16 Aug 2012 Selecting a capture solution for AP automation
Capture technology is old right? Scanning business documents for archiving, processing and workflow is at least a 20 year old way or working. And as we increasingly use email and electronic messaging, our reliance on paper for business is diminishing. So capture as a business technology has no future. Right? – Wrong. Capture is alive and thriving and, as a recent Forrester report explains, it’s got a bright future.
A modern AP automation model has electronic invoices matching with purchase order records in a finance system, automatically reconciling receipts of goods making invoices available for payment immediately and routing the exceptions through a workflow for issue resolution. With good purchase to pay processes in place and high levels of compliance to process, the majority of invoices will be ready to pay the same day they are received.
In our dreams! In the real world there are too many exceptions to the ideal process. Indeed, the ideal is the exception!
AP automation programs often have a s a base assumption that electronic invoices, in the form of electronic files transmitted directly by suppliers, are available generally and the implied assumption is that they will be available in a standard format as prescribed by the buyer. This assumption is fanciful. Invoices will arrive in the prescribed format, correctly structured and incorrectly structured. They’ll come in electronically in other formats: email, PDF, EDI. And they come in paper too. You could reject all non-compliant invoices but a more sophisticated approach is to incorporate a multichannel capture architecture to embrace the diversity of inbound invoices.
Selecting a multichannel capture solution for AP automation
There is no single right answer to the question: “What is the best multichannel capture solution?” and as the fine report from Forrester published this month eloquently describes, the solution landscape is very confusing. When looking at the various vendors the report notes that “it can be difficult to understand what they can and can’t do”.
The report gives a great summary of the multi-channel capture space but for the purposes of selection in an AP automation context, there are a couple stand-out solutions described as well as another not covered in the report.
Kofax stand out amongst their peers and take pride of place at the top right of the Forrester Wave diagram. Their strength is in the diversity of solutions from dynamic case management, invoice workflow and mobile capture.
Although not the cheapest in my experience and by their own admission, Brainware are rated very highly for intelligent data capture – a key component in the AP automation toolkit.
Readsoft don’t get covered in Forrester’s report although they do get a special mention. Forrester recommend that they are considered for invoice capture.
Capture is old and it’s not exactly glamorous but multi-channel capture is a powerful approach to capturing invoice data. When it’s results that count, the quickest way to get close to 100% AP automation is not to wait for your suppliers to speak your language but instead learn to be multi lingual yourself.
Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin