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Intelligent Invoice Scanning

In this blog post, I will have a closer look at the ‘Intelligent Invoice Scanning’ feature, introduced in SAP Business ByDesign with release 2008. There are two key differentiators compared to the existing scanning solution:

  1. It is now sufficient to only upload PDF documents; a TXT document is not needed anymore.
  2. Scanning of the PDF is done using SAP’s Document Information Extraction Service (DOX), including an integrated OCR service as well as a machine-learning based model.

Supported languages are English, German, French, and Spanish. Please be aware, that the DOX service is currently not available in a Chinese data center, and therefore cannot be used in ByD tenants hosted in China.

In addition, I am pleased to mention that usage of the new scanning service is included in the normal SAP Business ByDesign licenses, no additional costs will be incurred!

This graphic shows the end-2-end process flow. It starts with uploading the PDF documents from your local file share using a new work center view ‘Invoice Scanning’. A mass upload of PDFs can also be done using SAP’s Collaboration Window, This can be downloaded from the Self-Service section in an SAP Business ByDesign system (Work Center ‘Home’).

Once uploaded, the PDFs are automatically sent to SAP’s Document Information Extraction Service,  and invoice header and item information is sent back to SAP Business ByDesign. Since supplier master data can be uploaded to DOX, the supplier ID can directly be mapped to the scanned supplier information, like name, address, or other contact information.

The scanned information is first stored in a staging object, where the results can be reviewed, corrected, and once fine, the supplier invoice can be created.

Let’s have a look at the steps in more detail.

To activate the solution in your tenant, you must set the ‘Do you want to enter supplier invoices via PDF scanning?’ question in scope. If you want to automate the creation of the invoice in addition, you must also select ‘Do you want automatic creation of invoices from scanned documents?’. This means, that automatically a supplier invoice is created from the staging object.

No further setup needs to be done to establish the connection of the SAP Business ByDesign tenant to the DOX service.

Next, the new view ‘Invoice Scanning’ of the ‘Supplier Invoicing’ work center needs to be assigned to the relevant users.

I recommend to upload the supplier master data to DOX before the first invoices are scanned. This can be done in the ‘Invoice Scanning’ view in the work center ‘Supplier Invoicing’. Currently, whenever new scanning-relevant supplier master data have been created or changed, this upload should be repeated.

The action ‘Synchronize Master Data’ launches a screen, where the synchronization can be started.

Now, the system is prepared to start the scanning process.

This can be done by the ‘Upload’ action in the ‘Invoice Scanning’ view. A screen is launched, where the company can be specified for which you want to upload the PDFs. Then, the corresponding PDF documents can be selected from a file share, and via ‘Start Process’ are handed over to DOX.

As mentioned above, a mass upload of PDF documents can best be done using SAP’s Collaboration Window. Please do the following configuration settings under Menu – Settings – Invoice Scanning:

 

Please flag both options and specify the ‘Observed’ folder, from where to upload the PDFs. Next, you need to copy your invoice PDF into the observed folder, from where they get automatically uploaded, if the Collaboration Window is open.

The company information is retrieved from the user logged in to the Collaboration Window.

Independent of the way you use for uploading the PDFs, they then show up in the ‘Invoice Scanning’ view:

The status indicates, if scanning has been completed. You might need to refresh the list after a while. Once scanning is complete, you can take a look at the scanned values using the the action ‘Review’, that opens the staging object:

The scanned values are visible in the read-only fields on the left side of the UI. In case some values have not been scanned correctly, or have not been recognized at all, the reviewed values section allows you to manually override them. In my example, the supplier was not recognized. Once you are fine with the result, the invoice can directly be created from this UI, or from the ‘Invoice Scanning’ work list.

The invoice, that got created, can of course be reviewed once more in the ‘New Scanned Invoice’ UI, where also additional data like accounting assignment can be added.

With that, the invoice scanning and creation process is complete. Please also check out the video

YouTube link.

