On-Demand Webinar

Transform Accounts Payable Processes with AP Automation

IBM i, Windows
Automate AP today.
August 12, 2021


Your Accounts Payable automation solution should save you money, time, and errors. To transform your AP Department, you need a comprehensive solution that increases efficiency by improving data capture, speeding up document routing, and making integration to your ERP payment processing painless.

Watch this on-demand webinar to learn how the Webdocs AP automation solution from HelpSystems can help you achieve streamlined, paperless AP processes. We explore:

  • Taking a phased approach to your AP automation project
  • Invoice capture automation and routing methods for secure, yet simple, processing
  • Data and application integration for better management and visibility
  • Timesaving automation to get rid of bottlenecks and redundant tasks

Ready to start making AP headaches a thing of the past? Watch the webinar now!

Welcome, everyone, today's webinar. My name is Greg Schmidt, and I'm joined today by one of my colleagues, Mike Long. He will be presenting with me for today's webinar, titled Transform Accounts Payable Processes with AP Automation. Today, we'll be discussing how you can transform your AP department and increase efficiency by improving data capture, speeding up document routing, and making integration to your ERP payment processing system painless. We'll also be covering today, taking a phased approach to your AP automation project, invoice capture automation, and routing methods for secure, yet simple processing, data and application integration for better management and visibility.

Okay, let's get started. Here's a quick look at today's agenda and flow for today. We're going to start with some quick introductions, and then we're going to be covering a few of our AP automation customer success stories. Then, we'll move right into that main topic for today, accounts payable automation. Then, I will be doing a live demonstration of the AP automation package, and then we'll finish up with some Q&A and next steps.

Feel free to enter your questions into the chat window as we go, and I will address them towards the end of the webinar if time allows. Please select all presenters so all the questions are directed to me and Mike. We'll also plan on completing the session in about 30 minutes so you'll have plenty of time to make your next important meeting. Also, today's event is being recorded and you will receive a link after the webinar to share with anyone in your organization that could not attend today's session. Again, my name is Greg Schmidt.

I'm a 20-plus year veteran in the data, document, forms and process automation with specialties in business intelligence and document and forms automation. I have been key in helping companies automate their data and document process, and streamline their troublesome and often cumbersome business processes with technology and strategic planning for digital transformation. I also have over a decades worth of experience in the IBM i report and data distribution and robotic process automation technology. Again, I'm joined today by Mike Long, and I'm going to let Mike do a little intro about himself, and then Mike is going to start us off for today's presentation with the customer stories. Okay, Mike, good morning.

Good morning, Greg. Thank you. Again, my name is Mike Long, Regional Sales Manager in the Document & Forms Management Automation division here in HelpSystems. I've been in the software industry about 12, 13 years or so, really focusing on helping customers benefit from automating their processes, being able to streamline processes, collection of data, management of data, and then most recently here, really focusing on document automation and forms automation, one of the key areas I focused on along with Greg, and accounts payable automation as well. We're going to touch on a couple of customer success stories we've had.

A recent one was Barnwell House of Tires. Barnwell has about 14 locations, handling invoices electronically, and they were growing. More and more invoices were coming in and needed to find a way, especially during the recent COVID epidemic that came through and being able to streamline processes, find ways to automate more processes and save time with their existing processes so they continue to grow. Through automation, through document automation, they were able to save about six minutes per document being processed, effectively allowed them to reduce the one employee, continue to grow and save about eight hours every day through the painless process of going through accounts payable, and then accounts receivable processing. We're going to touch on just a couple of more details around that, so a quick ROI, we're able to not only see the benefits within accounts payable and accounts receivable, but are looking now at rolling out even further within the organization, areas like human resources, and then possibly even more within the shipping and receiving department, reducing that time needed to pull up an invoice, so being able at their fingertips to quickly within their ERP application, access an invoice and be able to not have to chase down where that invoice may be and have multiple people looking for the same invoice as well, all within one application, and then again, just being able to further expand the solution within the environment so they can continue to grow.

They're rapidly growing, growing within their environment with their current staff so they can continue to grow and be successful. Then, other example, we've had a long-time customer here for accounts payable automation, Precoat Metals. They have about four people that are going through the accounting, finance department, and working on the invoices as they're coming in, and really, we're able to take their 8,000 to 9,000 invoices they were getting every month, completely automate that process from end-to-end, really eliminate a lot of the issues they were running into. They had issues around duplicative data entry that was taking a lot of time, and then matching errors, so being able to get around some of those errors they were encountering with 2 and 3-way matching through automation where the data is being verified and validated as it's coming in, and then allowing the system to further do that matching to ensure that the information they're receiving is the most accurate. Again, being able to ... In their solution today, they had a iSeries-based ERP solution, being able to have that solution work with our AP automation solution to really speed up that process, provide not only extract all the information from the invoices, but send it to their ERP in the format required so the data can be quickly uploaded, 2 and 3-way matched and vouchered, saving them a lot of time.

