Most organisations spend significant amounts of time and energy moving and tracking pieces of paper. In an era when PDF invoices are routine and cheque payments a rarity, it still amazes me that anyone wants to deal with a paper invoice.
While invoices are clearly important, they are not the only paper bogging down your organisation. Contracts, proposals, project documents, and routine correspondence with clients all need to be kept for long periods. Tracking down where information is stored electronically can be very time consuming.
Document Capture technologies can certainly help tame the paperwork mountain – even when it is mostly electronic. Rather than rely on employees storing information correctly in the right place and format, document capture can automatically handle storage, indexing, and tracking of information.
Document management systems can be implemented in stages, with many organisations initially focusing on creating a single repository for all electronic and (formerly) paper based information. This greatly simplifies and speeds up document retention, search, and retrieval.
Manual data entry of supplier invoices is still commonplace. According to recent research by Gartner, 75% to 80% of invoices are still paper-based. Automated OCR data extraction is a good example of a second wave of productivity improvements which can be achieved once a document capture solution is in place.
Through the use of automated learning technologies, invoice data can be automatically extracted, then correlated with information already in your ERP system. This can result in a typical 60% reduction in data rekeying and errors.
When suppliers send PDF invoices to you via email, they can be automatically indexed and placed in the document archive, as well as the appropriate data automatically being inserted into your Accounts Payable system. Invoice line items are automatically checked against POs and supplier information, and the appropriate invoice payment approval processes are commenced.
The Oracle Payables module of the Oracle E-business Suite makes it possible to implement flexible organisation wide approval processes, so that sophisticated payment approval processes can become highly automated, further reducing costs.
The combination of these productivity improvements delivers an enormously streamlined and automated process, leaving accounts payable staff handling the exceptions – not the drudge work. In addition to reducing costs, payment speed can also be improved if desired. Slow payments to your suppliers can be counterproductive, particularly when your own services and products rely on their inputs.
Oracle’s solution in this space is Oracle WebCenter Capture and Imaging (formerly Oracle Image and Process Management or I/PM). It comprises a document capture module and an intelligent and adaptive Forms Recognition component. The solution can be easily integrated into Oracle Payables and other vendor’s financial systems for automatic matching to Purchase Orders.
However the real differentiator for the Oracle solution is the powerful workflow engine based on Oracle BPEL Process Manager. Workflow automation enables large cost savings. It is worth considering that for many organisations, more than 50% of invoices received are not “clean” – more information is required before the invoice can be fully processed. This typically involves tracking down a valid matching PO, or resolving discrepancies in dollar values or other information.
The BPEL workflow engine can automatically handle many of these common issues, while also providing statistics to help benchmark performance and uncover further efficiency improvements.
Based on our recent client experience implementing Oracle WebCenter Capture and Imaging, the technology is very sophisticated, and brings significant savings and efficiency improvements to the table. In most cases you can expect increased AP employee productivity, allowing you to redeploy headcount. Exception handling and governance is also greatly improved, with automatic detection of unusual or duplicated transactions. In some cases, we have seen organisations negotiate pricing discounts with suppliers, as they have been able to achieve consistently faster payment of invoices.