Last week we noted that 2020 is fast approaching and asked what you had accomplished, especially given all the 2020 predictions that were made between 2008-ish and 2013-ish when pretty much every big consultancy or vendor had finished their own 2020 bandwagon and created the 2020 parade.
But then we didn’t wait for the answer, we gave it to you because, simply put, most of the vendors haven’t advanced the technology to where it was supposed to be and, as a result, while you got more integrated, streamlined, easier to use platforms with friendlier, and sometimes even mobile, interfaces, you haven’t really obtained new functionality.
But we were told that, by 2020, software would be smart. It would do most of our work for us. Tactical would be a thing of the past as process, and, most importantly paperwork, would be completely automated and electronic. But, alas, we’re still in the situation where you need OCR because many smaller suppliers max out at PDF when it comes to tech, and many in non-tech industries think PDF is scanning a paper invoice and embedding the image in a PDF. And if the platform doesn’t have PO flip, made easy, over a low bandwidth connection (there’s still no fibre [or even copper, they dig it up for scrap] in the middle of the backwoods, especially in developing countries), this is what you get.
So what can you get?
The answer is, believe it or not, more than you expect, if you’re willing to go Best-of-Breed along-side your S2P, get good at integration, and better yet at value identification and management. Because we do have the ability to do the following, with specific platforms in specific circumstances.
There are a number of platforms out there with intelligent OCR that can use large, global, supplier databases to match names; address databases to identify algorithms (and match to locations); global banking databases (with known swift codes, branches, etc.) to identify banking information; catalog and service databases to identify what is being billed; and smart code match algorithms to identify corresponding POs, contracts, etc. and identify the majority of relevant information. And, on top of that, some of the better applications have document structure identification capability where the application can be told what information is generally where, will learn the supplier’s invoice structure over time, and extract the information with higher and higher precision over time.
Moreover, the intelligent algorithms will only ask for confirmation of data that doesn’t pass a confidence interval, which will increase over time. So, even if you have hundreds of thousands of invoices, within a few months after roll-out, you won’t even have to look at 100 of them. Long gone are the days of EDI only. When you go from having to evaluate over 15% of invoices manually (which is the typical error rate) to less than 0.2% (as the platform can automatically identify, and correct, errors or bounce back invoices that can’t be matched), the time savings is phenomenal
Once upon a time, if you needed a supplier, you look at who bid last time, who sent you catalogs, and who your buddy recommended. Not very good. Then you got e-RFX and supplier portals where they could self register, but then you had an avalanche of supplier (catalog) data to go through that made looking for a needle in a haystack easy. Then you had networks which classified by high level category or product classes, but when you had specific needs, custom manufacturing requirements, raw material limitations, etc., it didn’t help much.
But now you have platforms that can use AI technologies and community feedback to identify suppliers that provide the products you are looking for, using the production techniques you are looking for, in the locations you are looking for, with the quality and reliability you are looking for, and the status/certification you are looking for, ranked according to most likely to be selected to least likely. This type of supplier discovery and automatic qualification using 3rd party platforms and community intelligence can often save a person-week of time on an RFI.
And this is just the start … but not all of this is in your average S2P platform.