We all know the story of the guy who bought a do-it-yourself plumbing kit, thinking he’d save a little cash. Thousands of dollars in damage later, he admitted he should’ve sprung for a professional in the first place.

That guy might even be you. If so, don’t feel bad. Even highly competent business-people get tempted by cheap fixes from time to time. Companies think they can get away with an adaptation, something to keep their antiquated system chugging along, rather than investing in a permanent solution.

Take, for example, invoicing. Almost two decades into the 21st century, accounts payable departments all over the world are still dealing with paper invoices and bank checks, or PDF documents whose information can only be extracted by manually retyping it. To try to cope, some AP departments have turned to something called Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. OCR technology is designed to turn inaccessible documents accessible for data retrieval.

But like all adaptations, OCR doesn’t come close to AP automation. Especially AP automation developed and offered by industry leaders like iPayables.

OCR converts PDF’s, scanned images, and other digitized documents from static images to dynamic data. Imagine a document as a toy built with Lego building blocks. You want to play with this toy, but it sits behind a window, so you can see it but never touch it. Now, take away the glass and the game changes. You can touch it, turn it around, take it apart, reconstruct it to your own specs, store some blocks here, some there… OCR is the window remover that makes this possible.

Useful technology, to be sure. Yet OCR is not Accounts Payable automation. OCR is only designed to take information that was not created with changeability in mind and make it changeable.

This is not the way to go with invoicing. Why? Let’s start with paper invoices. Even with OCR technology, paper must be scanned. This takes time – one OCR developer estimates one minute per document from scan to conversion. And once the scan is in, the data then must be extracted. Even emailed invoices must be converted before the data can be mined. So, what do you get? Only what was on that document, which might not include all the information you need. OCR only works as well as the stuff it’s fed, and that stuff can vary widely from document to document.

AP Automation is different. Companies that use cutting edge electronic invoicing like iPayables’ InvoiceWorks® save time, labor, and money, while achieving far better results. InvoiceWorks® utilizes customizable electronic invoice templates flexible enough to gather data every department needs. There is no paper mail to open, no scanning, no follow-ups when the right information isn’t received. It’s fast and simple to use. Best of all, vendors love it. Just a few clicks, and the system takes care of everything for them.

So, if your AP department is truly ready to embrace the new millennium (and save some money, too), check out what a company like iPayables can do. (And I’d think twice about that rewiring job you’re planning this weekend.)