We're just going to touch on typical flow that we see within accounts payable. On the left, you'll see the ways that documents typically come into an organization. We see email, network folder, scanning, and then within there, occasionally we see fax as well. Then, there's also kind of a newer component that we've seen in the, I would say the last four or five years or so, where customers are having to go out to vendor websites and be able to download invoices, and the vendors are providing the self-service to the customers to be able to pull those down. Being able to have a solution that can monitor all of those areas, automate the capture of the invoices, so someone isn't having to go in there and drag and drop or move an invoice, anything like that, when the invoice hits, being able to process it, extract all that information, do verification upfront to ensure that the vendors in the system and the vendors in the vendor master, the right vendors being used do any calculations that are required, and then be able to pass it through based on your processes.

The great part is it's a flexible solution, so I say your process requires a PO to go straight through if the PO matches. Then, that would simply be sent to the ERP for the final 2 and 3-way matching, for non PO-based invoices, being able to have that go through an approval workflow so you can have a full audit history of when the document was received, signed off on, and then pass to the ERP for final processing and vouchering. When we look at AP, we'll be focusing today on the automation package, really everything we've talked about so far, being able to automate that upfront, capture of the invoices, classification, OCR data extraction, any workflow required, and then passing that data in the format required to the ERP for processing. Just know that we do have, when we work with customers, many different packages, so based on your environment or if you're growing or just did an acquisition, maybe you have multiple ERPs and need a little different package, like say the advanced option, where we're able to process more that information in a form, advanced routing form before it gets passed to the ERP, or maybe you just need to start out getting documents electronic. Want them electronic, have a workflow around, and then be able to further automate that process down the line, really able to work with you, your processes, and find the best match for solution and automation.

We'll walk through the, kind of the document capture option. We've talked a little bit about the advanced capture so far, and we'll get on a little bit more under that here as we go through the presentation today, also having options around that robotic process automation. That's where we bring in an automated bot to be able to do things like the, going to the vendor portal and downloading those invoices so that someone's not having to go out there and painstakingly download each invoice, automating the process to say, move a file from a network folder and email inbox directly in the document management solution. Maybe you're not quite ready for the full advanced capture, but just need to be able to automate the process to have the invoices into a solution that can have a full audit history behind it for processing to know when the approvals are received. Then, of course, we provide user tools. Of course, you can imagine that as you're working through documents, supporting documents may come in that are sent via email to individual email inboxes, or that are received in the mail, or created in another department, and being able to have different tools available to the users to scan in the documents or to electronically check them in, Microsoft Office add-ins for Word, Excel, and Outlook integration and quick check-in, and then a drag and drop, quick capture technology to be able to simply drag and drop documents into the system as well. Again, we'll be focusing on kind of that advanced automation package.

When we look at that package, really, what we're looking at is that the upfront there, being able to eliminate that manual entry that's being done, and a lot of times duplicative entry, classification of the document, and then also being able to validate and verify that the vendor is already in the vendor master, and that any calculations that you need to have done, maybe a VAT tax, maybe you need to make sure the, read a different currency or different language invoice, being able to accommodate all that upfront. Then, we have the secure document management and workflow solutions. Think of that as kind of the nucleus. That's where the audit history lives, version control, being able to have that approval history on anything that needs to be approved, and then all the data is passed into the ERP for the final 2 and 3-way matching and vouchering process so that you have that main system of record for the data for all invoices. When it comes to the advanced capture, so it's a very powerful solution.

Comes with some core intelligence, so out of the box, it has 5,000 invoice samples built into the algorithm to develop the solution, so you're going to receive a lot of hits on invoices that match that definition out of the box now. When we talk about a template or a definition, this is a smart OCR technology, so they're able to crawl through the document and extract the information needed. Not a template or a zonal based OCR, where you have to draw boxes and only extract in certain quadrants of the document. Then, if something doesn't match, so say it's a unique vendor or just an invoice sample that isn't in the system, being able to build a definition or apply different business rules to a definition to be able to match what you need to have done for that vendor or perform any calculations that maybe your business requires. They're self-learning technology, so as the AP clerk is working through the invoices, the system will notify the clerk on different areas where confidence level may be low or something needs to be verified, and being able to teach the system so that the next time through, that won't be an issue that needs to be reviewed again.

