The Evolution of AI-Supported PDF Invoice Handling

The traditional practice of sending and handling paper invoices is rapidly becoming obsolete. Instead, there's a remarkable surge in the utilization of PDF invoices sent via email and the adoption of e-invoices among companies globally. These shifts are not merely trends; they represent a fundamental transformation in how businesses manage their invoicing processes.

The Changing Landscape

Over the last few years, we’ve observed a significant decline in paper invoices among our customers. While there are geographical differences, the overall trend shows a shift towards e-invoicing. However, PDF invoices sent via email have seen a notable rise as companies are transitioning away from paper invoices but are not yet ready or able to transition to e-invoices directly.

The global implementation of e-invoicing is growing exponentially, with many new government-led e-invoicing mandates expected in the coming years. However, cross-border invoices are out of the scope of all mandated actions, and there will always be a need for non-electronic and exception invoice handling. It is not only about PDF invoices; there is also a need to smartly handle other financial documents, such as supplier statements, which are arriving in PDF form.

Various businesses highlight PDF invoices as one of the most commonly used digital invoicing formats due to their reliability and ease of use:

  • The Billentis report cites widespread adoption of PDF invoices among businesses due to their ease of use and compatibility with various systems.
  • Ardent Partners highlights the prevalence of PDF invoices in digital billing practices in their annual "State of ePayables" report.
  • Deloitte's surveys and reports on digital invoice processing provide insights into the adoption of PDF invoices among enterprises and the associated efficiency gains.
  • Capgemini's World Payments Report highlights how businesses leverage PDF invoices for streamlined billing and payment processes.

The need, value and role of data in business have also changed. The thinking has moved from cost-conscious data capture to a full, high quality data capture need from financial processes. Reliable, complete data has become a must, as companies rely on more and more downstream use of invoice data in their processes, to streamline and grow their business with support from analytics and gain a better understanding of their business.

The role of PDF invoices

As already mentioned, PDF invoices are today a popular choice for businesses due to their reliability and ease of use. They offer consistent formatting and a professional appearance across devices, also helping companies maintain a polished image. The convenience of PDFs lies in their compatibility and ease of distribution, making them a practical option for many organizations.

While PDF invoices represent a step towards digitalization, the limitations of manual data entry and the need for human intervention highlight the necessity for a more advanced solution. Transitioning to fully digital invoices not only reduces these inefficiencies but also enhances integration and automation, paving the way for more streamlined and effective financial operations.

Overcoming Invoice Processing Pain Points with PDF Invoices

Let’s look at some of the pain points companies are experiencing with PDF invoices, beyond the manual handlingand other issues already mentioned.These are the primary pain points to consider when choosing a solution for automated PDF handling.

Full Invoice Data Capture: Leaving any data on the invoice uncaptured is an immediate downgrade to your further data utilization, which is like leaving behind gold nuggets of information. Capturing both line and header level data automatically from your PDF invoices ensures comprehensive data extraction and significantly reduces the need for any later manual entry. This not only enhances data accuracy and the amount of data available, but also enables better downstream use of data, driving improved analytics and reporting.

CO2 emissions: With most companies and their customers being very conscious of environmental impact, this is a perfect opportunity to calculate the change you can make, as 80% of company emissions come from the supply chain. Combining your internal purchasing data with external emission data or supplier data for actionable CO2 insights is an opportunity not to be missed. Furthermore, you can gain more visibility into spend and identify improvement opportunities.

Single Email Address Receiving: It is typical for invoices from several companies to be processed in a central hub, such as a shared service center or the main office of a chain. To match the right invoices to the right company, suppliers usually need to send them to company-specific email addresses. However, managing numerous email addresses for different entities you work with can be a logistical nightmare for you and your suppliers. You should only need one email address for receiving all your PDF invoices, simplifying management and reducing administrative overhead. Communicating through a single channel for invoice submission also removes the complexity from supplier communication.

API for Sending PDFs to Processing: In addition to emails, PDF invoices may be received by companies, for example, through a portal. This might be due to data safety reasons or an established way of working that you might not want to change. Regardless of your preferred channel, you should be able to send PDF invoices to the tool you choose for processing. Flexibility in invoice submission allows you to streamline your process, enabling you to close your email channel and rely entirely on API submissions if needed.

Continuously learning AI: The lack of continuous improvement in invoice data capture means you repeatedly handle the same issues and mistakes. Adjustments made by your AP team should be fed back into the AI, enhancing its ability to recognize and process invoices correctly in the future, thereby reducing errors over time. Using an AI solution that learns from each transaction and constantly improves its data capture accuracy is the way to go.

Investing in the future and leveraging AI

Amid this digital revolution, savvy CFOs recognize the importance of investing in the latest invoice automation technologies. By embracing automation, companies future-proof their operations, ensuring they remain agile and competitive in an ever-changing business landscape.

At the heart of invoice automation lies the power of artificial intelligence. AI-driven systems use advanced algorithms to automatically extract, interpret, and process data from PDF invoices with unmatched speed and accuracy. By harnessing AI, companies can achieve touchless invoice handling, eliminating manual intervention and minimizing the risk of human error.

Additionally, AI empowers businesses to unlock the full potential of their invoice data. By analyzing vast amounts of information, AI algorithms uncover valuable insights, revealing hidden trends, anomalies, and opportunities for optimization. Whether it's identifying cost-saving measures, detecting billing discrepancies, or predicting cash flow patterns, AI-driven solutions revolutionize invoice management.

By investing in the latest technologies, leveraging the power of AI, and striving for touchless invoice handling, businesses can achieve unprecedented efficiency, accuracy, and agility, positioning themselves for sustained success in the digital age.


BaswareSmartPDF – PDF invoice automation redefined

As the use of paper invoices declines and digital solutions become increasingly prevalent, companies must embrace invoice automation as a cornerstone of their digital transformation journey. The leap from paper or PDF to e-invoices might seem daunting, but with Basware SmartPDF, it’s never been easier.

smart-pdf-summer 2024

Leveraging our 40 years of experience in invoice processes, Basware has developed an AI-based tool that learns continuously, ensuring comprehensive PDF invoice data extraction and seamless integration with any business system. This enables you to quickly improve your invoice process by eliminating manual work, enhancing data accuracy, and shortening processing cycles.

Revolutionize Your invoice handling

At Basware, we see e-invoicing and SmartPDF as the optimal combination of solutions for any company needing to handle all their incoming invoices safely, quickly, cost-efficiently, and sustainably. With SmartPDF, you are one step closer to achieving touchless invoice handling, ensuring high-quality data for downstream use and transforming your finance operations into strategic assets.

Most of our customers achieve over 90% PDF-invoice automation within days. Read how this customer solved their PDF invoice challenges and improved processes, or contact us so we can share our experience with your company.

Explore our eBook "Beyond OCR: Unlocking the Power of AI to Revolutionize Invoice Ingestion" to learn more about our SmartPDF solution. Visit our SmartPDF solution page to discover how you can revolutionize your invoice handling process.

Olav brings over 15 years experience of Product Management across the information technology and services industries. With a strong background in Finance and Automation, he has focused on Financial Control through Touchless Invoice Processing. Throughout his tenure at Basware, he has managed client projects using Business Process, Management, Project Portfolio Management, Outsourcing, and Business Intelligence skills.