Batch invoice processing is one of the primary time-saving techniques available to AP and finance departments today. Rather than limit themselves to one-by-one processing, productivity-oriented companies are choosing to implement invoice automation techniques that allow them to get through tens or hundreds of invoices at once.
But what does batching invoices actually mean, and what advantages can you expect to see if you implement it? Let’s start at the basics and look at batch invoice meaning & advantages, as well as some tips to get you started on your own automation journey.
Batch Invoice Meaning
Batch invoice simply means processing invoices in bulk instead of one by one. It doesn’t mean having your staff sit down for five hours solid instead of fifteen minutes at a time, processing a stack of invoices rather than one at a time.
In fact, with bulk processing, your staff can expect to spend less time in one sitting than they ever did when things were run the manual way. You can also do it as frequently as you like; every afternoon before the workday finishes, perhaps, or in the morning when it begins. No matter how many invoices you happen to have, they’ll be processed in a moment.
Typically, batch invoice processing is performed using data extraction software that ‘reads’ scanned or digital invoices and converts the unstructured data they contain into structured data a computer can understand.
The software should have intelligent OCR capabilities, so if you still receive invoices by mail the only pre-processing step your team would do is run them through the scanner.
Natural language processing and semantic search come after OCR and enable the batch invoice software to parse any invoice you might get. After the data is extracted into a database or your accounting system, a validation step allows you to flag any possible inaccuracies.
Pros of Batch Invoice Processing
Companies that have switched over to batch invoice processing can spend hours expounding on all the benefits they’ve seen. Offices that used to be constantly swamped with overdue invoices are finding it surprisingly easy to keep on top of cash flow. There’s something marvelous about going from late penalties to early bird bonuses on every single invoice.
Other benefits of batch invoice processing include:
- Saving time: you’ll have that much more time to spend on priorities when your staff doesn’t have to focus on manual data entry
- Better morale in the office as people leave the tedious work to the computer and focus on more rewarding tasks
- More accurate data that allows you to make sure everyone gets paid exactly what they're meant to. Manual data entry is notorious for low accuracy, but if you’ve got a high-quality system with a robust validation module you’ll have the confidence that there are no typos or mistakes.
- Thorough, detailed, and searchable records of every financial transaction you are involved in— you’ll never need to leaf through boxes of physical invoices again, hunting for that one needle in the haystack.
- Super easy audits that take advantage of all the data being already in your system, ready to be pulled up at a moment’s notice.
Cons of Batch Invoice Processing
What can go wrong with batch invoice processing? Well, if you're a small business you don’t want to be waiting till you have a full batch of invoices before you begin processing. Your suppliers will hate you, and you’ll lose any early payment bonuses you might have gained. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use invoice automation. Just spend half a minute to process whatever invoices have come in every day, and you’ll always be on top of your payments.
The other possible downfall of batch invoice processing comes if you implement a complicated system that your employees don’t know how to manage. Some invoice processing solutions require a lengthy implementation phase and lengthy onboarding. If your employees aren’t excited about learning something new, you might end up with a costly software program sitting idle, while everyone still does invoice processing the old way they know about.
Tips for Batch Invoice Processing
Batch invoice processing has enormous potential— but only if it’s done right. The tools you choose and the way you implement automation can make or break your AP department, so do your research before you begin. The key is to avoid a legacy solution that relies on outdated algorithms such as template matching. AI document processing has seen so many advances in recent years that anything older than five years old is pretty much a dinosaur.
At the same time, you want to choose a tested solution that is enterprise-ready: software that other firms like yours have already adapted successfully. Pilot programs are all very well for hobbyists and amateurs, but you can’t afford to waste money on a dead-end program that is probably incredibly buggy.
Select a batch invoice solution that:
- Is AI-based, with high-powered neural networks that enable continuous improvement and customization.
- Has a flexible API that enables integration with all your favorite invoicing tools and ERP systems.
- Requires minimal onboarding and is easy to use for everyone in your department.
- Includes a comprehensive validation system that flags data that has a low level of confidence or invoices that are unreadable.
You’ll also want to check that any batch invoice processing solution you’re interested in has reliable uptime. It’s no good signing up for a service only to discover the servers are down just when you need them, or so overloaded and slow that they take the ‘quick’ out of the equation all together.
But no matter how good your solution is, there’s always the potential for hiccups when it comes to implementing a new system. That’s why customer service is so important. Make sure the customer service for any solution you’re considering is up to par, and that representatives are not only available for troubleshooting but also easy to reach and easy to talk to. There’s nothing so frustrating as spending hours on a call to a customer service representative who hates his job. On the other hand, connecting with a support team that is committed to helping you succeed in automating your invoice processing can be a wonderful morale-building experience.
One final tip as you set up batch invoice processing in your department: go for a data extraction tool that offers an extensive free trial, so that you can go for a test run before you make any commitments. Researching software options and reading through reviews is definitely helpful, but you won’t know whether any particular software is a good fit for your department until you try it out. Don’t hesitate to call up customer service to talk through any problems you find as you begin experimenting with your free trial— this is a great time to check how good the support system really is even as you get a feel for the software itself.
The Best Batch Invoice Data Extraction Solution
There are dozens of batch invoice processing solutions out there, and they run the gamut from amateur-level programs that make a rough stab at data extraction to highly polished options which take advantage of all the latest advances in AI. You'll likely shortlist two or three to trial, then sign up with the one that promises to be the best fit for your situation.
If you’d like to start with just one really good program to try out and ultimately implement at your AP office, we’d recommend you give Affinda a trial. Affinda’s invoice extractor is a high-powered tool that is incredibly easy to use and implement. But easy to use doesn’t mean amateur. In fact, this highly polished tool provides some of the most accurate results you’ll find anywhere.
If you don’t care about integration, you can take advantage of the user-friendly cloud-based AI that allows you to batch-process your invoices through an online tool. If you’d rather have something that your developers can fit into the backend of your AP automation system, there’s a robust API that can be integrated with almost any software you might want. Both options offer free, no-commitment trials so that you can ‘try before you buy’.
Signing up with Affinda allows you to leverage all the expertise of a team that knows everything you wish you did about AI, automation, and batch invoice processing. A team that is ready to partner with you to get your own AP office automated just the way you want it, with all processes running smoothly and efficiently. Users gush about how wonderful the customer service team is to work with: willing to go the extra mile, over and over again, completely and 100% dedicated to your complete success.
This isn’t an advertisement, and we don’t want to pull the wool over your eyes and tell you we’re something we’re not. But sometimes you’ve got a product so great you just want to talk about it all day long, and Affinda’s batch invoice processing is like that. Once you start using it you’ll never want to go back.