Is capture the key to successful automation?
Yes, without the ability to automatically capture incoming information every subsequent step in automation falls down.
If your capture rates on supplier invoices are low, at any level, then the information put into your workflows or approvals is going to be poor.
Quality, huge volume capture drives every subsequent step in the Accounts Payable process.
When your invoices are being processed the more manual interventions the higher the risk of poor data.
You only get out what you put in…
For most of us, this has been applied to our working lives, or perhaps our relationships, but the point is always the same.
If you do more, you get more.
Most of you will have seen videos and articles from an enormous range of entrepreneurs over the years pushing the boundaries of working hours.
From Elon Musk and Bill Gates to Gary Vaynerchuck, all of them telling us the same thing.
Work harder, work smarter, clock the hours, reap what you sow etc.
Similarly the expression “you only get out what you put in” applies to far simpler things, like data capture.
Working with this logic, the higher your capture rates the better your automation.
Capture rates used to drive automation conversations.
On a personal level, I have been directly involved in this industry now for a number of years.
It seems to me that the importance of capture rates to automation in Accounts Payable seems to have been forgotten as new technologies have taken column inches.
When I compare this to the conversations that I was having with organisations 4 or 5 years ago, I remember that capture rates were often central to the discussion.
In many cases the quality of capture was a vital element of any projects looking at automation.
The question then wasn’t “is capture the key to automation?”, it was more likely to be “how do we get better capture rates?”.
More recent news has focused on technology trends.
Recently the news in our space has been heavily focused on technologies that are impacting further down the line of automation.
In particular Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are the big buzz words.
There is no doubt that these advances, amongst many others, have changed the way in which we look at solutions and applications across an organisation.
In fact, these technologies are vital for any organisation that is seriously trying to future proof themselves and embrace Industry 4.0.
Yet the same issue is really still there. How can you generate the benefits of these technologies if you cannot get the data in to start with?
We all know that for machines to really learn they need vast amounts of data, so the quality and volume of what is captured drives their benefits.
Capture & automation to remove the most tedious tasks.
If you are looking at automating any back office function, let alone Accounts Payable, the chances are your drivers will be:
Removing as many of the manual, time consuming, tedious tasks as possible.
And why wouldn’t it be?
By doing this you are most easily able to show the real benefits of using technology. Boosting your staff moral and delivering real benefit to your business.
Let’s be honest now, manually typing data from an invoice into an ERP is pretty much the most time consuming, tedious task that you can be asking your AP team to do.
Yet, this is the very beginning of the process when it comes to paying your suppliers in good time.
Logically speaking then, if getting the information into your systems is the first step of the process…
And is one of the most painful things to do manually…
Then ensuring that you can capture as much of this information, in an automated way, is the most important step.
Everyone claims to capture everything…
And this is why the importance of capture is often overlooked today.
But if you have a solution already in place to capture your supplier invoices, how much information is actually being captured?
Check the numbers. How many of your supplier invoices still need manual coding?
How many of your invoices are still stopped because the system cannot find one piece of information you need?
Capture rates of 100% are incredibly hard to achieve.
Even assuming you have 100% of your suppliers sending you a digital record.
And this is virtually impossible to get to.
Now consider the manual process for invoices you receive by email, do you need someone to actually open the email and remove the attachment?
The reality for most organisations using this invoice automation technology is that they actually capture somewhere between 50% and 70% of the data that is available.
I am not referring to the percentage of invoices that are processed with no manual touch, just the data.
For example, how many fields does a capture solution offer to actually recognise and extract? 5? 10?
And who determines what these fields are? Were they chosen by you or were they enforced as part of the package?
These questions become particularly relevant as solutions move to the cloud and a “one size fits all” mentality is adopted.
What’s the benefit of increasing capture rates from 50% to 70%, or 70% to 85%?
I am not going to go into huge amounts of detail here.
After all the numbers are going to vary from company to company… Invoice volume to invoice volume etc. etc.
But if we try and keep it very simple, let’s say you have a solution in place so you have reduced your manual touch points by 70%.
Which is no mean feat for most organisations and solutions…
Now you aim to increase this from 70% to 85%.
This means that you would achieve a real world reduction in manual touch points of 50%.
Of course this means a reduction in 50% of the manual labour that is still being carried out by your AP team.
And an increase of 50% in the volume of data going into the rest of your automation solution.
Is it worth investing into applications that can deliver this?
Well ultimately that is up to you.
If you still have an AP team whose primary job is to manually correct, validate and manage supplier invoices.
And you can remove 50% of their most tedious work, freeing them up to focus on things that bring a value why wouldn’t you?
I would say it is something that should be very seriously considered for any organisation.
Especially those that truly want to future proof themselves, and invest in their teams.
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