Kofax captures the AP automation zeitgeist – more than they know
This week I had the privilege to see a demonstration of a technology that is going to fundamentally change accounts payable.
Kofax announced the acquisition of Mobiflex in December last year. They announced at the time that this would bring Kofax Capture to remote workers allowing truck drivers, field engineers, architects and insurance claims assessors to capture data from documents in the field. We wrote about it here and I have to confess I was skeptical. But, after seeing the demo, skeptic no more. From an AP automation perspective, Kofax Mobile Capture is even better than even Kofax know. And here’s why.
The demonstration was at Kofax Transform 2012 in San Diego. This wasn’t a full product launch. Indeed, it wasn’t a full live demonstration. There’s still a few technical details being finalized but there’s enough there already to see what’s possible and importantly, to begin to envisage some imaginative and exciting use cases.
The power of Kofax Mobile Capture is VRS – the technology under the hood. VRS isn’t new. As a desktop application it provides a means to accurately interpret scanned images and extract data. This is very much more than simply taking a picture of a document and although in principle it is similar to those apps you may be familiar with that will extract data from business cards, it’s in a different league.
What is really exciting about Kofax Mobile Capture is the interesting applications for it that are emerging. Take the truck driver scenario for example. VRS, it’s claimed, as well as capturing data in the field, will even make allowances for the shaky hands of a driver that just driven 1,200 miles. A driver can capture a delivery note at the point of delivery – without an expensive proprietary handheld device – with just a smart phone – and payment can be requested that much quicker.
But I see a much less obvious and much more powerful application of this technology in AP automation.
The AP automation opportunity
Take the scenario whereby a company operating in a range of geographic locations scans invoices in order to send them to a centralized shared service center. In practice, the quality of scanned images varies depending on the standard of technology employed at each location from high, if technology like VRS is used, to very poor if invoices are faxed. Kofax Mobile Capture replaces the lower end fax technology with the power of VRS on a smart phone. But that’s not the end of it. There’s a much bigger step that can be taken.
Kofax makes a big play of claiming that the business process management (BPM) opportunity is maximized by putting data capture at the earliest point possible in the business process – the point of origination – usually, they’ll tell you, in the mail room. But invoices – like many other documents, don’t originate in the mail room. They originate at the supplier. Instead of putting the power of VRS in the hands – or should I say handhelds – of the local business units, why not put it in the hands of the suppliers themselves? Combine that with a solution like Tradeshift’s CloudScan which provides a workflow for the suppliers to validate the scanned data, and you can eliminate paper invoices entirely.
There’s a real buzz around e-invoicing at the moment. The debate has moved on from standards and legislation as more and more organizations realize that this is all about automation and the key to unlock the potential is about the extraction of data from real world processes in whatever way is most appropriate to circumstances. Whether Kofax know it or not, they have hit right at the heart of the AP automation opportunity.