CloudX Blog

Accounts Payable Automation Tip - Dealing with finicky OCR engines!

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Jan 15, 2014 4:25:00 PM

   

 

Pick a winner when it comes to Accounts Payable automation! 

Horse racing they say, is the sport of kings. 

Few animals have the sheer power, beauty, speed, and grace of the horse, and if you’ve seen anything along the lines of The Horse Whisperer or Buck (Brannaman, the guy the Horse Whisperer concept is based on), it’s hard to argue that the animals don’t have a deep connection with their human handlers and riders.  With that said, it’s always an interesting phenomenon to see the anticipation that comes around every year in the hopes of seeing a truly great horse compete and vie for the Triple Crown, a feat that hasn’t been repeated in 35 years.  Considering that there have been 11 in almost the last 100 years, we’re ripe with anticipation, given the numbers and the sense that we’re due.  However, sometimes a horse just doesn’t live up to expectations and you are presented with one of the greatest leadership (and life for that matter) truisms that I’ve come across.

 

“If the horse you’re riding is dead, by all means dismount!”

 

Essentially, if you’re strapped to an initiative or project or system or lifestyle or fill in the blank and it’s just not working, progressing, advancing, or showing signs of life, it’s probably a good idea to get off it and get on with something else.

 

How does that relate to AP automation? 

We’re so happy you asked!

Recently in talking with an IT Shared Services executive of a multi-billion dollar organization, it became evident that their OCR engine (Horse – or should we say donkey?) that had been in place to facilitate invoice processing got screwed up.  Not just a little either.  Through the manipulation and severe over-tweaking of the system, the quality throughput fell of the grid and simultaneously caused the performance of the system to literally hang for hours at a time.  The underlying reason for this was due to human error…meaning someone tinkered with the plumbing and violated the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it rule!’.  Well, that person was summarily ejected from the organization and did not advance to go and collect $200.  The ‘degradation’, to use the gentleman’s words was so severe that several man years of effort in maintaining and honing the system were lost, with no means to recover…now that is a tough and bitter pill to swallow!

 

So what to do?

Well, given that this client is processing upwards of 15,000 invoices per month through this capture engine, and that their Accounts Payable automation efforts resulted in a ballooning AP staff, that increased by 100% post-automation, it precipitated a common phenomenon…thinking about how to solve the problem. 

The conclusion…ditch the OCR  management function in-house and leave it to a subject matter expert.  Which is to say, abandon traditional systems management and move to a compartmentalized document process outsourcing approach.  This way the data on said invoices can get converted by folks who eat, breathe, and sleep OCR (which is definitely odd-ball technology, though not to say we’re odd by any means).

 

Why this approach makes sense? 

  • Faster results than having to learn a new technology
  • Subject matter expertise makes a difference to getting better results
  • Having a ‘throat to choke’ - it’s easier to force improvement on a supplier than to do it internally
  • Costs less – a DPO approach means virtually no capital dollars, which are scarce in most back office improvement scenarios
  • It’s achievable – tying up personnel is a show-stopper for many small and mid-size companies and having a valued partner manage this function alleviates that issue.

 

The big aha!

In the course of the conversation, the tone of the customer changed from one of fledgling hope to the steadfast resolution that this approach actually existed and that it would actually fit, hand in glove with the latent needs of their organization.  

What’s cool from our perspective too, is that the rest of the market is going to catch up to this gentleman’s epiphany in short order.  It might not be today or tomorrow, but as more companies venture into the Accounts Payable automation world, they’re going to realize that they’re not in Kansas anymore, and that things can get complex, bog down, or go sideways in a hurry, and it’s at those times that you need someone who gets transactional document processing, and who has the tools needed to improve the end to end processing of paper or imaged paper documents.

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Topics: Accounts Payable Automation, ap automation, OCR

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