That all happens within the user review station, so having a station where the user can see the document next to the findings and be able to quickly do a quick verification of anything that needs to be verified before processing. As we're grabbing everything, so as the advanced capture solution is doing that, is monitoring those areas I had mentioned, and as it's pulling the document in, it's not just taking the values off. It's looking at the document and saying, "What type of document is this?," so verifying then it's an invoice. If splitting needs to be done, it's looking at the invoice and saying, "How many different invoices are in here? Let's split these out into individual invoices for processing."

We see that quite a bit where vendors may put 10 invoices in one attachment. Doing some image cleanup so that the image is in the best quality that's available, the ability to do full header/footer and line item detail extraction to be able to extract all the values from the invoice, and then I had mentioned that data validation to the ERP so the data is extracted, validated, and then passed to the ERP in the format required, along with those business rules that I had mentioned, so anything that you need to have processed ahead of time, being able to have that processing and calculations done before being passed on to the ERP. Now, Greg, I'll turn it over to you for the live session.

Great. Yeah. All right. Thank you, Mike. Yeah. Yeah, so right now, I'm going to start covering what we call the live demonstration of the AP automation package.

Today, what we're going to talk about, and as I'm sort of walking through here today, we're going to be talking about incoming documents, how that can be captured. We'll be talking about the advanced OCR technology. We'd be spending most of our time on that, and then we'll also be talking and showing about our Webdocs capability, so being able to put those into the secure archive. Then also, we'll cover at the end how documents can get into your ERP system and the different methods that we have for that process. To start us out here from the standpoint, the process really starts with being able to capture documents from those different sources, so if they're email or faxed documents that come into your organization, if they're a network folders that we're monitoring out there for documents that users are putting into those different folders for organization purposes and capture purposes, and then also EDI transactions as well, so we can standardize your EDI transactions and put everything through the advanced capture systems, so everything's coming in through EDI that you might need to have review and approval on as well during that process.

Then, also scanning of documents, so we really simplify the scanning of documents from a user standpoint. This can be done through a multifunction copier, printer on the network and scan them into a folder, or it could be done through a desktop scanner and scan those in directly into a folder. We streamline that process. The user does not have to do anything special with those documents, just need to scan them in and forget them basically, and then the system will pick them up and process them. From a demonstration standpoint, what I'm going to do here is I'm going to flip over to the live demo, and I'm going to start some files off into the system, and I'm going to take these files and I'm going to copy them into the system so you can see them being processed.

This is what we call a hot folder or a monitoring folder. This hot folder or monitoring folder is where the documents are going to go, and the system is going to pick them up to be able to do some processing. This is sort of a look behind the scenes here if something was scanned or if something was coming from an email system, but it could automatically pick those up and start to do that auto-processing of those documents. Now, a slide that Mike had opened here a little bit earlier, I always like to bring this back up to talk about what's happening behind the scenes a little bit deeper, right? This is sort of that wow factor of the technology, so being able to streamline this process and remove that whole data entry process, so what worked and classification of documents in this process so we can take that away from users, we used the technology to be, first, to be able to auto-classify those documents and say, "Hey, what kind of document is this?"

Then, after it figures out that document classification, it can go into, like Mike was talking about earlier, splitting those documents up if it contains more than one of those documents. I'll give just a quick scenario where we run into that ad, is when vendors send in, might send you a PDF invoice and it might be multiple invoices inside of there, we can automatically detect that and interrogate that PDF or attachment, and extract those different documents and process them as individuals as we're going through the process. Image cleanup, if we need to despeckle, deskew, and do some certain things with the image, I'll call it light image cleanup capabilities, and then a big part of it is that header/footer and line item extraction process, so being able to use those definitions and classifications and extract the data, depending on those different classifications. Data validation, and then business rules, and matching process. We'll talk about this and I'll show this here in the live demonstration here when I bounce back to what we call the verification station, but it's a very powerful piece of the solution to be able to put those business rules and information into the system.

Now, from this standpoint here, there's really a couple of different ways that after we captured documents in the OCR engine processes, what we call straight-through processing. Everything is past that validation and everything is perfectly done and validated to the ERP system, we can push the documents to the Webdocs system, and then we can take the data and pass that directly to the ERP system. Now, in this circumstance here, we're going to be covering what we call the AP user interface. If a document comes in and needs attention, it's an exception. This station is used for those different exception-only processing in this case.

