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Although EDI has been around for 20 years, lots of companies still process orders and invoices manually; that is, they receive a written, faxed, or e-mailed purchase order or invoice, then  type it into whatever software they have for tracking and fulfilling orders and paying suppliers.

If you  can’t or don’t want to get into EDI with your trading partners, there are at least two other options: buying software to image the paper documents and convert them to digital format for integration to your systems, or outsourcing the imaging and integration to a third party.

Let’s review the first option.  ReadSoft is one leading vendor offering document imaging.  The company states that it’s solutions “automate the processes of scanning, interpreting, and filing of invoice data,” and provide “seamless workflow integration with SAP, Oracle and over 50 ERP systems.”  The software enables three-way matching of invoice, purchase order, and contract.

My experience with ReadSoft is that it is a solid solution; although the expertise began with invoices the company also manages the purchase order side as well.  The companies that I know use ReadSoft have purchased it as an “on-premise” solution; that is, they have purchased the license for the software and installed it on a server within their organization.  It has a good rules-based engine for checking documents for certain attributes prior to integration with your main systems.

The second option is to outsource the receipt, capture, filtering, and integration to a 3rd party.  One vendor that does this is OmPrompt, a UK-based firm that is relatively small but boasts numerous marquee brand-name global companies as clients.  I also have experience with this company and indeed their solutions are solid and deliver as promised.

OmPrompt, in simple terms, works like this: your paper traffic is diverted to the company, you apply whatever business rules and filters to those documents, and OmPrompt then sends to your ERP system the proper digital files to complete the transactions.  OmPrompt handles business from around the globe, from the Middle East to China.  OmPrompt also processes EDI exchanges, and customer claims — a huge headache for many companies.

Which type of solution — on-premise or service — is better for you?  I am biased toward services rather than buying software, but you do need to consider the pros and cons in a balanced way:

The on-premise solution might be better if you want tight integration with the SAP or Oracle workflow, although the OmPrompt service can also filter invoices, claims, and POs based on your contracts and business rules.  The service-based solution removes the obligation to maintain server, operating system, licenses, users, and the core software;

Cost-wise you may pay much more upfront for the on-premise solution (license, installation, configuration, server, etc.) as well as 20-25% of the license cost each year for software maintenance.

The service option is very low-cost, after some setup fees, because you are using computing power that is shared across many clients.

Whichever option you choose, automating the manual work will bring clear returns:  reduced administrative work and solid internal controls to ensure you’re paying what you should on invoices and claims, plus the ability to standardize your inbound purchase orders or create a web portal for order capture.