How much of your day is spent in busywork? Manual data entry, checking and double checking what you just input in the computer. You’d like to find a way to automate the process and spend less time doing routine grunt work, but it’s hard to see where to cut corners.
If there’s any field where accuracy is more crucial than any other, it would be accounts payable, and those checks and double checks are 100 percent necessary— if you’re relying on manual data entry.
Here’s the good news: an automated process, done right, will be more accurate than manual data entry, and automated verification processes can ensure that everything is processed exactly as it should be.
You’ll be left with nothing to do but review flagged issues and preside over the smoothly running, well organized computer processes.
What is Accounts Payable Invoice Automation?
Accounts payable invoice automation is the process of automating the accounts payable workload at your organization.
From invoice intake through to fulfillment, it reduces the necessity of human interference and, by eliminating manual data entry, also greatly reduces the likelihood of error. Invoices are fed directly into the automated AP system, to be ‘read’ or parsed by an invoice data extractor.
This data can then be automatically classified according to General Ledger (GL) coding, then used to fill the appropriate fields in your favorite accounting system.
The process is subject to a number of internal checks and verification steps to ensure the utmost accuracy. Typically, a human will be the one to push a final ‘confirm payment’ button which finishes the process.
The Wrong Way to Do Accounts Payable Invoice Automation
Accounts payable invoice automation has been around for a long time, and you may run into legacy software written in the days before artificial intelligence was really a thing.
These old school invoice parsers were an innovation back in their day, but they never were able to reach the accuracy and reliability you really want when you’re processing something critical like invoices.
Why not? In the old days, there was no way for a computer to actually get at the semantic meaning of the invoices. Instead, they relied on what was actually a very clever trick, given their limitations: the format of the invoice.
Template-driven invoice parsing compares a given invoice with a template, and uses correspondences to locate amount due, purchase order number, and any other info it might need to extract from an invoice.
This template-driven method would be a marvelous way to parse invoices if they all came in the same format. The problem? They don’t.
While a certain percentage of your invoices are likely to fit the template, you’re always going to get the random invoice that these invoice extractors just can’t figure out.
If you’re lucky, your software might give you an error message; if you’re unlucky, it’ll extract the numbers into the wrong fields and skew up all of your account books. That’s when some manual data verification can come in and save the day.
But let’s face it: if you have to do that much hand-holding, your accounts payable invoice automation software isn’t going to be much use after all.
Setting Up Accounts Payable Invoice Automation the Right Way
If that’s the wrong way, what’s the right way to set up accounts payable invoice automation? The key is finding a solution based on AI and machine learning.
Advances in artificial intelligence, specifically in natural language processing (NLP), mean that computers can now actually ‘read’ the words on a page in much the same way that humans do.
Just as a human employee can be trained to understand the specific lingo of your industry— and of accounts payable in general— AI neural networks can be trained to understand the terminology used in invoices.
They can even be trained for sniper-sharp accuracy in your specific industry, using the type of invoices you get on a regular basis.
This is the model used in Affinda’s invoice extractor, and the results are far and away better than anything you could begin to approach with a template-driven solution.
For integration into your existing systems, you’ll want an invoice extraction solution with a flexible API that will play nicely with the accounting software you already use.
A REST API like the one you see with Affinda’s invoice extractor makes integration easy and straightforward. Open source client libraries for the programming languages your developer is likely to use make the process that much simpler— all the hard work is already done for you.
Benefits You’ll See When You’ve Set Up Invoice Automation
What benefits can you expect to see when you’ve set up invoice automation?
Expect to spend a lot less time doing boring data-entry tasks, and a lot more time sipping coffee, smelling the flowers, and maybe doing higher-level work that can help turn your company into a success. From a business standpoint, AP automation solutions will:
- Reduce risk of errors caused by manual data entry
- Eliminate bottlenecks in your AP workflow and speed up your invoice processing
- Free up your staff for higher-level tasks
- Allow real time invoice payments, increasing supplier satisfaction and enabling you to take advantage of early payment discounts-- every time
Setting up invoice automation will save you time and money, but it won’t just save you time and money. It’ll also streamline your entire AP workflow, enabling you to fully organize your financial data and run a highly-efficient, fully-transparent payment system.
Audits become a non-concern when your payment is automated— all you need to do is pull up the reports you need.
The structured data is already all there, extracted, coded and classified by your automated AP system back when each invoice arrived at your office.
Research shows that 84% of C-level executives realize they won’t reach their business aims if they don’t start implementing AI to scale. They’re right, and you know it.
The good news is that if you’ve got a great accounts payable automation partner there’s nothing easier than AI implementation to scale.
At Affinda, we’re proud to provide an accounts payable invoice automation solution that draws on all the latest advances in AI to provide accurate, reliable data extraction where you need it most. We’d love to work with you to get your AP department automated and your invoice capture turned into a quick, efficient process. If you’d like to learn more about Affinda’s invoice extractor, drop us a note or sign up for a trial on the website.