We also do have a way to be able to route those documents around through approval if need be as too if that's a requirement. Okay. From the AP verification station, sort of that day in the life of an AP user, so this would be that AP in the AP user interface. This would allow them to be able to access it through the desktop application or through a web browser interface, so you do have the flexibility to be able to say, "I want to deploy this via the web interface, or I want to deploy this via the desktop client." Both of them have the same functionality and stuff, but just dependent on how you deploy software inside your organization and how users want to interact with it.

Now, from an AP standpoint, they're going to be able to get notifications via email saying, "Hey, there's something in there for you to process," so they'll have notification capabilities there, but when the documents do come into the system and you need to do verification, they'll come to the screen, and then they'll click on that batch of documents that need some kind of a verification. Remember, as the technology gets smarter and smarter over time, you're going to have less and less exceptions during that process, and even some batches, you won't have any exceptions, so as you're processing them, you might not have any exceptions that need to be taken care of during this process. You'll see with this interface here, we're giving a lot of data on one screen, so a single interface for the user to be able to, for AP user, to be able to look at a document and do something with it, so the visual of the document, what is OCR data on the document. We're showing them the documents that need their attention. We're showing them different things about those documents, and we're also showing the data extracted at the header/footer and line item detail in this document as well.

Then, at the bottom here, I like to say this is a very important piece to here, is what we call the rules. Just think of this as the business rules, right? I like to call it a message center. This little piece right here will help the user get to the information they need as fast as possible to understand why this is an exception document. In this case here, they can come in here and hit this little matching rule error, or an information button, which is going to show them that there was a matching rule here, so there was a deviation of 10%, so there's a variation from the PO to invoice as we did that lookup. Now, we can accept this here, or if they do not accept it, we can actually push this into a workflow to have someone actually do approval on that through the workflow system, but most cases, if there's a smaller deviation, you want to be able to allow them to be able to do that process there.

Now, there is technology inside of here not just from ... You'll see some data validation happening here, so we validated that that American Wood Systems was inside of the ERP system and put the company ID inside of there. Then also, from a technology standpoint, we're not just relying on OCR data inside of here, but we're also relying on other data and be able to do calculations against it. At first, this instance here, if the quantity got picked up as 100, you'll see the system was smart enough to do a table arithmetic rule check, so it's smart enough to know that that does not add up to the total on the invoice, so we can actually do these reference checks inside of here, and some of this is out of the box to be able to do these classifications and business rule checks and stuff inside of here to be able to process that information correctly. Now, this next document is a perfect example of a process where you can teach it to get smarter.

It picked up 95 plus percent of the information off the document correctly. It just doesn't know where to get the item number because of the formatting of this invoice. In this case here, the item number here, it doesn't know that this is a SKU in part, so I can teach it this. As an operator, just because it's an exception today does not mean it has to be an exception tomorrow if it gets processed again. I could teach it very quickly on how and where this information is so we can get smarter during that process.

It's called basically auto-find or self-learning technology. Then, the next example here, this is one where it's just purely confused because how I've created my definition and how Burke processes their invoices into the system. Burke has four locations. They use that main line on all their invoices because that's their main phone line that they use there, but they use that on all of them, and it actually picked up on that phone number. Then most cases, we would use two bits of data, two pieces of data, meaning phone number and maybe zip code in this case, to be able to auto-populate that information, but in this case here, if it is a correction need to be made, it could be made very quickly and simple by hitting the vendor master table with that information and showing what the problem is, and then being able to select that information during that process.

Now, in some cases as well, there might be data verification that we need to do, and this is off of confidence level, so things like this, meaning that there's information inside of here that it might not be 100% confident on, so it visually shows you that information so you can confirm it, and then make it confident on that information. If there's any corrections that need to be made, you can quickly make those corrections and hit the enter key during this process. After the documents have been completed in that verification state for these exception documents and there's no more rules that need to be looked at and stuff like that, you can basically hit this, what we call send the batch button. What that send the batch button is going to do, it's going to process those documents to the Webdocs system, and then also the data to the ERP system. Sort of the next piece here is where the documents go, right?

