The role of Accounts Payable is often overlooked during any strategic review of business systems, being seen as simply a back-office finance or clerical function that is something of a necessary burden. That view is perhaps a consequence of the AP function having remained unchanged for decades.
That lack of change means that many slow and labour intensive processes remain in place. Thousands of invoices come in from suppliers in many varying formats and often with important details missing. The AP team has to manually check the contents and enter those invoice details into the finance system, maybe even rekeying into multiple systems.
The whole process is slow as invoices circulate around the business looking for the missing information and approval and, being mostly manual, is prone to error. In turn, payments are often delayed and frequently wrong, with suppliers continually calling in for news of payment.
The delays mean there is little chance of taking early settlement discounts and the overall delays make it very hard to forecast cash requirements or effectively manage working capital.
In an organisation experiencing growth and with many entities, dozens of locations and many departments, all of these issues grow significantly.
The past few years has seen a fundamental transformation in the way invoices are now sent with the majority being delivered via email in .PDF format. The shift away from previously used methods has led to a marked improvement in both the speed and accuracy of converting an invoice into an e-invoice.
A typical .PDF produced by a suppliers system contains all the invoice data in computer-readable digital form within the .PDF file allowing modern tools to capture, automate and transform that data quickly and easily. In our experience, when clients request their suppliers send invoices via email as a .PDF, the vast majority will be happy to do so. Around 95% of invoices end up arriving in this way; with the remaining 5% of paper invoices being handled via the traditional OCR route.
iCAT from Touchstone Spend Management removes the manual intervention associated with handling and managing purchase invoice capture, and cuts manual data entry and filing from the process. The cloud-based technology automatically captures all the relevant invoice data, along with the associated invoice PDF image. That data and image is automatically registered via integration as an invoice in P2P and then undertakes a fully automated reconciliation with the relevant pre-approved (and in certain cases, already receipted) purchase order.
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