New Feature: Automated Accounts Payable
Can you pay my bills? Can you pay my telephone bills? Do you pay my automo' bills?
Paying bills is a simple fact of life when you run a small business. So, whether you block out 2 hours late in the evening to do it or schedule 20 minutes a day to pay them off in bite-sized chunks, you must do it one way or another. Every business owners knows the feeling of mindlessly inputting BSB and Account Numbers into a form and toggling between browser tabs to confirm details on a PDF file.
During a survey of 180 businesses conducted by Thriday, business owners estimated spending an average of 45 minutes a week paying bills. At the top end, 22% reported spending over 2 hours a week, 2 hours that could be better spent on core business activities or, furthermore, with family or friends. With business owners spending over 6 hours a week on financial admin, the Thriday team knew that cutting out 45 minutes on bill payments would remove a good portion of the time Aussie small business owners waste on back-office activities.
So, the challenge was set...
How does Thriday take a 45-minute task and bring it down to zero?
For bonus points, could we also make bill payments more secure?
To get started, the Thriday team conducted research with customers (the aforementioned survey) and looked at what was involved in paying bills. Whilst every business has its slight variation in how they do things, the overall results saw some clear trends:
- 42% of business owners blocked out a regular time to sit down and pay bills.
- 67% paid bills immediately so they could easily track their current actuals.
- 35% paid bills late unintentionally.
- 84% were worried about inputting incorrect payment information.
The next step was to evaluate how business owners physically pay bills. There were three standard techniques used:
- Manual Trawl: Trawl through a mailbox looking for accounts due to be paid.
- Mailbox Folder: Setting up mailbox rules to automatically assign bills to a specific folder.
- Unique Email: Setting up a special mailbox such as 'firstname.lastname@example.org' to get invoices sent.
Once the business owner collated the bills, it was then a case of literally logging into Internet Banking and manually typing in the details. Some of the common challenges we observed were:
- Every invoice has a different format, so finding the correct information is challenging.
- Copying and pasting from a PDF is more complicated than you realise.
- It's hard to remember if an invoice was already paid or not.
- Having to toggle between browsers and files increases the risk of human error.
Off the back of this research, it started to become clear regarding how Thriday could solve these challenges:
- Creating a central place for bills to be logged and tracked would prevent business owners from manually monitoring them or setting up a custom mailbox.
- Using AI, bills can be scanned instead of squinting to find the necessary details. Once reviewed, the payment details can be presented in a clear table.
- Integrating banking, accounting and payments into one platform removed the need to toggle between different tabs and download ABA files.
It was time to set off to work. Having built an automated receipt reconciliation feature, Thriday already had the foundation for Bill Manager in its toolkit. The challenge would be that whilst receipts are hard to scan automatically, the sheer variety of different invoice templates and designs was infinitely higher. As a result, Thriday's Data Science team needed to spend months optimising its image recognition and detection logic to account for the complexity of invoice templates.
The next consideration was accuracy. While disappointing, getting the details wrong for a receipt is not the end of the world. However, if you pull the incorrect payment details, money could be paid into the wrong account. To ensure a high level of accuracy, the Thriday team had to test a wide range of different invoice styles. After rigorous testing, the team was ready. The solution worked, and it took bill payments down from 45 minutes to a matter of minutes.
So how does it work:
- Thriday generates a unique mailbox address for every business on the platform.
- Businesses can get their bills sent to their mailbox or upload them directly.
- Invoices are scanned, and the payment details, due date, GST and amount are extracted.
- The solution can even detect between direct entry (BSB or Account) or BPAY details.
- Business owners can then confirm the details and pay from their Thriday account.
- New billers are highlighted to distinguish between new and existing suppliers easily.
Bill Manager or automated accounts payable is now live to Thriday customers. It's the first end-to-end solution of its kind in Australia; no ABA files, no manual entry, and most of all, no endless trawling between tabs to find the correct information to enter. If you are a busy business owner with more important things to spend time on, sign up for free with Thriday today.