Go Paperless at the Register!

If you’ve been in business, worked in a business, or done business with a business for more than 20 seconds…you’ll know that receipts, paper, and expense claims are an unavoidable fact of life… Well the good news is that its changing. We work with businesses all day every day who are going paperless and it is remarkable how fast things are changing for the better. It’s relatively straight forward these days to get invoices from suppliers electronically via email, but getting electronic retail receipts has not been so easy. But the good news is that its changing. Retail businesses that sell to business customers are increasing allowing receipts to be emailed right at register.

Companies like OfficeWorks or Apple will take your email address at the register and email you the receipt. Our customers on InvoiceSmash are now living the Go Paperless dream…

And of course, any retail business where you have an account and buy on credit, will already be able to email you invoices instead of retail receipts.

So, when you’re at register and they ask you if you want to be emailed the receipt…go paperless!

Do you buy Coke in your business? (Australia only)

TLDR (InvoiceSmash can automate your Coke invoices)

When we started InvoiceSmash we knew businesses in the food service industry were going to love our service. We’ve now automated pretty much every major food supplier in Australasia and we’re adding more all the time. And this is a great thing for our customers.

But one bump along the way that we faced early on was that one of the biggest suppliers of them all, Coca-Cola Amatil, doesn’t produce text/electronic PDFs. Instead, their accounts receivable finance system generates a PDF which is a computer generated image. Typically an image PDF means its a scan which means you need to use OCR…which means bad data quality which means its a pain for everyone. But wait…no, I said its a computer generated image…computer generated images are not the same as scans. They are a much higher quality image and more predictable for OCR software which means it can be OCRed without the drawbacks. 

So what we did is built a little ‘subsystem’ in InvoiceSmash which OCRs coke invoices, does it perfectly every single time, and is completely automated. This demonstrates our commitment to making our customers lives better…er more automated. We are probably the only software service that can do this and give you the line item details.

We’ve also confirmed that Coca-Cola Amatil can and will email their invoices to you as an email attachment if you ask the Credit Team to do so. All you have to do is call the Coca-Cola Amatil Credit Team on 1800 151 791, give them your Outlet ID and your InvoiceSmash email address and perfect AP automation is yours for the taking.

(InvoiceSmash has no relationship with Coca-Cola Amatil whatsoever, we just process a lot of their invoices for our customers in the Food Service industry) 

The business value of line item details

We had a happy customer drop us an email yesterday and this is what they said…

"Hi Mark, i have been smashing invoices and all has been going well. My boss said today that this is the first time ever he has seen the true net cost of running his business. As now the supplier invoices are loaded on time and not all in one batch hit at the end of the month.”

What changed for this customer is that when they switched from manual data entry to using InvoiceSmash all of a sudden, in the matter of a few weeks, all the expenses for individual line items were being assigned to appropriate General Ledger accounts. When the data was being entered manually by the accounts team, it was infeasible to track the spending at the line level and therefore only the totals were tracked. Because the lines were being assigned appropriately for the first time, it is now possible for the business to take a look at exactly what they’re spending money on…not just at the supplier level.

Furthermore, because InvoiceSmash is a software automation system, the supplier invoices are posted to the accounting system within minutes of being received. No amount of human operators can go as fast as our software. This means that all the pain of rushing to get everything entered before the end of the month, and then dealing with annoyed suppliers when payments are missed…all of those problems evaporate with one simple solution.

I don’t like to hype things too much but I believe this is transformative for our customers.

Mark Burch

How does ‘Auto-submit for this supplier work’ ?

On the final approval screen for your invoices you might notice a little check box that looks like this…

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It says “Auto-submit for this supplier”.

This is how it works. After you’ve processed a few files for a particular supplier the InvoiceSmash rules system has built up a history of your preferences.

1) The Contact resolves automatically.

2) Any missing due dates resolve automatically.

3) GL Accounts resolve automatically.