We'll talk about integration capabilities here in just a second, but I just really want to show this really quick. If documents go into storage, Webdocs is that central repository, so Webdocs for AP. Webdocs is that core engine for that. It does have routing capabilities built into it so you can create different kinds of workflows inside of here to be able to process to different kinds of workflow exceptions and stuff like that, and approval processes if need be, so we do have that capability there, but Webdocs gives you that quick interface through the web interface to be able to search for documents or access the documents directly inside of a workflow, so if I need to workflow a document around, I can actually see that information, see the visual of the document. I can do markup on this document too if I need to, so if I need to say, "Hey, you know what? We only received 100 of these," instead of 200, I can do that.

Then, I could throw a sticky note on there or put a stamp on there, saying not approved, a short pay or something like that kind of a process there, so it gives you a way to be able to interact with the document process there. Now, searching for content is the last thing I want to talk about here before I talk about integration, but searching for content is being able to, I need to go and find information for a certain PO or a certain invoice or a certain vendor. That same processing can happen from a user standpoint directly in our interface or through some of our integration technology that we allow you to do for ERP integration, but this will allow you to do that quick search, find the document, and then see that information on your screen. That's sort of the Webdocs interface and stuff like that that we have. It's again, all web browser enabled from that standpoint.

Now, there's one thing I want to go back to. I got a few slides here before we open up for some questions here, is integration methodology, so being able to integrate into your ERP system. Over my 20 years, I haven't seen anything where we haven't been able to integrate into. We offer a lot of standardization and a lot of capabilities with our system, because we do run into many different systems from cloud-based systems to homegrown systems, and some packaged systems that have very little integration capabilities as well, so we allow and offer standardize capabilities, that out of the box capabilities, like example one here is XML import capabilities. We can export all of our information out as a standardized XML document for you to be able to feed an import utility inside of your ERP system, so we do have that capability.

We have full REST API capability, so you can use our REST API to be able to do integration to your backend ERP system by reading that information through our REST APIs. Then, we also have database or staging table capabilities, so we can read and write to databases through our staging table or ODBC data connection structures inside of there, and that's going to be any kind of database. It could be a IBM i DB2, could be a Microsoft SQL server, but it could be a MySQL, Oracle server. We can do integration into any of those different databases for lookup and validation and data filling. Then, the last option here too, is we have with one of our sister brands is an automation capability through robotic process automation, so we can create automation bots to do front or back [a glass 00:00:28:12] integration into those applications.

Okay. I'm going to take some time here now, do a little Q&A. Feel free to keep on entering those questions while I review the results here. If I don't get to all the questions today, I will be following up after the presentation to get those questions answered for you. It looks like there's quite a few questions here, so I'm going to pick through a couple of these here.

All right. The first question is, "Does your Webdocs for AP solution have ways to integrate into cloud-hosted ERP solutions?" Yes. Yes, this question came in first actually before I had that slide up, but yes. In most cases like that, there is multiple ways obviously to be able to do those different integration capabilities, either import file structures, or in this case, for a cloud system, we would probably use our RESTful APIs to be able to do direct connection through the web APIs.

All right. I'm going to take this question next here so it's sort of in line with that last question. It says, "What are the ways the solution can be deployed?" Our solution can be deployed in many different ways, right? Most of our customers prefer premise installations. Our system is cloud-enabled though, so you can buy a license to our software and put it into your cloud environments into like an AWS or a Microsoft Azure instance, so you do have those different options, but it is purchasing a license and going through one of those deployment methods.

All right here. Just for times ... I know I'm not going to get to all of these questions here. I'm going to do this one other question here, and then we're going to wrap it up here. "Is there a way in your solution that we can integrate our ERP for document access?" Yes.

I didn't go into it a lot into the presentation here at the end, but we have a couple different ways through the REST API you can do integration into your ERP system, so a lot of our customers want to be able to never leave their ERP systems. They want to be into an ERP screen, and then push a function or a hot key. We have some different integration technologies, either IBMI based or through the Windows side, what we call URL hot linking structures, so we have different methods to be able to do that process, to be able to do some of that integration, so there's definitely many different capabilities that are out there. All right. There's still a lot of great questions just for time purposes I'm not going to get to, so we will be following up afterwards to be able to get back to those other questions here.

I just want to thank you, everyone for attending today's webinar. We hope you learned how AP automation can help your company be more efficient and get started no matter at what part of the journey of the AP process you're at. If you have any additional questions, as time goes on here, feel free to reach out to Mike and myself, and we'd be happy to schedule a free consultation or a live one-on-one demonstration to address any of your questions that you might have. You will be receiving a link to today's webinar, and you can share that with anyone in your organization that could not attend, or even if you might want to watch that again for reference. Again, thank you and have a great rest of your day and week


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