At the last meeting of the Microsoft Dynamics Meetup Germany group there were about 20 Microsoft experts invited to expose in two minutes their favorite new feature from the Microsoft ecosystem. None of them though mentioned Invoice Capture, which I think deserves its place on the list.
Invoice Capture is a Power Apps-based application deeply integrated with Dynamics 365 which allows the semi-automatic processing of Vendor invoices received over the various channels (Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive) or via manual upload. The Power App listens on the configured channels, imports the documents as they arrive and uses optical character recognition capabilities to extract the standard textual information needed to create a Vendor invoice record with header, lines and further information. In a first phase the Accountant Clerk classifies, reviews, corrects and transfers the Invoice to Dynamics 365, from where the Invoice follows the standard process being enriched, posted to the Subledger and further booked to General Ledger. Of course, several changes were done also in Dynamics 365, especially in what concerns the parametrization and Invoices’ automatic processing.
The Good: Thus, Invoice Capture attempts to provide end-to-end invoice automation and probably with further changes to cover at least the most common scenarios it will be able to do so. Since it was released as a minimal viable product (MVP), besides bug fixing several features were added — the search of Vendors and their automatic synchronization, the entry of Cost Center and Department Code financial dimensions upfront in the Power App, the support for multiple tax codes and for custom fields, just to mentioned the most important features. However, more changes are needed to provide customers more flexibility in automating the process and in handling other complex scenarios.
Through automation and further features like the continuous learning from manual input and previous value retention, Invoice Capture decreases the volume of manual work and increases the financial cycle time, making the overall process more efficient. Moreover, the invoices are available almost as soon as they came into Dynamics 365, allowing better overview and thus better spend control. Features like Invoice approval via workflows and extrinsic automating features can offer further opportunities for improvement. Last but not the least, Invoice Capture allows achieving a paperless AP, helping organizations’ effort on their road to digital transformation.
The Bad: It’s natural in Software Development to start with a MVP and built upon, however the gap between the MVP and what customers need involves certain challenges when evaluating and implementing the feature(s). Some hiccups are inherent as a piece of software needs time to stabilize and mature, however with better transparency and communication about the roadmap the respective processes would have been a better experience. On the other side, Microsoft was quite helpful in the process, welcoming the feedback and integrating it in the plan, and in time even provided more transparency. However, there seem to be still many unknowns, especially in what concerns the integration with old and new features from the roadmap (e,g. e-Invoicing, recurring Vendor invoices).
The truth is that customers have different needs, their processes have degrees of complexity that may go way beyond the features provided by the MVP and subsequent versions. Some customers were happy with the MVP, some had to compromise while others maybe went for alternatives.
The Ugly: It’s time consuming to evaluate and implement a new feature, to fill the gaps and find alternatives, especially when the organizational setup is not optimal. However all these are normal challenges from the life of an ERP consultant.
Despite the current and maybe future challenges, Invoice Capture can become in time an important product on the Microsoft roadmap.
Originally published at sql-troubles.blogspot.com.