4) Items/Inventory resolve automatically.

After you’ve processed a few invoices there is nothing left for you to do except click the ‘Submit to Your Accounting System” button. But why do you even need to click that button?

Well the good news is you don’t.  If you check the Auto-Submit box what this means is “Go ahead InvoiceSmash submit any future invoices from this supplier automatically if you can. I’m comfortable that this is correct every single time”.

But the InvoiceSmash software is careful. The software checks that there isn’t already invoice with that number from that supplier in your accounting system. If we detect a duplicate no automatic submission can happen. Its up to you to decide to submit a duplicate or ignore it.

But if everything checks out ok, and you’ve granted the software permission, it will be automatically submitted on your behalf. Voila! Hands free supplier invoice processing.

It doesn’t get easier than that! Happy smashing!

Users, Subscriptions and Accounting Files

We built InvoiceSmash to be suitable for users who look after multiple accounting files/subscriptions.

This diagram shows the relationship between users, InvoiceSmash subscriptions and accounting files.

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There is always a one to one relationship between an InvoiceSmash subscription and a file/subscription on Xero/Saasu/Myob. When InvoiceSmash connects via API we sync a bunch of data and set up the rules as you use the system. That data and rules can’t be applied to another accounting file/subscription (obviously) therefore we don’t allow subscriptions to “cross the streams”.

Users however, can access all their InvoiceSmash subscriptions using a single logon/pass. In the diagram, you can see that “Anne” has access to Company A and Company B. “Bob” on the other hand has access to Company B and Company C. The first person who creates the InvoiceSmash subscription is the Administrator of that subscription and they have the ability to invite other users to that subscription. They can also promote invited users to be Administrators of the subscription as well.

In this example Bob and Anne might work for the same accounting firm, but have responsibilities for different clients.

If a user of InvoiceSmash only has a single InvoiceSmash subscription, when they logon they proceed straight to the dashboard. If a user is a member of more than one subscription, when they logon they will be asked which subscription they wish to use for that session.

How to get the best automation results from InvoiceSmash

1. Avoid paper invoices and scans if and where you can. Ask your suppliers to email you invoices as PDF attachments. If your suppliers need to give you paper invoices with the delivery docket, make an arrangement with their accounting department to email you PDF invoices as duplicates/copies. Keep the paper invoices for reference but push the emailed PDFs into InvoiceSmash for automation. To learn more why this is makes a difference to your business read this post.

2. Try to get PDFs from your suppliers that have one invoice per file. Edit: 16/7/2014. InvoiceSmash can now automatically split PDF files from suppliers in which there is a ‘batch’ of invoices in one PDF.  The software can split PDF files at page breaks. Basically what InvoiceSmash does is extract data out of a file and creates a purchase transaction in your accounting system. If there are multiple transactions in a PDF, they first have be split into separate transactions…then each transaction is treated separately thereafter.

3. When you’re just getting started with InvoiceSmash we usually have to teach our software to recognise the details (aka “templates”) in your supplier invoices. This takes varying degrees of human intervention and can take from a few minutes to 2 days depending on many variables. The power of our automation kicks in after this process has happened – that’s when our system will demonstrate its value to you because the invoices are completely automatic at that point. This template automation, only applies to electronic PDFs and does not apply to scanned invoices.

Happy smashing!

How to tell if an Invoice is an Electronic/Text PDF in 5 seconds.

The difference between a scanned PDF and a text PDF can be subtle and hard to tell at first glance. The following steps show you a quick way to distinguish them…

1. Open the PDF in a PDF viewer like Adobe.

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2. Use the mouse to select some text on the page. It will look something like this.

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3. Right click and select copy. Or do Control C.

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4. Open up another document program like notepad, MS Word or Excel and paste the clipboard. If you can see the data, it’s an electronic PDF.

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Note: You don’t really need to do step 3 and 4, if you can select the text, you have your answer.

