Data is at the heart of corporate treasurers’ responsibilities to manage liquidity, investments and mitigate risk. Accessibility and control over this data is essential for smarter, faster and better-informed decision-making. While finance applications such as accounts payable were at the forefront of digital transformation and treasury departments have gone through waves of digitisation, there is more work to be done. According to analyst firm KeyPoint Intelligence, the highest business priorities from a finance perspective are to improve accessibility to business content and better document sharing and search. An even more important business priority is to establish end-to-end automation of payment related processes.
For treasury departments, it is therefore key to digitise paper documents that are flowing into the department as well as documents sitting in archives which may include information of significant importance for critical decisions and business analytics.
Examples where digitising documents plays an important role for treasury processes include:
- Faster processing and easier control of payment timing to take advantage of discounts or avoid penalties;
- Avoiding costly and time-consuming effort to match invoices and purchase orders;
- Reducing time-consuming manual efforts involved in tracking and chasing approvals;
- Tracking incoming payments according to payment conditions;
- Digitising documentation for credit checking;
- Checking transactional volumes in a bank statement to validate bank fees; and
- Managing direct debit authorisations (SEPA).
Digitised data and digital workflows improve the speed and quality of treasury processes while playing a key role in cutting costs and freeing up employees to focus on more meaningful tasks.
The case for digitisation is therefore clear: optimising business processes and the document capture process offers significant opportunities for treasury departments.
One of the most time-consuming elements of digitisation in the treasury centre is document preparation – the first step in the scanning process. Preparing documents to be scanned can include removing paper clips, staples and other binding materials; checking to ensure all edges are unfolded; and inspecting for tears or other damage to pages. There is also a requirement to pre-sort papers that may cause problems during the scanning process. When scanners can’t seamlessly handle documents of mixed shapes and sizes, staff have to spend significant time to pre-sort or add steps like gluing smaller documents onto A4/letter sheets or cutting longer documents to align with A4 documents. Pre-sorting is also a workaround to address instances where scanners fail to deliver consistent output when processing documents with mixed-quality colour and contrast for example.
Increased efficiency of processing paper documents
Despite ongoing talk of paperless offices, the working day is still permeated with paper – and there remains clear resistance from businesses to the concept of digitisation. Research from Keypoint Intelligence found that only 35 per cent of respondents in the finance sector thought it was something they could achieve and another 29 per cent thought it was somewhat realistic.
In the centralised processes of a treasury department, advanced paper handling capabilities come into play. The bottlenecks related to paper handling are the reason why many treasurers have delayed the next step of digitisation. Advanced scanning technology addresses these hurdles, providing the capability to remove unnecessary manual steps when preparing documents – critical to saving time and money, and ensure valuable information flows seamlessly into business systems.
What to look for with digitisation
Treasury departments handle a wide variety of document types every day – including A4/letter, A3/tabloid and larger or longer format documents, envelopes, cheques and vouchers. For maximum productivity paper documents in the treasury centre need to be scanned in batches that involve mixed sizes, mixed thickness and mixed paper quality. According to Alaris research, reliable feeding is one of the top five purchase criteria for a production scanning application. 67 per cent of decision-makers rated this as important or extremely important when selecting a low volume scanner.
‘Next generation’ paper handling capabilities on scanners can take a lot of the complexity and manual intervention out of the scanning process. For example, advanced technology like Active Feed Technology, optimises feeding performance to make scan preparation simpler. It jogs pages to align them for error-free scanning, significantly reducing misfeeds and poor alignment which require time-intensive manual work to re-scan documents.
Managing the flow of paper out is as important as inputting paper at the beginning of the scanning process. In a recent survey conducted by Alaris, the output stacking quality of a scanner was rated important or extremely important by over half (52 per cent) of production scanning decision-makers.
Controlled output stacking on production scanners reduces time and effort by placing paper neatly in the output tray. This can also be enhanced with software that controls and changes the velocity of the sheet as it lands on the exit tray, meaning operators can capture images at high speed and slow down the output speed through the software to ensure lightweight pages, for example, rest on the exit tray as opposed to the floor.
Paper runs smoothly
For scanning operators and staff in the treasury centre – speed is of the essence – any delay can impact process efficiency, company liquidity or investment decisions. Paper jams halt the scanning process and cost users valuable time clearing jams and figuring out which documents have and have not been scanned. Interactive Multi-Feed Detection instantly detects a multi-feed or multi-layer document, such as a sheet of paper with a sticky note attached. Documents that set off an alert are pushed to the scanner’s exit path, without stopping the scanning process, and the operator can then make a decision whether to accept, ignore or rescan images.
It’s also key to ensure that the input tray is capable of processing stacks of documents as well as long documents without requiring operator intervention. Some high-end scanners feature an automatic elevator design, which accommodates various stacks of documents such as 25, 100, 250, 500 or 750 sheets. When set to accommodate a specific number of pages, it will automatically raise to feed documents and lower after the last document in the stack has been fed. This saves valuable time when loading and switching batches.
With the business case for digitisation stronger than ever, the need to overcome the barriers to automation of paper handling is also more pressing than ever. That’s why advanced, next level paper handling is an important step in the digital transformation of any treasury department.