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The Accounting Technology Lab Podcast – Review of – May 2024

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Transcript (Note: There may be typos due to automated transcription errors.)

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  00:00

Welcome to the accounting Technology Lab sponsored by CPA practice advisor, with your hosts, Randy Johnston, and Brian Tankersley.

Randy Johnston  00:10

Today, welcome to the accounting Technology Lab. I’m host, Randy Johnson with my co host, Brian Tankersley. Now, we’re both big fans of pre accounting tools, things that will work on documents and make your life easier. And one interesting discovery we’ve made is with a product called makers hub, they’re at the website makers And, you know, their theme is making AP unbelievably bearable. And were enjoyable. Sorry, I always get that word wrong. But you know, this whole idea of a system that is so easy to use, and so accurate, is what a lot of the competitors have been promising. And makers hub takes a lot of very tedious work, and makes it much, much easier to do now the way they do that is with a thing that they call wise vision. And this wise vision basically does a smart data capture with enhanced OCR technology, and intelligent data management. So, Brian on this, I know, we’ve seen demonstrations of these products. Now typically, you run the products a lot more. And I know we haven’t had a chance to really put it through the paces, because we’ve been writing so much CPE content, but I have not seen a more impressive platform in a while on this whole data capture OCR translation stuff, what would you like our listeners to know about this platform?

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  01:53

You know, I would, I would just first say that, unlike a lot of the solutions that will only capture the totals off of bills, and invoices and statements and things like that, this will actually capture things down at item level. So you know, where, you know, if I’m thinking about, let’s say, you know, let’s say you have a chain of restaurants, you know, it’s not enough for me to get the total off of the job or invoice that care that has, you know, paper and food and you know, takeout containers and all kinds of other things like that audit, you know, cleaning chemicals, and so forth. I need the detail. And so the the the nice thing about this is this actually, this actually again goes through and does that they’ve got you know, they’ve got they go through and they have this proprietary was vision technology. They also go through and they’ve acknowledged the challenges and OCR and they’ve set up systems to work around it. So they’ve got they’ve got tools that will actually go through and say Does it make sense that you know, every other invoice number for this vendor is is a number. And this one is this one is, you know, is letters. So it’ll go through and look for, look for things like that. And again, it’s designed to go through and make the OCR technology better. Now, in

Randy Johnston  03:14

fact, on your comment on that, Brian, for our listeners, it’s actually helpful to know that the wise vision is an AI enabled recognition. Now we’ve talked about things like that and other accounting technology labs with things like Wolters Kluwer, there’s a teammate document linker, which is doing a better job of OCR by leveraging AI technology. And the other part of that AP piece that you were calling out, is it smart enough, because of this line level recognition that it actually maps the scans far more accurately than any platform we’ve seen to date. So this really takes that promised world of OCR technology, and it gets a lot closer to what it should be this whole idea of automated data entry and getting accuracy right and getting a streamlined workflow. I think that’s part of what this group is doing. Do you use it the same way?

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  04:12

Do I Do you know, I, I think I think just in general in my journey through the profession, and over the last 30 plus years has been that I didn’t go to college to go in and key data yet. But boy, I’ve done a lot of that over that period of time. And I love the fact that this uses that modern technology to do this. And it sets up the workflows and the other things in here to to make it more consistent and to make it do make it do things in here. And so the fact that they’ve applied AI to this, that’s the way most of the people that are making their OCR more accurate or doing this is they’re they’re drilling down and they’re saying okay, what really is this and if this is the invoice number for example, we can extract information in there I will say just as an aside, I actually fed, I fed a number of comprehensive annual financial reports into, into chat GPT. And it was amazing how accurate it was at being able to pull out all kinds of information out of those public reports. Now, the problem with that approach, of course, is that even though you can do that with Chad GPT, you don’t want to because you don’t want that data to be included in their training model. And so this private model that, that they have in wise vision is really important, because it’s not contributing to, to some kind of public data source where you have to worry about is this, you know, is this AI going to have memorized my private information? Like my account number, my credit card numbers, something like that? And is it going to be used in here? So,

Randy Johnston  05:53

of course, the firm’s that are doing this, Brian, you know, understand that there’s some real shortcomings in all of this inaccurate data capture with reliability issues, and inconsistency and data extraction? And the reason for that is, AP bills are pretty hard to do. And, in fact, why are they so hard to do? Well, because some of them are pretty long. You know, that’s certainly a factor. Some are pretty complex, that’s certainly a factor and

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  06:24

multiple lines per item, and, and, you know, different columns and things like that. Yeah,

Randy Johnston  06:30

and, you know, some are just almost completely random, I, I guess I would pick more or a contractor type of approach here, where you might go to a, you know, a big box store and buy items, or, you know, where you go to retailers and buy items, and then try to, you know, expense, the receipts, you’re gonna wind up with some really, really strange issues around that,

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  06:52

including, including folks that are still using handwritten things. And I don’t know about you, but I have a, I have a home home improvement contractor that gives me and written bills. And I’m glad to get him because he does it. All right. And I’m willing to put up with the handwritten bills, just because I’d rather have my stuff work, right. But it’s a pain because I have to do much more manually as I’m entering the information. But it’s, it’s worth it because of the quality there. What’s nice about this as you don’t always have to choose their setup with this this AI model where they can do a better job of recognizing the really hard things than then than we have been able to in the past.