Automation, technology adoption and saving money

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We may not realise it but we’ve all experienced the frustration and power of technology adoption. When you first got a smart phone (eg an iPhone) for the first few days everything you did on it took little bit longer. You forgot where the make a call feature is and the contacts selection page is not what you’re used to…but that when you get used to the new way of doing things you really start to enjoy the power the technology gives you.

Its same thing with adoption software systems like InvoiceSmash. For the first little while the time/effort actually goes up before it comes down.

For example, lets say you process your monthly phone bill through InvoiceSmash.

Month 1

  • Forward attachment from your email.
  • Match the phone company name in the invoice against the company in your contacts. If its not a perfect match, you should set up a rule for it.
  • Match your GST and GST Free line items against the GL accounts from your accounting software (and set a rule for next time).
  • Review and submit with one click.

Month 2

  • Forward attachment from your email.
  • Review and submit with one click

Month 2 is where you see the power of automation kicking in in your favour. And month 3, when your regular supplier invoices have become almost hands free is when it gets really good.

So our advice is, ride the small bump up in effort at the start because the cost savings are there for the taking.

Founder of InvoiceSmash interviewed for start-up TV show

InvoiceSmash Founder Mark Burch was interviewed by Pete Cooper from for a new TV show on technology start-ups.

http://sdrv.ms/YOiDF3 

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The 2 types of PDF invoices and why this can make a big difference to your business

There are 2 basic types of PDF invoices that businesses receive from their suppliers.

1. An electronic PDF generated directly out of an accounting software system and received electronically (email attachment, portal download).

2. A scan or fax which originated in an accounting software system but is now an image rather than an electronic document.

How can you tell the difference?

If you can use a mouse to select/highlight the text in a PDF, it is electronic.

An electronic PDF typically won’t have any hand writing on it.

An electronic PDF won’t be skewed, like when a piece of paper goes through a scanner a little bit crooked.

Printing and scanning typically introduces little blemishes onto the page.

Why would you care about the difference?

When the data is received electronically (i.e. 1 above) it can be automated into an accounting system using a tool like InvoiceSmash with minimal oversight. The one click processing is possible because the data starts out electronic, is transmitted electronically and is entered into your accounting system electronically. For example, lets say you receive regular invoices from a supplier XYC company. The first time you process a XYC company invoice using InvoiceSmash, you set up all the rules for how it should be entered into your accounting software, which GL accounts to use, which inventory etc. Thereafter each time you process an invoice from XYC company the software will automatically resolve it for you and you will presented with a one click submission screen.

OCR sucks

On the other hand, if you are receiving the invoices via 2 above, you have a conversion problem. You have to convert the data from ‘paper’ to electronic. This can be done using OCR technology. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. Basically the computer looks at the picture of the character or word and uses probability to assert that ‘0’ is zero and ‘i’ is a lowercase ‘I’ and not an ‘L’. The problem is that even the best OCR software sometimes gets it wrong (98% accuracy) which means someone has to maintain oversight and vigilance, and provide data verification and data repair. Hopefully this is the responsibility of specialist bookkeepers and accounts staff, but quite often we see even high level staff having to do their own data entry.

Ok so OCR is bad, but why do you care?

Its simple, accessing the data electronically, you save yourself most or all of the data entry and data oversight effort (i.e. the conversion problem). Its a simple change. Just ask your suppliers to send the invoices as email attachments and you’re done. Most suppliers are happy to oblige and many bigger companies have portals where you can access the files yourself.

But wait a minute, InvoiceSmash does OCR doesn’t it?

Yes, but we’re doing it begrudgingly. We really want you to process your invoices electronically so as to avoid the data validation headache.  But of course, we’re living in the real world and even companies that are aggressively embracing automation still have the occasional pieces of paper floating around. They can use InvoiceSmash too. (OCR assist, is due to go online, Aug 2013. It is in beta use now but not make that open yet.)