In order to remain competitive, companies must constantly strive for operational excellence in their service areas. This applies to both private and public organisations, small as well as large companies. The Wiener Stadtwerke group is Austria’s largest municipal infrastructure service provider and ranks among the 25 biggest companies in the country. But the group does not rest on its laurels. On the contrary, the Wiener Stadtwerke continues to drive its service quality through innovative strength and future orientation. Together with Finmatics, Vienna’s number one public utility company automated invoice processing at the beginning of 2020 by using AI (artificial intelligence). Martina Teuber, head of accounting at Wiener Netze, draws a first conclusion after six months of cooperation.
If you are in Vienna right now and reading this article on a digital device, it is highly probable that you are consuming a service of the Wiener Stadtwerke group in this very moment. Its 26 subsidiaries include Wiener Netze and Wiener Linien as well as Wien Energie – the largest energy service provider in Austria. The Wiener Stadtwerke GmbH acts as a holding company of the group and is 100% owned by the city of Vienna. It generates annual sales revenues of over three billion euros and employs around 15,000 people. For 20 years Martina Teuber, the head of accounting of Wiener Netze, has been one of them. Together with her we review the start of our cooperation.
Sustainable success requires sustainable commitment
“We invest continuously in process optimization. The digitalization of document management is not the result of a selective modernization measure, but the latest step in a continuous improvement process,” says Teuber. “The optimization potential in accounting is enormous, especially in accounts payable,” Teuber continues. Many tasks in that area consist of standardized processes. Some are defined as such, others grow over time. Thanks to innovative technologies and artificial intelligence (AI), more and more workflows can be digitalized and automated that previously had to be carried out manually. That reduces the potential for error, saves costs and frees up time for the things that no software can do. “It was important to me that the boring tasks were eliminated and that my team could concentrate on more exciting activities than typing data into the system,” says Martina Teuber.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
The Wiener Stadtwerke group has used SAP as its accounting software for many years. “We are very satisfied with SAP as an accounting software. What we were looking for is an intelligent OCR technology that reads out our documents and works hand in hand with SAP,” says Teuber. Abacus is connected to SAP as well as to an invoice workflow of another software company and thus enables a seamless data transfer. “It is the integration of the systems that makes our accounting process future-proof,” says Martina Teuber.
Unique processes require individual solutions
Its specific system landscape was not the only reason the Wiener Stadtwerke needed an individual solution. The accounting department of Martina Teuber is where the documents of various subsidiaries come together. “As a group accounting department with this degree of complexity, we have special requirements. Therefore, it was important for us to find a software that adapts flexibly to our needs and a partner who is on-site to develop a solution together. In Finmatics we found both,” says Teuber.
Operational excellence is not a goal, but a process
The initial meeting in October 2019 was followed by the definition of a timetable for the gradual implementation of the software, for which the group’s strategy department and the IT team were also brought on board. Together, we decided on a changeover in tranches. Wiener Netze has already been working with Finmatics since March 2020, and the other subsidiaries will follow one by one until the beginning of July 2020. This results in a total implementation phase of six months. “For a project of this magnitude, everything went very smoothly”, says Martina Teuber. The new accounting process, which was defined in advance together with Finmatics, will then be applied to all subsidiaries (except Wiener Linien):
- Invoice receipt
The central accounting department receives the documents of the group’s subsidiaries.
- Categorization by subsidiary
Before Abacus was implemented, barcode stickers were used to separate multi-page documents from each other and to sort the invoices according to the respective sub-organisation. This was a tedious, monotonous process where the receipts had to be first stickered and then scanned. Finmatics’ OCR technology can automatically read the invoice data and assign the documents to the corresponding companies. The manual marking of the page separators has also been eliminated.
- Check of the invoice characteristics and match-up with the order
Abacus captures the invoice characteristics and compares the read-out information with the supplier master data. This is another step that was previously performed manually at Wiener Stadtwerke. A simple example shows how essential it is: If an invoice with two IBAN connections – that of the creditor and that of the debtor – is read out, conventional OCR software often makes the mistake of picking the IBAN of the buyer as the recipient account. So, the payment would be directed to the customer’s own account. Finmatics’ AI compares the data with the master database and checks whether the payment data read out matches the corresponding vendor master. In addition, the incoming invoices are automatically assigned to the respective order and compared with the order data.
- Check according to § 11 UStG
All invoices are checked according to the requirements of § 11 UStG. If the required invoice characteristics are incomplete or incorrect, the document can be returned directly to the vendor for correction right away. That saves costly and time-consuming corrections at later points in time, especially if such errors are only noticed during the audit.
- Control and approval by the specialist department
After the formal check, the document is forwarded to the respective department for content control, where it is also approved.
- Account assignment and payment
The posting in the accounting system is automatically generated before the payment is initiated.
“In addition to all the technological and organizational advantages of working with Finmatics, one thing was decisive for us: the human component,” Martina Teuber concludes. “We feel that we have found a partner who works with us to continuously improve our processes. It is a cooperation at eye level, based on an honest interest in the matter. The result speaks for itself.” We thank Martina Teuber and the Wiener Stadtwerke team for their trust and this great cooperation!