“Price is what you pay, value is what you get” – Warren Buffett
This Warren Buffett quote succinctly explains the ongoing change in the accounts payable invoice processing industry. A conservative estimate shows that an average employee in an accounting department can process up to 5 invoices per hour. It means an average employee can process 42 invoices per day and the number can go as high as 906 invoices per month.
For each invoice processed, there is an inherent cost applied for the company processing it and each delay results in loss of revenue. We have seen automation take over slow, repetitive processes that waste hours or days each month. These manual processes can be found in invoice processing as well and automation is turning a corner for this industry. Cevinio is one of the interesting companies leading the change in this segment.
Cevinio and automation to the rescue
In a typical accounts payable department, you will find touchpoints like invoice data capture, validation, approvals and accounting still being done manually. These manual processes lead to longer wait times to process invoices and the end result is unhappy suppliers and higher costs. The solution for this slow and manual process is called accounts payable invoice automation. The AP automation involves tools (or dedicated software) to eliminate manual accounts payable processes and automates them.
Cevinio is a Dutch startup that was founded in 2013 as InvoiceSharing and offered a free electronic invoices network with an accounting robot. In 2018, InvoiceSharing joined forces with TBlox that made it easier to receive and process e-invoices and rebranded to Cevinio in 2020. As a Saas company, Cevinio offers technology that is the result of “more than 15 years of experimenting with technology and algorithms.”
With a name that is an anagram of the word ‘invoice’, Cevinio offers a future-proof invoice-to-pay solution for large enterprises to address their challenges. For any company to be successful, it is important for them to control the costs. Processing a large number of invoices manually is expensive and with automation, companies can optimise their resources and reduce invoice processing costs.
With an invoice-to-pay solution like Cevinio, companies can address challenges like the time taken by AP to process their invoices. Automated software can also route the invoice to the correct approvers faster even when there are exceptions. By implementing AP automation, finance departments can combat fraud and compliance risks. Cevinio, for instance, captures the data using “artificial intelligence to match and validate the data against the information in the ERP system”.
Big benefits of implementing Cevinio Invoice-to-Pay solution
An Accenture study recently showed that AI will enable people to use their time efficiently. It is estimated that AI can increase productivity by 40 per cent. The Invoice-to-Pay solution from Cevinio does the same for accounts and finance departments – increase productivity. It reduces the amount of manual and repetitive tasks. As they reduce throughput time, the finance leaders also gain control of their working capital.
The Invoice-to-Pay solution also brings visibility and control over vendors, AP agents and approvers. Companies can leverage this rich data to “improve productivity, accuracy and reduce throughput time”. Cevinio is also about more than offering a powerful multi-OCR solution. It essentially matches multiple elements like master data and transactional data, exceeding the capabilities of an OCR solution.
One of the major benefits is that companies using Invoice-to-Pay stay compliant and robots run the compliance check for them. The workflow from Cevinio is also capable of handling and automating steps in complex invoice scenarios. Like with anything software does, Cevinio’s Invoice-to-Pay is also about clear data insights. The service allows companies to improve their invoice process using Cevinio’s productivity reporting capabilities.
Cevinio can be implemented in multiple countries and in multiple languages. It supports scaling and growing multi-ERP integration and offers robots with self-learning ability. The low-code or no-code approach means that AP agents can use them without the intervention of IT experts.
Finance transformation meets modern invoice process
Every boardroom has been talking about digital transformation and Cevinio talks about how accounts payable invoice automation is part of this journey. While digital transformation covers different areas of the business, finance transformation is one that addresses the modernisation of the invoice process.
“Ever since the pandemic hit the world, more and more companies joined this trend and started to look for ways to modernise their processes as the world turned online,” Cevinio said in its AP trends for 2022.
The pandemic forced companies that were processing a large number of paper invoices and handling invoice approvals manually to see the benefits of automation and digitisation. The situation made companies realise how it was necessary for their people to go to the office to process the invoice since the files were only accessible locally. “Processing invoices became more challenging and expensive than ever,” Cevinio says based on customer feedback.
The pandemic challenges were exacerbated by existing problems like poor quality invoices, long-invoice cycle times, late payments and compliance issues. Large enterprises quickly realised that addressing these challenges resulted in “business agility, competitiveness, and effectiveness while improving employee and supplier satisfaction.”
For these challenging times, Cevinio proposes a “new way of working that enhances the collaboration between humans or your accounts payable team and robots or artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.”
AI and ML to augment human-driven accounting industry
While AI and automation excite businesses, employees often fear the automation-driven job apocalypse. The reality is one where automation is not going to steal their jobs. In fact, automation is going to make their jobs easier by augmenting their work with intelligence. Cevinio does that for the accounting industry where its robots, AI and ML programs help employees with manual and repetitive tasks.
This allows AP agents to focus on value-added tasks such as improving supplier relationships, optimisation and maintenance of the invoice automation tool independent of IT. They can also channel their energy towards the use of “data to further optimise the invoice process”. The AP automation also helps agents to understand business processes to be more strategic in their tasks.
Automation, in essence, frees operators from boring and cumbersome tasks and allows them to focus on more interesting tasks. This means AP agents can develop new skills and focus on important and strategic decision making with the help of data from AI and ML programs. Cevinio foresees the responsibilities of AP will also change as finance leaders apply change management programs to leverage the I2P tool to the fullest. It sees the impact for the businesses will be “higher business competitiveness, agility, and effectiveness”.
