A trend having an impact from the outside as well as from the inside

May 2, 2021 Czech Republic

In my practice, I have had the opportunity to see it in many manufacturing companies, such as in the production of automotive components, plasma TVs, or in large warehouses of retail companies.

We can observe robotization and digitization all around us. In my practice, I have had the opportunity to see it in many manufacturing companies, such as in the production of automotive components, plasma TVs, or in large warehouses of retail companies. I also come across it every day when just doing the shopping, when price tags in the supermarket are no longer paper but digital, and I don't have to wait at the cash register for the cashier to “scan” the entire shopping cart – I can do it myself as I choose an item, either with a borrowed scanner or even with my mobile phone. At the same time, the phone will just offer me the items I bought last week, in case I have forgotten about them today. But we have already moved a little further towards artificial intelligence.

Digitization has recently become an indisputable trend, even in our field – accounting. It is something that exerts influence from the outside, as in the example above, but also from the inside. I often meet colleagues who ask me a simple question: “I no longer just want to charge incoming invoices. Could I work on some more complex accounting cases?” And, naturally, we want to meet such requests. Because that is the only way work will be enjoyable and make sense for them.

So what is the specific application?

There is a lot of writing about digitization in accounting and a lot of presentations. However, real examples that work and bring the intended benefits at the same time are often worse. Nevertheless, a properly functioning model can very simply look like this:

  1. A supplier issues an invoice for its services or goods in electronic form
  2. It sends it to the email address predefined by the accounting processor
  3. After receiving the email, the system automatically moves it to the OCR (optical character recognition) system for extraction
  4. If it is an existing sample invoice, the system itself recognizes it and extracts from it all the essentials for approval and accounting
  5. Several key checks are immediately performed from the extracted data – the existence of the supplier in the company's register of suppliers, the correctness of its bank account number, or its verification in the register of reliable payers
  6. If an approval workflow is set up, predefined approvers will receive an email or mobile notification that an invoice is ready for them to approve
  7. Once approved, it is automatically transferred to the accounting system, which is synchronized with the OCR and is ready for posting.
  8. Posting is ideally done only by confirming data prepared in advance by the system, such as the amount, account number, date of taxable supply, etc.

The whole system can work in a cloud environment without the need to install software on a PC and with the ability to access it from anywhere. The company thus has an online overview of the status of the invoice (received, approved, posted, or paid).

It helps speed up processes, even if it sometimes does not seem so

We can certainly calculate how much time we save in individual processes, such as approving incoming invoices, posting them, or archiving them (and especially the subsequent search in archived documents), if everything is digitized. We can even measure how many sheets of paper we do not have to print because the documents circulate throughout the process, for example, in PDF format – in our company, for instance, we have calculated this number as several full-grown trees a year.

But none of this will be real if we fail to convince our suppliers and all our colleagues in accounting who work in the new environment of such a significant change as the transition from paper to a purely digital form of documents. At the beginning of every major change, there is always a large group of those who do not believe in innovation, who consider the time-tested system to be better, more efficient, more pleasant, and even faster.

The way to overcome their concerns is, for one thing, adequate hardware – two large monitors for everyone as standard, and then a group of “pioneers” who will, within the organization, come up with practical examples of how the new system specifically saves them work and will spread their know-how among others. Personally, I am convinced that “digital culture” will gradually prevail.

Petr Vlček
Petr Vlček Accounting Team Director
ASB Czech Republic