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Keywords: OCR, scanning, workflow, automation, business case, accounts payable, Britvic
Blog Post | 3 July 2012
Author: Anna Bowsher
At our Toning Up Purchase To Pay to Attain Touchless Processing event last week, Lynda Atherton Miles, the Director of Shared Services at Britvic, talked us through how their accounts payable department went from “horrendous” to almost halving the number of manually processed invoices, all in just over a year.
The trick to this transformation for Britvic lay in the adoption of OCR reading and automating workflow. But the implementation of these projects was in itself no easy task.
For a start, there had previously been few metrics around processing. Without the analysis, there was no information on which aspect of invoice processing presented the biggest problem. Both payment and query data was held in either Microsoft Outlook or Excel.
Additionally, following a bad trading year and a merge with an Irish company, there was high staff turnover and whole new IT systems to integrate. Simply put, they did not have the resources to support the already badly structured AP department.
So how did they manage to turn this around?
The first step was to identify what their key requirements were. For Britvic, these included:
The implementation of OCR to remove manual data entry
The automation of invoice matching
Being able to notify the appropriate people automatically as queries came in
Employing escalation routes to drive compliance
An ability to access required management and spend information when needed
Using a payment clock (from the date of receipt, rather than the invoice date)
This enabled them to approach solution providers with a clear aim, rather than be overwhelmed by sales pitches. A team from the company also conducted site visits with other companies operating different solutions to see how they worked in practice.
Drawing up a list of their requirements also crucially allowed the company to prepare internally for the change. To ensure that the project would work in the long term meant that buy-in was needed from every department. IT was set in their (SAP) ways, and senior management needed to provide the funding. By creating an internal business case specific to each department, the project gained the necessary backing.
So what are the results?
The project has now been running for a little over a year, and clearly still has some way to go. But the results so far are encouraging. Cost per invoice has been reduced to £2.68, invoice processing is at 42% straight through and automated, and headcount decreased to five from seventeen.
If you’re thinking about embarking on a similar project, here are Britvic’s five key lessons learnt to guide you:
Write detailed functional requirements specific to your business. These should address both the immediate need and be future proof.
Contract for full time support from your solution provider. You don’t want to be competing for their time when problems arise.
Get a dedicated and comprehensive team of internal IT experts to make the technological transition as smooth as possible.
Make sure each department understands the project is business critical. IT, for example, may want to focus first of all on automating workflow, but invoice scanning is more urgent for the company as whole.
Finally, be aware that you may need additional software for the recognition of non-standard invoices.
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