costs
  • Workflows are graphical and dynamic, allowing for ad hoc routing.
  • Software cost is based on invoice volumes, as opposed to number of users.
Extended Functionality
  • Users can access preferred online supplier catalogues.
  • PO matching is automated, and exceptions are sent to approvers on their laptop or mobile devices.
  • Shows invoice status in a central dashboard.
  • Creates an audit trail showing messages between users and suppliers as well as document images.
  • Has a document management system that allows you to not only store contracts and other relevant files, but allows you to put them into a workflow as well.
  • Have an automated data capture system that uses Artificial Intelligence to extract essential information from invoices, whether they are mailed in paper format or sent in email as a PDF, XML, EDI, Excel, Word or other format.

Find out more about the functionality in EchoVera’s AP automation solution for Dynamics here.

 

 

 

 

10 Ways Procure to Pay Software Accelerates Digital Transformation
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10 Ways Procure to Pay Software Accelerates Digital Transformation photoProcure to pay software can make a substantial impact on the digital transformation of your organization. It leverages the investment in your ERP and has a proven ROI for both cycle times and cost savings.

1. Makes 100% digitalisation possible
Organizations want to reduce their carbon footprint, and stop using paper. A paperless environment reduces the workload paper files and paper processes demand.

2. Expands the control of purchasing
A purchasing system with the ability to pre-approve orders reduces maverick spending. Collaboration between purchasing and finance makes for a successful ROI throughout the entire procure to pay process.

3. Dynamic discounting
By having an automated purchase requisition process, approval cycle times are reduced and dynamic discounting opportunities are optimized.

4. Cloud-based software
Because the capital outlay is minimal in comparison to on-premise, a cloud-based solution means fewer servers and staff requirements. You are not paying for the number of users, but actual invoice volume.

5. Connection to supplier web shops
Get punch-out capabilities to web shops or PRICAT (Price/Sales Catalog) support for the online catalogs of your suppliers.

6. Bird’s-eye view of the organization’s expenses
Leverage the data to get a 360º view of the organization’s expenses. Get supplier statistics such as volume and transactions. 
Identify bottlenecks in the organization from within a central dashboard.

7. User-friendly interface and workflow
Best of breed software is intuitive and user-friendly. Workflows are visually easy to manage and employees can do approvals or coding on desktop, tablets, and smartphones.

8. Tools for reports and KPI performance measurements
Because the digital environment is measurable, tools and reports can provide input into key KPIs that are determined at the outset and altered as the organization evolves.

9. Scalability
If you are experiencing tremendous growth, it is very easy to scale. You can increase your license size accordingly, and conversely downsize in cases of reduced volumes or seasonal fluctuations.

10. Security and protection 
Reputable cloud vendors have made the investment in the right people, tools, and appliances that keep data safe and compliance standards upheld.

For more about how Intelligent Procure to Pay software with 95%+ recommend ratings can help your organization, click here.