When done right, digital invoicing in SAP lets you increase transparency while decreasing cost. [shutterstock: 338281571, Olivier Le Moal]
When processing paper invoices, the disadvantages involved become more evident the greater the volume: long processing cycles, a lack of transparency, loss of potential cash discounts, late-payment penalties, and inaccurate accruals and deferrals.
To avoid these effects, digital solutions for invoice processing, procurement and archiving have been developed. WMD Benelux, the Dutch subsidiary of WMD Group, has presented such a solution, the xSuite for SAP solutions, in April at the Factuurcongress Rotterdam, one of the most important events of its kind in the Netherlands.
The Advantages of Digital Workflows
Digital workflows enable organizations to attain invoicing with high speed and automation. They provide transparency and contribute to effective cost and revenue controlling.
With the xSuite for SAP, software manufacturer WMD offers a generic, fully SAP-integrated solution for mapping and automating document-based processes.
Affiliated are various components for capturing, invoice processing, MS Office integration, mobile release, process analyzing among others. xSuite builds on “xFlow”, a basic workflow solution offering seamless integration and extendibility.
Challenges large companies have today
A digital solution has huge impact on the efficiency of invoice processing, particularly apparent in organizations with decentralized structures.
Often, invoices are sent to departments located at a geographical distance from the persons involved in the approval process. Forwarding and releasing the invoices manually then requires excessive time, making it practically impossible to activate approval of invoices as soon as they have arrived.
Capturing and Extracting Data
Invoices arrive at organizations in many different forms: on paper, as a PDF document, or through a data stream such as EDI. Whatever the input channel, a digital solution includes tools necessary for capturing invoices and relevant data and for preparing them for processing.
When paper invoices arrive, they are scanned with the capture component. Once the documents have been digitalized, this component extracts the invoice data and optimizes recognition quality by comparing extracted information with SAP master-data.
Data Transfer to SAP ERP
Next step in the process – transferring the extracted data and invoice images to SAP – is performed within the WMD solution via an SAP-certified system interface for integration in SAP NetWeaver.
Invoice images and data from CSV or XML files will be imported and transmitted to SAP.
The user can map the scenarios “early” and “late storage” with SAP ArchiveLink and link different file formats with any SAP business object – useful functions for processing incoming invoices.
All the invoice validation and plausibility checks take place within SAP. The accounting department thus has immediate access to the information it needs.
Invoices Received Electronically
Receipt of invoices as email attachments is common in many countries. Those where it has not been permitted are following soon, an example being Germany, where electronic invoices have been allowed since a 2011 tax-simplification ruling.
The xSuite supports the automated transfer of emails, invoices, and attachments originating from a designated mailbox, transferring them directly into the workflow process within SAP.
This works via an add-on, which is responsible for handling the transfer and archival of the invoice, all attachments (general terms and conditions, delivery notes, etc.), the email text, and the original email (in EML format).
In combination with the capturing component for data extraction, the system interface analyzes invoice contents, extracts them, and passes them directly into the ERP system as required.
Simultaneously, the capturing component determines the vendor and all relevant data based on the invoice information. Along with the invoices, another component (Interface Mail) sends all other email communication – incoming sales orders, for example – to the ERP system.
The interplay of those components with the invoice procession module enables user organizations to map digital invoice receipt within a short time within SAP.
The Core Module – The Invoice Workflow
xFlow Invoice, the core module for invoice processing, is the one ultimately responsible for forwarding and releasing invoices in an organization. With the SAP-certified software, SAP users can approve and release their vendor invoices based entirely on SAP technology.
The module allows release of SG&A invoices (FI) and invoices with SAP PO reference (MM). Any number of approval steps can be defined with the module, and release can also be performed by item.
For quick payment of urgent invoices, a component for mobile release is helpful. With such an add-on, users can approve and release invoices while away from their desks using their smartphone.
Evaluating the Work Process
Last but not least, a solution for digital invoice processing should comprise a component for detailed analysis for invoice processing, comparing values such as those for current and past periods.
The clear overview provided by such a module displays the data as preferred, for example in the form of a diagram.
Vendor-based analysis can be performed based on the average processing time, the number of processed invoices, missed cash discount opportunities, or open amounts, with the results displayed at a click.