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Enabling Automation In Accounting

By: Chris Lamonica
Published: April 1, 2021

“Can you read this?” 

For those of you who have worked at an accounting firm, this four word phrase may seem all too familiar. Every year tax season returns, and with it, flows piles of paperwork—some more legible than others. From crumpled, coffee-stained receipts to badly scanned W-2s, the varying condition of documents submitted by your clients could be considered their own form of abstract art. 

For large enterprise accounting firms, those stacks of paper run parallel with employee time spent manually entering data. That time is expensive, and it could be better spent servicing your clients (and finding more to work with). Combine that with the risk of human error lurking behind every keystroke, and it becomes glaringly obvious that manual processes are not scalable. 

IDP As An Accounting Tool

If 50% of accounting professionals are concerned with eliminating manual processes, imagine how much your staff will love these next three words: Intelligent Document Processing. We know it may not be as exciting as “dinner is ready” or “let’s order pizza,” but these three powerful words can save your company money, time, and morale (three words that are also pretty important). 

So what is it? Intelligent Document Processing, or IDP, captures data from documents (e.g. text, PDFs, scanned images, emails), and categorizes and extracts relevant data for further processing using AI technologies, including computer vision, Machine/Deep Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP). 

Leading IDP solutions have technology baked into their offering to process scanned documents regardless of common imperfections (like skew or blank pages), capture the data, and classify the data and document. Imagine if that endless stream of W-2s could magically transform into usable data within QuickBooks. 

Intelligent Document Processing is changing the way accountants work, streamlining operations and reducing the friction-filled legacy systems that have slowed down your work and customer response times. Whether you’re a tax accountant in April with clients rushing to meet deadlines, or you’re the team that takes care of Accounts Payable at a Global 2000 company with endless invoices flowing into your email, IDP is the solution to the most mundane and painstaking part of your job. 

Last tax season (2019-2020), nearly 14 million taxpayers filed their returns via paper methods. When there is still that much handwriting—particularly with its endless variability and differing levels of legibility—it’s important to have a robust, intelligent tool that can reliably read it and also get your employees involved when it isn’t confident on what it’s interpreting. IDP is built with a “human-in-the-loop” integration that leverages Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to send a small subset of exception or edge cases the machine is unsure of to your employees to review and resolve. This enables your employees to seamlessly jump in at times when it is unsure of what it’s trying to interpret on a document—and only those times, saving unnecessary manual intervention and oversight. In turn, the machine uses this feedback to fine tune the underlying models, driving lower error rates and higher automation over time. 

Getting Started with IDP

Here’s the best part: your company doesn’t have to hire a team of data science experts or Machine Learning Engineers to start harnessing the power of Intelligent Document Processing. 

The Hyperscience Platform is the premier intelligent automation offering, powerful and flexible enough to automate any type of document process in an enterprise environment and streamline your mission-critical, data-centric processes today. We put the work into building and training our neural networks (a.k.a. teaching, and constantly reteaching, our models how to read) to handle complex documents with the highest degrees of reliability. This means your company can spend less time sorting documents, transcribing data, and fixing errors and more time serving customers. 

From large financial services companies in need of a highly-scalable solution for loan originations to government agencies drowning in assistance applications, we’ve helped reduce error rates by 67% and facilitated a 5x throughput increase in an extensive variety of enterprise workflows, enabling organizations to focus on improving customer experience. 

How Does IDP Work?

With the Hyperscience Platform, we’ve got you covered from the minute those documents enter your inbox:

  1. High-quality extraction starts with high-quality processing and classification. Unlike other solutions that require explicit pre-processing pipelines to attempt corrections for adverse document conditions, Hyperscience has trained our Machine Learning models on proprietary data sets to tackle real-world imperfections with ease. 

    What does that mean for you? Straight out-of-the-box, Hyperscience can classify the types of documents submitted, rotate and improve quality when needed, and even ignore blank pages.
  1. Accurate data is the critical step zero, especially when your client’s taxes are on the line. Next in the process comes best-in-class extraction. We utilize a suite of proprietary Machine Learning algorithms designed for enterprise-grade data extraction. 

    Compared to legacy OCR technology, Hyperscience removes the field name and/or description (so you’re not working with client data that looks like “Mary First Name Green”), can understand human intent (to ignore cross-outs), and can even read outside bounding boxes to ensure critical information isn’t left behind.
  1. After extraction, the Hyperscience Platform is able to validate document-specific information by confirming its accuracy with external systems, modify and enrich data to create more value downstream, and finally output it to your preferred location or tool. 

If you’re looking for an easier tax season this time next year, it’s time to begin the processing of exploring how automation can help transform your business operations. Legacy OCR solutions of the past have left organizations frustrated, and in a high volume and information-critical workflow such as client tax processing, the automation solution your business utilizes should be better, faster, and cheaper than something that has been around since the 1930s. 

An intelligent automation solution can be the difference between client retention and acquisition versus client frustration and loss. In a future wherein clients are expecting more, and want it faster, IDP and intelligent automation could be the most impactful addition to the accounting industry since the invention of the calculator. 

Think IDP may be your tax season savior? Click here to learn about how to decide on the right IDP solution for your firm.