33 Comments
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    • Hi Andre,

      currently this in not supported, but I would ask you to create a customer influencing request for the same, so that we can see how many partners and customers vote for it.

      Best regards,

      Stefan

      • Andre, this is a very good request. I opened a customer influence request. The ID is 252970. Let’s vote on this request.

        Name: Intelligent Invoice Scanning – corporate email account
        Request ID: 252970, Category: Supplier Relationship Management
  • Hi Stefan!

    We have run a few tests to check the capabilities and make some experience with this new feature in our test tenant.

    The result is a mixed bag:

    1. The supplier synchronization did not work at first but was later fixed by the SAP support.
    2. Configuration and set up was a breeze, thanks for the blog & video.
    3. I loaded a handful of pdf files manually (prepared to match the existing PO, same supplier, no invoice/PO differences, straightforward invoice layout, GR complete, clear information with dates, field names identical to the mapping tables in fine tuning).
    4. There were numerous issues that made me doubt that this was an AI infused application. I am happy to show you the test set up.
    5. The interesting issue was that even after the “scanned values” were adjusted with the “reviewed values”, when creating the invoice, those values were disregarded by the process. Basically we they had to be entered again. Here I am not sure if this is wanted or an issue that should be reported.

    The classical process (with pdf and txt files) works much better – so far. But it needs the two files (prepared by OCR scanning manually or using an automated process).

    But it would be good to learn some details about the AI features so that the functionality is fully understood, and expectations set accordingly. Things like: How was this tested? What model was used? Are there statistics of success vs manual handling etc.

    Thanks

    -Jan-

  • Hello David, we are testing this feature and the system is working as defined in your blog. This is a great new future and will test it for a few weeks and then, if everything works well, we will deploy it in our company. Kudos to your team

  • Hi Stefan,

    Thank you for so waiting-to-have feature !!!

    In case of Errors Occured while fetching Scanned Invoice Data, shall I contact the SAP Support ? Also, if values are not well scanned ?

     

    Kind regards,

    Gosia

    • Hi Gosia,

      This time, I have the same error as you.  My invoices are scanned but no values are detected.

      All fields are empty when reviewing the scanned invoice.

      Perhaps OCR service not running on tenant / time to activate it ? 

      I also tried a manual upload and got the same error.  And it took about 10 minutes before I could get the error message. 

      Kind regards,

       

      François-Luc

       

      • Hi Fracois-Luc,

        of course it should not happen that no values are detected. Please raise an incident. Of course, if you use a not-supported language then this might happen.

        Kind regards

        Stefan

    • Hi Gosia,

      if you have the feeling that certain data are not recognized with an acceptable accuracy (e.g. 80%) then please create an incident. Please provide example invoices and the values that have not been recognized properly.

      Kind regards

      Stefan

  • Hi everyone, Stefan,

     

    Has anyone tested the feature on partially invoiced POs ? (when only a part of a PO is invoiced)

     

    Any positive tests on French or Spanish invoices for anyone so far ?

     

    Regards,

    Gosia

    • Hi Gosia,

      I have made some test with discrepancies. DOX is scanning the pdf and show scanned values.

      But once you create the invoice, you’re back to the standard process flow and all figures (amounts and quantities) available in the PO are presented. I didn’t find -up to now- a way to carry over the scanned values.

      Stefan Resag –> Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you will have to retype the reviewed values.

      Francois-Luc

       

      • Hi Francois-Luc,

        if the scanning finds a PO then it will retrieve information from the PO, because the assumption is that this info is more accurate.

        Best regards,

        Stefan

        • Hi Stefan,

          I wouldn’t agree that values of the PO are more accurate than the ones of the scanned invoice. There are scanned (good) amounts shown in the review window nevertheless the created invoice retrieves the PO values instead of the scanned ones.

           

          @François-Luc,

          I logged the issue as an incident with SAP to see if they can do anything. I have also voted for your idea on this issue.

