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Shelby Group creates ‘Digital Invoice’ solution to tackle paper invoices

In procurement software projects, consultants usually play a role in tech selection, implementation or training, but The Shelby Group has taken its procurement consulting knowledge even further and created a product — one that can fill a gap that it saw when businesses struggled to deal with paper invoices in the digital age.

In accounts payable departments worldwide, it’s a common problem that paper invoices are still received from countless suppliers of varying sizes, and it’s known that digitally reading those invoices can save time and money if the clear rate can be improved.

The Shelby Group’s Digital Invoice is a powerful solution that clears a majority of invoices (both verified/complete and “close enough”) without human intervention. This is done through a complex, patent-pending technology that blends machine learning, AI technology and a robust matching engine for approvals. This solution, which works with Coupa’s business spend management platform, also deploys customized workflow rules that sends an incomplete invoice to the right person for remediation within Coupa, not back to the supplier. This is part of a revolutionary time for the P2P industry where companies can finally go fully digital within their P2P system.

Shelby’s approach stems from the understanding that invoices come in all shapes and sizes. There are countless reasons for an invoice to be natively rejected by a P2P platform, so Digital Invoice aims to anticipate and circumvent those issues, making the correction and approval process as seamless as possible.

Painting a Picture

Digital Invoice can anticipate and automate the approval of highly complex invoice struggles. As an example, Shelby CEO, John Dreyer, discussed a common issue seen while ordering a service (such as having an office building painted). The one-line purchase order may simply state that the office building would be painted for $10,000 — but the invoice may break down the costs into multiple line items of detail such as quantities for each can of paint, the brushes, rollers, tape and tarps. It might even list the hours worked and the cost of labor per hour.

The detailed lines on the invoice may add up to the $10,000 total, but the fact that the line count does not match the purchase order will result in a rejection within Coupa.

“The invoice and the purchase order are often doing two different things,” Dreyer said. “So our Digital Invoice solution anticipates and resolves this issue without human intervention. This is just one of many examples of the power of this tool.”

The Digital Invoice Process

With Digital Invoice, paper and PDF invoices are converted into digital files that are then processed within Coupa (typically without human intervention).

In this service, invoices are divided into three categories: Verified/Complete, Incomplete and “Close Enough” invoices. Verified/Complete invoices are routed directly to Coupa for processing without human intervention. “Close Enough” invoices are analyzed by Shelby’s MetaMatch AI technology for verification and are then processed within Coupa without human intervention. Incomplete invoices are annotated by Shelby’s ChangeMe tool before being sent to the appropriate group/user within Coupa for remediation. The combination of these three systems within Digital Invoice allows users to go fully digital on day one with this service.

To learn more about the invoice handling process of Digital Invoice, view the graphic below or watch the brief video here.

Benefits of Digital Invoice

With Digital Invoice, companies can reduce operating costs by up to 67%, replace late-payment fees with early-pay discounts and free their personnel to perform higher-value functions.

Digital Invoice also reduces headaches for suppliers — who don’t have to change their invoicing process at all, unlike the many firms that force suppliers to use any number of different computer systems.

It would be best if all suppliers were doing a full digital transformation, but that trend isn’t happening for many smaller businesses.

Shelby expects paper invoices to be a factor for the next 10 to 20 years. Right now, a majority of companies receive 70% of their invoices on paper and 30% as e-invoices (yet many e-invoices are still not in readable formats for P2P platforms). This leaves businesses wondering how they can process all these invoices without throwing teams of employees at the problem. Instead, Digital Invoice automates the approval process and lets procurement employees save time so they can focus on more strategic tasks or building relationships with suppliers.

Digital Invoice Case Study

Digital Invoice’s first customer was DXP Enterprises, a leading distributor of industrial products and services that relies on a network of more than 18,000 suppliers. DXP processes more than a million paper and PDF invoices annually. Due to the large quantity of invoices, finding a timely and efficient way to process these invoices was crucial to DXP.

DXP replaced its home-grown solution with Digital Invoice. This resulted in a drastic increase in invoice matching, visibility and automated workflows.

“Our 18,000-plus suppliers are vital strategic partners in creating value for DXP customers. Digital Invoice enabled us to automate manual processing, speed cycle times and gain visibility that helps us analyze spend and build stronger relationships with supply partners,” CIO Chris Gregory said.

To learn more about DXP’s success with Digital Invoice, read The Shelby Group’s case study here.

(Digital Invoice is currently available in North America and will be offered globally in the near future).

Look for more coverage and Spend Matters’ PRO analysis of Digital Invoice as we explore the issues in the coming weeks.

This article was written for The Shelby Group, not as Spend Matters’ analysis or editorial content.