HelpSystems Blog

Customer Success: Streamlining AP Invoice Capture

A few years ago, Document Management (RJS) Senior Professional Services Engineer, Mark Parolini, and I went to visit one of our Webdocs for AP customers in Missoula, Montana.

This particular customer was having problems with their newly implemented Accounts Payable (AP) invoice capture process. About half of the AP invoices were being scanned. The other half were received via email as a PDF, Microsoft Excel, or other data file format. The new process didn’t seem to be making things any easier for the AP department, so we went onsite for a few days to see if we could help improve their document capture situation.

During our observation, the hang-ups creating inefficiencies became quickly apparent.

To begin with, the customer was using a multi-function printer (MFP) to scan invoices and store them to a Webdocs folder on their network. This was a good start! However, this particular MFP couldn’t save any scan settings. In order for the documents to be captured in the correct format, the settings had to be re-keyed for each scan. It wasted a lot of time. 

Additionally, they were only scanning one document at a time, compounding the problem with the MFP’s failure to save settings. As you can guess, this process was tedious, painful, and tiresome.

Back at the desktop, each document was individually dragged-and-dropped into Webdocs. While this method is great for ad-hoc document capture, it is not a recommended best practice for high volume capture.

Lastly, document index key information was entered for each invoice before it was saved to Webdocs. Webdocs would then route the documents for approval. Only after an approval response was received would AP finally be able to enter the invoice into the accounting system for payment.

Fortunately, Mark and I were able to shed some light on best practices and come up with suggestions to improve the capture process.

First we installed an efficient scanning solution, which we typically use to index invoice documents after they are captured. We then changed the scanning process to utilize barcode separator pages so each document has a separator sheet as the first page. When the document is saved to Webdocs, the barcode separator page is automatically dropped, as it’s only needed to auto-separate the documents in a batch.

After this new scanning process was set up, dealing with the MFP became much less frustrating and time consuming. Now, a batch of documents with multiple pages can be scanned at once. This means those pesky settings only have to be entered one time for the whole batch, no matter how many documents are run through simultaneously. After each page is scanned, it is placed into the Webdocs folder on the network—as it was before—but now each page is separated into a single file.

Now the scanning solution was ready to use barcode recognition to automatically assemble each document based on the barcode separator pages. As each document is recognized and assembled, the automated process stops for the operator to enter index information, save the documents to Webdocs, and then route for approvals. Even though this change streamlined the scanning and capture process, the AP department was still entering the invoice data twice: once during scanning and once for the AP invoice/voucher entry process.

In order to address this problem and streamline the data entry process—so invoice data is only entered once—the AP invoice entry process had to happen at the same time as the scanning capture process (rather than waiting until AP approvals were completed). We changed the AP invoice/voucher entry process to occur concurrently with scanning. This allows the AP user to enter the AP invoice and then click a button from the HelpSystems app, grabbing key invoice information and auto-populating index fields in the scan workstation. This change successfully eliminated double data entry.

Additionally, the customer can now enter the AP invoice as “on-hold” in the AP system and then release for payment once routed through all necessary approvals. The process is now automated with fewer opportunities for human error.

In summary, their new AP invoice scanning has been simplified to five easy steps:

  1. Scan a batch of invoices
  2. Enter the batch into the AP system
  3. Auto-index the invoice documents
  4. Route documents for approvals
  5. Release documents for payment in the AP system

And with some minor changes, we were able to help our customers avoid the hassle and frustration that accompanies inefficient processes. We also helped them take a big step towards going paperless. A couple of days onsite really improved this customer’s AP invoice capture process, and our trip to Montana was deemed a great success.

Own Document Management (RJS) products? Get more out of them with a Business Process Assessment >

On that note, we were sitting in the Missoula airport waiting for our inbound flight to arrive and enjoying the free WiFi while catching up on email when something interesting happened. When the inbound flight arrived, I recognized a face that looked familiar and a voice that sounded familiar. A couple of minutes later I realized this individual was none other than Huey Lewis from Huey Lewis and the News. He looked like he hadn’t aged a bit since the 1980s. Even though I didn’t rush over and ask for an autograph, it was definitely an eventful end to our worthwhile trip.

Interested in Improving Invoice Capture?

Discover your invoice capture options by watching our recent webinar—Getting Started with Document Management: Levels of Capture. You'll get the scoop on different levels of capture, plus tips for determining the right level for your business.