The Blackstone Group LLP
The Blackstone Group LP is one of the world’s leading investment firms. The firm currently employs more than 2,000 staff, throughout 17 different offices around the world.
Blackstone’s main UK entity approached Cleardata searching for a solution to support the increasing number of invoices and other AP documentation entering their UK Finance Department. Having successfully implemented e-invoicing in their US offices, Blackstone was looking for a consistent digital invoicing solution for their UK team. One of the key criteria was compatibility with Coupa, their procure-to-pay software.
UK invoices were received by post and email, resulting in manual processing and data indexing. A mixture of single and multi-page invoices were received. Their invoicing team followed complex rules for individual invoice requirements, with invoices arriving for multiple UK entities, in a variety of formats. Invoices were approved through two separate points.
Cleardata’s data capture specialists held discovery days with Blackstone’s UK Finance department, in order to gain an understanding of their existing processes and determine how efficiencies could be achieved within their current business operations.
A digital mailroom solution was proposed, to enable paper and electronic invoices to be diverted to their secure scanning facility. With supplier invoices handled via a PO Box and digital invoices re-directed, utilising a dedicated, secure email address, this would significantly reduce Blackstone’s manual tasks, saving valuable time and increasing invoice processing speeds.
How does the new process work?
- Invoices and credit notes are received by Cleardata’s mailroom team, open sorted and scanned. Paperwork is digitised using Cleardata’s high production Kodak scanners, providing high quality images, quality checked by two separate operators.
- Emails are handled using a virtual mailbox, opened and sorted. PDF’s, or other electronic document types are automatically downloaded.
- Invoice data is extracted using intelligent data capture software, which over time can learn/recognise multiple invoice types. The software automatically captures fields of information such as invoice number, logo, supplier name, line items and amounts.
- Data is checked against a number of complex, pre-defined rules covering legal entity, currency and VAT. Documents which fail these rules are manually confirmed by Cleardata’s team of trained validation operators.
- Once the invoices have been validated, the invoices and associated data are exported into Coupa, Blackstone’s procure-to-pay software, to facilitate electronic invoice approval. Coupa subsequently feeds Oracle, Blackstone’s ERP system.
- Invoices that cannot be validated are classed as exceptions. Invoice exceptions are uploaded to Cleardata’s cloud document management solution allowing Blackstone’s Finance team to approve, query or reject.
- The ongoing partnership between Cleardata and Blackstone involves daily email communication and a weekly conference call to discuss / resolve any issues (such as currency, VAT, etc.)
At the beginning of 2015, our team had the opportunity to revisit our invoice processing workflow:
- Going live with Coupa in London at the start of Q4 2014 provided the opportunity for electronic approval
- Our NY colleagues utilised a US scanning provider to digitise invoices
We looked at a variety of UK-based solutions and Cleardata’s website hit us as providing the services we were looking for – initial meetings with Emma showed the quality of the people and the company, one we were happy to partner with to deliver both the changes we were looking to make and the ongoing process we wanted to put into place.
Blackstone is a relatively complex organisation and it took many meetings following the Discovery Day to test the optimal solution from a workflow perspective and also with the Coupa interface. The volume of testing meant we slightly missed our planned go-live date but not drastically so.
Post go-live, the partnership has continued to grow through ongoing daily emails and weekly conference calls to discuss and resolve issues. The quality of the solution has meant we were quickly able to extend to other European countries, an unexpected bonus.
Above all, we find the Cleardata team good people to work with and as a company, we’re keen to develop the partnership to capture efficiencies as the technology and landscape evolves.
For further information about Cleardata’s invoice processing solutions, contact our team on 0800 046 8081.