The World of IDP – Beyond AP

In our briefings with IDP vendors, it often seems that every single one of the 300 plus in the market focuses on accounts payable (AP), aka invoice processing. Indeed, there are a lot of invoices out there to be processed, but they are not the only documents that could do with some digital love. Countless other document-centric processes require help, but it also requires some imagination and effort to identify and address them. Thousands of manual paper-based processes get little if any attention that would benefit hugely from the advances we have seen in recent years in document processing and enterprise automation. We have worked with clients to identify untapped opportunities in diverse industries, from logistics, to construction to pharmaceuticals and beyond. And we advise all the vendors we speak to that they should look beyond the obvious and explore carving solid business in relative greenfield and new market opportunities. We are on the lookout for these opportunities all the time.

For example, I am picky about the honey and olive oil I buy. Not because I am a food snob, I enjoy my eggs and home fries at Vincenzo’s luncheonette at the weekend, just as much as an occasional blowout at nearby Irwin’s. Rather it’s because I was exposed to the inner workings of the international honey and olive oil supply chain a few years back. I discovered that much of the olive oil and honey sold in stores is not what it claims to be. The honey you buy may not be honey at all; there is a fair chance it is sugar syrup with some colorings and additives. The same applies to olive oil, such as cheap vegetable oil with coloring and additives. Nor is there any guarantee that the olive oil or honey, assuming it is the real deal, came from where it claims to come from. For example, extra virgin Italian olive oil may be produced in North Africa. It’s a fraud, and it’s fraud on a massive and global scale, generating billions in profit. A large part of stopping this from happening, or at least reducing the scale and better policing the problem in the future, is, at heart, an information management problem. Nothing will stop organized criminal organizations or corrupt nations from committing fraud, but you can make it much harder to pull off and, in some cases, make it so complicated that it’s not worth the effort. You may not care for honey or olive oil or feel there are more significant problems to solve. The issue of adulterated or fake products is much bigger than that of high-end honey and oil. It spans almost every product that sells at a premium, such as lifesaving medication.

The projects I advised on were technical proof of concepts, the importation of organic honey from South America, and olive oil shipping to the US from the south of Italy. From a technical standpoint, the POCs leveraged blockchain, cloud, and IoT. The goal was to prove provenance (where this product came from and its journey to the shelf) and the validity of the product; it is what it says it is. FWIW, these POCs were a resounding success in proving the provenance of the products, but the validity problem was only partly resolved. However, in hindsight, validity was the easier part of the equation. Organic honey, for example, comes from certified organic hives and beekeepers at an industrial scale; that’s a lot of hives and certifications. Internationally, as of today, almost all that documentation trail back to the local farmers and beekeepers is paper-based and manual.

You make it all digital from start to finish. Still, even if the original certification is paper-based, we know you could scan that on a cellphone, upload it to a secure, shared folder in the cloud, and immediately improve the situation. You could go further and add some document capture software to analyze the certification; you could even create a blockchain hash and ensure the new files are immutable. It’s straightforward, fundamental, cloud-based document management. It’s the kind of thing our industry has been able to do with ease for over a decade. So why don’t people do it? Why do they still rely on paper-based processes? There are many reasons, and it’s beyond the scope of this article to explore them, but often the number one reason is that nobody told these people you could do this. No vendor has bothered to look beyond the same old business problems to see what new opportunities are out there that they could fix.

With a flooded technology market, it should be said, with excellent document processing and automation tools, to survive, many of these startups need to look beyond the obvious and forge business paths elsewhere. In doing so, they will do both themselves and the world a favor. To be clear, it’s not that the world as a whole has automated AP effectively and that this is a solved problem. Opportunities are to be had, but they are highly competitive to win. Everyone from IBM & Microsoft, through Appian, UIPath, and Hyperscience, to the traditional document capture vendors are highly active in the AP space. But there are countless other spaces to explore, new markets, new geographies, and yet-to-be-uncovered opportunities. You certainly need to do your homework if you want to explore branching out beyond the norm. But whether you work with us to do that or do it yourself, it is well worth the effort.

So if you are interested in exploring the automation and IDP markets and options beyond the norm, consider buying a copy of our Intelligent Document Processing Market Analysis Report, or just give us a call and have to chat to see if we can help.

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