Perfect your processes. Tailor-made IT for invoice receipt

Invoice receipt processing is an essential but frequently unpopular task at companies. Various company sites, decentralised incoming mail processing and complicated release structures frequently result in unnecessarily high use of personnel resources and extended processing times. With the aid of a digital invoice receipt workflow, crucial time and cost benefits can be generated at this point. Manual interfaces are reduced and individual process steps automated, allowing companies to concentrate on their core competences.
IT&I Magazin Nr. 20 - "Perfektionieren Sie Ihre Prozesse! IT passgenau für den Rechnungseingang"

From receipt to archiving, invoices pass through a variety of stations at companies. Digitising the workflow allows companies to save hard cash throughout the process, from the receipt, processing and release of the invoice right up to successful posting and continuous archiving. Experts estimate the average total costs for analogue invoice processing at between 30 and 50 euros per invoice, while for digital processing costs of 7 to 18 euros are realistic, depending on the degree of automation. Berlinovo Immobilien Gesellschaft mbH started using the easysquare workflow invoice receipt workflow in 2013 and since then has benefited from significantly reduced processing times and the associated financial savings. As one of the first users of the invoice receipt workflow, Berlinovo acted as a source of inspiration and made a decisive contribution to the further development of the solution.  

Efficient invoice processing  

The first step in processing any invoice is the receipt of said invoice in the relevant mailroom. At companies with multiple sites, there is often a decentral incoming mail system, meaning received invoices initially have to be presorted and then sent to the correct site and processor. In such cases, correct allocation relies on the responsible employee both entering the data contained in the invoice correctly and being familiar with the precise responsibilities for invoice processing. Although this procedure is already established at many companies, it results in great potential for error right at the start of the processing chain. The potential for specific optimisation can already be generated at this early stage with the implementation of a digital invoice receipt workflow. As part of the digital invoice receipt workflow, the very first step is to scan the incoming invoice. This can be performed by either internal employees or an external scanning service provider. For example, Süddeutsche Wohnen GmbH, one of Baden-Wurttemberg’s largest housing companies, has been using a combination of easysquare workflow and an external scanning service provider since last year.

Figure 1: Overview of the invoice receipt workflow using easysquare workflow.

Scanning the invoices significantly reduces the costs for distributing the invoice. In addition, this provides the basis for all the follow-up steps in the invoice receipt workflow with easysquare. Within the scanning process, the invoice can be read out with the aid of a text recognition tool, allowing the majority of the invoice information to be entered automatically in the SAP® system. Optionally, the data can be checked for correctness and completeness at the same time. If all the data is correct, the entire manual invoice entry process is unnecessary. The invoice can immediately be systematically transferred to the next responsible person within the processing chain.  

As part of the ZUGFeRD initiative (a data format for electronic invoices) and endeavours by the EU to implement fully electronic invoice exchange, the subsequent processing of the electronic document with the aid of a digital workflow will gain even more significance. Thus, easysquare workflow can of course be used to optimally control the processing of invoices that are already in digital form when the company receives them.  

Flexible procedure for invoice releases  

The checking and release process, and therefore the route that a document has to take through an organisation until it is paid, differs greatly from company to company. However, with easysquare workflow, an individual sequence (e.g., taking into account the dual-control principle, stochastic releases or shadow postings) can be flexibly defined for every form of incoming invoice by means of Cross Application Release (CARL). This can be adapted to almost any possible requirement. For example, if the company receives a construction invoice, a functional review and sign-off may be required. While this is currently often performed using unpopular circulation folders, which involve time and costs, with the Process Cockpit and corresponding easysquare workflow work basket, continuous viewing and processing of the original invoice entirely within the system is possible. The same applies to checking and releasing the commercial correctness. Here, too, all changes, comments and signatures that have been made until now are automatically displayed to the processor in question in the system, as shown in Figure 2. At Berlinovo Immobilien Gesellschaft mbH, the automatic allocation mechanism already resulted in a noticeable decrease in the error rate after only a short time.

Freigabeprozesse im Split Screen mit easysquare workflow
Figure 2: Release processes are performed automatically and transparently while always ensuring the dual-control principle (where required).

If a processor evaluates the invoice as having an error, e.g. if the quantity listed for items is too high, this is stored in the system and a correction is requested. If the invoice is allocated to the wrong processor, this person can also reject the invoice, specifying the correct contact person, if applicable.  

Once the document has passed all the stations that were defined beforehand, the system can post it successfully. Before the subsequent actual payment is made to the vendor, the company often requires a further, final check of certain invoices. Again, corresponding rules can be stored so that, for example, invoices from specific vendors or for entire company codes or projects are blocked from being paid. These invoices are finally paid only following a successful final check. However, automated payment of the invoice amount is also possible. This allows valuable time to be saved in order to successfully implement discounts.

Informationstechnologie und Immobilien (IT&I) Ausgabe Nr. 37 / Mai 2024

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Benefit from digitisation  

As the invoice is digitised, the document is stored securely in the system right from the start and is already archived in an audit-proof manner during the invoicing process. What’s more, the system logs not only the invoice but also all changes and activities performed during the process and links them to the process and the accounting document in a non-editable PDF file. This enables the process and processing chain to be checked in a single document, regardless of the checking method.  

With a digital invoice receipt workflow from easysquare, efficient and fast processing of incoming invoices is guaranteed – from the first to the last processing step. Time and cost savings are not the only decisive benefits compared with manual processing. The increased transparency is another argument in its favour. Throughout the entire process, those with authorisations can view the invoice receipt processing including any comments made or releases. The transparency achieved in this way results in particular in improved ability to provide information to customers, suppliers, colleagues and managers. Overall, it can be assumed that electronic exchange of invoices will increase significantly in the future, meaning an efficient tool for processing the incoming digital invoices will become essential.

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