Elite 3E Invoice Scanning for AP

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I have been working with Elite 3E pretty much since it’s release out to the public. The one issue that always bothered me was how long it took to enter AP voucher information into Elite 3E. This is a common problem among many legal accounting systems, however, a single voucher can have 10 or more cost card entries per invoice. This in turn takes a good deal of time to enter. It just seemed like a giant waist of time to have one company type up the invoice and then the law firm have to manually re-enter the data.

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One of my clients came to me with a very complex and time consuming invoice that took a single AP clerk over 1 week to enter in a single voucher. Not only was the invoice complex to enter, they were running 6 months behind on payments to the vendor because they had other tasks to handle besides consuming one clerk’s time in entering a single invoice. So I decided to figure out a way to automate the entry of invoices into Elite 3E.

Initially, I had the idea of asking each vendor to send over a pre-formatted CSV (text file) which I would use to import into 3E. Instead of each vendor sending an invoice, they would send an electronic file I could then import into 3E via BizTalk. That idea died a quick death when I realized how difficult it would be to get vendors to send electronic files in the place of invoices. And there were quite a few vendors to contact and convince to send files. Even if I got each vendor to send a file, often they were in a different format and had to be converted to Elite’s BizTalk format anyway.

So the only option that made any sense was to scan the actual invoice. I spent the next year figuring out the best way to scan each invoice. There are so many nuances and ways to pull data from an invoice it will make your head spin. It took me about a year to figure out the best way to read the data from the invoice. Once I was able to do that, I had to build the engine to import the invoice. So I built the import engine and put it into testing at one of the firms who was willing to try it out. Immediately, I found out that importing the invoice was no good unless each AP person could look at a picture of the invoice side by side to the imported data. No one wanted to shuffle through a stack of papers to find the invoice data they were looking at in 3E. Furthermore, all the AP people told me they didn’t want to leave 3E.

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So the next step was to build a customization that allows each AP clerk to view the actual physically scanned invoice to the voucher data side by side within 3E. That took about 3 months. Afterward, I finally had the scanning engine, import engine and preview engines built and tied them all together. The first time I scanned in 32 invoices from one vendor and AP brought them into 3E in less than 3 minutes was magical. We then progressed to build the templates for all the other vendors and AP went from hours of entering in invoices by hand to simply reviewing the data and clicking submit.

Right now, the scanning engine is about 98.5% accurate and I am working to get it to 99% now. But I now have a fully build invoice scanning system that has the capability to take each vendor invoice and scan directly into Elite 3E’s voucher. Not only does it bring the data in for the voucher but it automatically creates the cost cards as well! Each vendor’s template can be customized so the data can be scanned in anyway the firm desires so it can be completely customized. Furthermore, I build the entire system to be cloud-based so each firm who uses my system doesn’t have to bother installing anything but a simple customization to the voucher form.

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The entire process is completely refined at this point. This is the way it works: 1. The AP Clerk takes a PDF of the invoice (or a scanned PDF) and drops the PDF into the vendor’s designated folder (IE. ABC Legal). The system then grabs the invoice and reads all the data via the designated template for the invoice. It takes all the scanned data and brings it into the voucher for Elite 3E. Once imported, the AP Clerk(s) will get an action list notification that an invoice or group of invoices is ready for review. The AP clerk will then click on the invoice notification and then click a button to bring the original invoice on screen and compare the original invoice to the data. Once the clerk confirms the scanned data is correct, they simply click the SUBMIT button to commit the voucher to Elite 3E. Simple and fast. If they want to change any data prior to committing the voucher, all they need to do is make a quick change before submitting.

Now that I have the entire system built and working at one firm, I am looking for other firms who are willing to be “beta” firms to use my invoice scanning system. If you know any firms who run Elite 3E that want to be able to scan their invoices into 3E, please let me know so we can work with them to put our new invoice scanning system in place. The system is called “Scan Logic” and is ready for prime time. You can find more information at www.smsitgroup.com or email me at sgm@smsitgroup.com.

So if you run Elite 3E and want to eliminate the manual entry of your AP invoices, let me know!

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