           

          Regards,

          Gosia

           

  • Hi Stefan,

    As mentioned above, the company information is retrieved from the user logged into the Collaboration Window”.

    If you have a tenant with different companies, the user logged into the SAP Collaboration Window will logically be employed by 1 company.  But this is not always the company for which he/she wants to scan invoices.

    Do you have to review all invoices ?  A work around could be to find a colleague working for the right company to open the collaboration window and move the pdf’s…

    Or have the possibility to define more than 1 e-mail as mentioned by @mmolinasap in his customer influence request.

  • Hi Stefan,

    Is it possible to influence the format of the scanned date?

    The date is usually formatted DD-MM-YYYY (in Western Europe)

    But 06/08/2020 is scanned as 8th of June.

    Is it also linked to logged user in the SAP Collaboration Window ?

    BR

     

    Francois-Luc

  • Hi Stefan,

     

    We have tested this new functionality and the biggest issue we’ve seen so far is that the supplier is not getting recognized on any of the invoices we tested.

    Wonder if anyone else have the same issue.

    • Hi Jiawen,

      I hope you have synchronized the supplier master data first, otherwise the ID would not get mapped. If you have synchronized the master data and still face the issue, you should raise an incident.

      Kind regards

      Stefan

  • Hi,

    Is there in future possibility to teach the system to read the invoices. In many so called external services there is this possibility. Like where to find PO number, Suppliers invoice ID, Supplier name and how to read the line items. Some invoices goes thru quite ok in test the supplier field stays empty in all cases. Supplier data upload status successful.

    br,

    Heidi

    • Hi,

      currently customer are not able to teach the system, but we are planning to provide a feature, that customers can send feedback. Based on the feedback we would then be able to train the model, which should over time result in improved accuracy. We plan to provide a pilot for 2011 that will allow us to test our internal process and also to see, how much the model can be influenced by that feedback.

      Kind regards

      Stefan

      • Hi Stefan,

        Thanks for your feedback. Would it make sense to build this idea on so called “data bank” idea, where companies provide the invoice model to you. They would fill in the identification data could be like VAT and country where the company is located and then upload the invoice model in your engine. With analyze and modelling this would then be in use for all your customer. And then you could from customer upload pick the VAT as first indentification, might be that in some countries this field could be something else and it would be combined with upload model. The request for supplier to upload the invoice would be normal communication from us to our supplier as instructions how we handle their invoices.

        Br,

        Heidi

        • Hi Heidi,

          what you described is one of the options the team is currently evaluating. But it will definitely take some time until we know if this approach will work and can also be operated by us with reasonable costs (knowing that the service is free of charge for our ByD customers).

          Best regards

          Stefan

  • Hi Stefan,

    Is there a feedback channel on issues for this function or is it ok to give it here ? One issue occur her for me, how should you handle credit memos. Since the only function is to create invoice and we do scan credit memos too, will there be later a button create credit memo. Sometime in small companies you prefer to have all the attachments with the scanned invoice. It works quite ok when you really have the invoice in first pages but for example the problem is credit card so called statements you have lines that are debit and maybe the amount is in total credit some German companies mark that with H (haben) , even if they are as first page. If you have a receive behind where the word invoice is used ( like hotel invoice) the scanning pics this info. We are for moment working with non PO supplier invoices, it will get of course better when the PO process is in place later this year.

    Solution is in good an review function is a good first step before creating the invoice but to thinking building automatic posting as own solution on this I think there is some work to be done.

    Thanks for your support

    br,

    Heidi

     

    • Hi Heidi,

      thanks a lot for your feedback. The best feedback channel is using the customer influence session for ByD ( hope this link works for you: https://influence.sap.com/sap/ino/#/campaign/886 ). By looking at the votes also from other customers and partners we can see the priority of this request.

      Once votes are 20 or higher, we will review the requests.

      Best regards

      Stefan