AWS to drive this finance transformation
Digital transformation is one where people can connect from different locations, work together, share files without worrying about being physically present in the same location. In other words, it is a process that turns companies into digital-first and cloud-native across business verticals. This digital transformation has now hit a tipping point thanks to remote work necessitated by the pandemic.
Cevinio says by working with cloud solutions, it has been able to help its clients embrace the flexibility of remote access and achieve business continuity. To make this transformation possible, Cevinio decided to work with AWS, the largest cloud service provider in the world.
“We trust the partnership with AWS because they are the front runners in the cloud, providing us high-quality managed services that allow us to speed up deployments and be scalable and highly available,” Vincent Prooij, CTO of Cevinio, told Silicon Canals.
While accounting has generally been an on-premise business vertical, Cevinio says there are additional benefits to switching to the cloud. It says working on the cloud allows them to record the steps and actions. For clients, this is valuable information for audit trials and fraud. In manual invoice processing, it would be nearly impossible to track what happened to each invoice. However, with a cloud solution like Cevinio’s Invoice-to-Pay, companies get much more flexibility including the ability to track actions surrounding each invoice.
One of the common themes that we have found talking to companies that use AWS is an appreciation for scalability. Cevinio is not different. As a SaaS company serving large enterprises with shared services and global offices, AWS enables Cevinio to offer a solution aligned with customer needs and requirements. Cevinio says customers expect an invoice-to-pay solution that is flexible as they scale and one that has no risk.
With an invoice-to-pay cloud solution, Cevinio is able to offer a solution where the information is always backed-up and projected. This allows the clients to minimise downtime, lower productivity loss and maintain zero disruption. Cevinio says “AWS plays an important role by making it possible for [us] to bring our solution to the cloud.”
“When our customers scale, we do it with them. When our customers grow, we grow,” Vincent added.
Cevinio, like any other SaaS startup, is delivering a scalable solution and as the company grows, it requires more flexibility. With AWS, Cevinio is able to gain that flexibility, maintain agile communication and collaboration and enable automatic updates to its solution. With AWS as cloud partner, Cevinio stays “competitive, agile and capable of delivering better service to its clients.”
“Our clients have centres all over the globe, and the AWS infrastructure allows us to service them everywhere we need,” Vincent commented on the AWS partnership.
Cevinio’s AP automation trends for 2022
Cevinio sees AI and ML will enable higher levels of automation and accuracy. The company foresees large corporations automating their invoice-to-pay process with software that operates on the cloud, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. While robots, AI and ML are currently helping with manual tasks, robots are already learning from recent postings and suggesting new rules to improve future accounting.
In 2022 and beyond, Cevinio sees humans and robots collaborating more and operators getting increased time to focus on exceptions and value-added tasks. Another trend is AP automation with the highest levels of data security and fraud protection. With accounting teams embracing remote work, implementing cloud solutions and automating certain operations, there is an increased need to secure information.
“Cybersecurity measures are the norm as processes become digitised and the goal is to keep private data that way,” Cevinio observes in its whitepaper. With AP automation solutions becoming the answer to solving the fraud challenge, Cevinio is making sure that its invoice-to-pay solution complies with ISO 27001, SOC1, SOC2 and is also GDPR compliant.
As automation takes over mundane and repetitive tasks, AP agents can acquire new skills and focus on solving problems. The AP agents are also required to develop IT and data science skills and transition from being tactical to strategic. “Finance leaders have the responsibility to prepare their teams and lead the change with open communication and transparency,” the company said.
Cevinio says another keyword dominating the AP automation is data. While access to data per se is not new, large enterprises are finally understanding the potential of AP tools to support their data infrastructure with analytics and reporting capabilities. These reporting capabilities will help companies improve “productivity throughout the Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) process”.
Cevinio and the road ahead
Cevinio is one of those companies that are truly transformational. It is transforming an entire industry stuck in the past and struggling to adapt to the changing world. The company leadership admits that when large enterprises implement Cevinio (or any other AP automation tool), the immediate challenge for them is to lead the change management. Finance leaders are tasked with the need to make necessary changes to adapt and evolve with the implementations of these new tools.
“Companies struggle to get their AP teams to adapt and move from processing paper to working with robots.”
In order to help them embrace this challenge, Cevinio works alongside customers to improve their workflow, productivity and highlight the benefits of the service and statistics available to them. For example, the invoice-to-pay solution from Cevinio collects valuable information on the vendor level and can drill their data to see the number of invoices that came with errors.
As a multi-country and multi-language organisation, Cevinio has lots of experience implementing its AP solution for several clients. This makes it better than local players and allows for a better workflow experience. It also allows handling complex invoice scenarios such as mismatch on POs, partial invoices and missing goods receipts.
Finance transformation and digitisation is not a mainstay but a trend that will only accelerate as the global economy prepares for a post-pandemic world. In such a world, Cevinio wants to maintain its edge by being a specialist instead of being a player with limited solutions. Its ability to work with multi-country, multi-language, scalable infrastructure makes it a valuable addition to enterprises looking to take their AP process from paper to automation.
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