Kofax: The perfect capture – Thomas S Senger
Once a bugbear for payments departments, accounts payable processing appears to have turned a corner thanks to improved automation and technology. Kofax's Thomas S Senger tells Finance Director Europe how the company's Capture software offers businesses the opportunity to reduce the time and cost burdens previously associated with invoice data entry.
Not so long ago, the accounts payable (AP) procedure was synonymous with disparate financial systems, scant standardisation and a surplus of manual, internal controls. Compounded by other complexities, including the identification, quantification and reduction of waste paper, many AP departments floundered when dealing with multitudinous rush-cheque requests and payment inquiries. In order to simplify procedure and enable greater time and cost-efficiency, automation has become a crucial driver for AP departments in recent years.
Kofax is a forerunner in the field of capture-driven business process automation solutions. Its document capture software, the aptly named Capture, is able to automate and accelerate a company's AP processes by taking the entire spectrum of paper and electronic documents and forms, and transforming them into accurate and actionable information. Able to function irrespective of location, type or source - whether it be scanner, multifunction printer, print stream, email, fax, web service or folder - all information can then be delivered into core business applications, processes and workflows.
Thomas S Senger, senior vice-president of Kofax's software and solutions in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), cites Capture's end-to-end transparency invested in all AP processes as its key advantage to AP departments.
"Visibility is a critical issue for most AP departments, many of which are still paper-based," he says. "To gain complete and clear visibility throughout the entire AP flow, organisations must minimise the paper and tightly integrate AP processes with their ERP systems. Automating by integrating document capture and workflow within an ERP system sets the foundation for complete and clear visibility."
Through the use of state-of-the-art technology, Capture also cuts out errors commonly associated with convoluted AP invoicing by automating the receipt, keying and approval process.
"The automation of invoice receipt and entry in reducing the many time-consuming steps in the process should be complemented with the right technologies to support self-service and the capture, measurement and reporting of process metrics," says Senger. "Workflow automation tracks who did what, where and when for each step in the process. The right technology foundation not only addresses quality improvement goals but also enables finance managers to monitor and respond to the full array of activities relating to financial accounting and reporting, fraud detection and organisational performance."
In a recent study conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), it emerged that 62% of projects utilising scanning processes and AP automation equalled or exceeded the expected return-on-investment payback period. Bearing this in mind, are financial decision-makers becoming more au fait with the benefits of automation in circumventing the potential challenges associated with AP?
"Financial decision-makers are certainly starting to realise the return-on-investment potential of scan-to-processes and AP automation," says Senger. "As more companies adopt shared services, which can transform finance operations from a decentralised, divisional staffing model with disparate systems and processes into a highly efficient worldwide service centre, core financial operations such as AP are becoming more centralised, with one set of streamlined processes and a single technology solution to serve a region or an entire corporation."
While this paradigm shift signals good news, Senger is also circumspect about the risk that some organisations take by resting on their technological laurels.
"Simply adding technology alone won't increase productivity if the team is working hard but inefficiently," he says. "There needs to be a corresponding reduction in process complexity. Due to the demands of the economic climate, there is a continuing challenge for companies like Kofax to communicate their messages to this under-pressure audience.
"Other future hurdles could be presented by additional compliance legislation, which puts additional pressure on companies to manage their data and documents more effectively," he adds. "So to achieve this, we offer a wide range of courses. These are delivered via classroom, computer-based and on-site training, and certifications that enable channel partners to become Kofax-certified Capture consultants."