Randy Johnston  07:36

Yeah. So you know, your point about that manual data entry that is so painful. And publicly, I’ve said this for over a decade. You know, one of the things that tells me there are broke is a broken process is when I have accountants key data. And I don’t care what part of your practice, you’re thinking about whether it’s tax audit, or client accounting services, if you’re keen data, that’s a problem. And there is still way too much manual data entry. And a lot of people are trying to work around this by outsourcing Well, okay. But if we can automate that, that’s a big deal. And you know, if you go back even 15 years ago, I guess it was Brian, that you and I first were exposed to Receipt Bank, which is now next prepare a competitor to this platform. You know, it was interesting how quickly the recognition would occur, what it did for the approval process, we think maker’s hub is more accurate than that platform, for example. And it eliminates some of that approval delay process. And it gets us much closer to real time visibility. You know, one of the visions that I think you and I talked about, I remember the conversation you probably do, too, in Washington, DC, where we were talking to each other about, Wow, isn’t this interesting that you can get a receipt in and get it visible inside the accounting system? In a few minutes, that was really the promise and it was happening to a degree. But again, the accuracy also was a bit of a problem there.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  09:14

But it’s a heck of a lot harder to have real time information. If you you know, if you have to do real time work to make it happen. The nice thing about this is you’re letting the technology do the work finally, and you’re really getting out of this keying this trap of keying in information. You know, I used to remember as a managing partner I used to work with. We worked on a number of big audits and we had one of our clients that had literally he was a huge municipality that had had 1000s and 1000s of accounts and he said you know I like keying it in because I get to look at things and see the value before after. And I was thinking to myself how many 1000s of dollars at standard rates are we spending keying in the stupid trial balance because you Are Luddite. You know, Kate, we do some analytics or things like this. But you know, that’s that’s part of the fun here. But But again, this this ability, this letting the technology do the work so you can have real time information and managing real time is really critical. There are a lot of other platforms that offer this kind of stuff. offers this hub hub, dock, makers hub. You know, there are many other AP automation platforms out there, we even have people that are making up their own. But there are literally we could, there are literally hundreds of AP automation platforms if we expand out to the enterprise scale, and so forth. So I think it’s, you know, I think with this, since this is going to be part of your part of your stack of applications, I think you need to check it out and see if this works for you. And if the way it works is consistent with the way you want to do payables. One of challenges to these platforms is you have to work the way most in many cases, you have to work the way they want it to work for your process. And if you don’t, it doesn’t they have a little more flexibility than some of the others however, yeah,

Randy Johnston  11:07

I think that is an interesting point. And, you know, when you look at this, accounting, documentation, pre accounting documentation products, you and I have admired hub dock for a long time, I used hub dock in my Canadian K to operations for extracting information. The OCR is in these legacy products like Hubdoc, and Bill. You know, the OCR works, but it has recognition issues. And this new AI enabled, OCR is a key differential here. And when I look across the bow 20 or 25 or So somewhere in that range of AP products that I’ve reviewed, to my knowledge, right now, maker’s hub is the only one that’s extended the OCR with the AI, and again, the ability to handle this complex stuff at the line level. It’s a big deal. Yeah, yeah.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  12:07

Well, super well, it’s, you know, I think you’ve got a great platform here. I think it’s a, I think it’s, I think they have, I think you’ve got set up the workflows in here, you’ve got all the data as opposed to just the totals off of it, you have the ability to customize it to meet specific needs, you also have the ability to, to work with clients that have different needs and different data flows that need to happen for them. And you have the flexibility to do that. And honestly, one of the things we’ve talked about for a long time, and everybody’s talking about advisory, but I think I think calves is a critical chasm payroll are critical parts of advisory, just because the person that has the real time information is going to be able to give the most insightful, most timely advice. And, you know, if you’re not controlling that ledger and keeping it up and doing it right, you know, you can’t do anything with it. You know, I was talking to a guy last night that needed to needed a tax return prepared. And I said, Okay, what state’s the information? And well, it’s maths and said, Okay, well, you know, I can’t give you advice in a timely basis, if you don’t, if we don’t have better, better information coming in and higher quality information coming in. So I think, you know, in general, this is a way to get you to what my, my mantra has been for a while to having real time data without having real time work. And to the extent that you can, you can have the technology do the work for you like that. I think you ended up being in a much better position in the long term.

Randy Johnston  13:46

Yeah, so makers hub in my mind, or bide your firm some efficiency gains, because of the data accuracy with their OCR enabled a AI offering, which is clearly a big step forward. And by the way, that, you know, people say they have big step forwards, but they’re wise vision really is a big step forward. There’s a lot of customization and flexibility in the tool. And because of that, I think it’s pretty cost effective, even compared to outsourcing. So the automation may be more cost justifiable than outsourcing. And I believe it becomes a strategic opportunity for you in your cast practice in particular, and it may not hurt your firm in the meantime. So Brian, I know our listeners, do value some of your observations in this area. Any other final insights?

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  14:46

You know, I think one of my mantras for the next next couple of years is going to be let the technology do the work so you don’t have to. And it’s not that you’re not going to work, but it’s that you’re going to let the technology do the work and you’re going to manage the system and effectively become a Mario slash Luigi, data plumber. And, and get things to get the system set up and configured and working. You know, one of my favorite movies about process is called the founder that’s got Michael Keaton in it. And it’s, it’s about Ray Kroc. And the way he, he tooks, he came to be the founder of McDonald’s. And it really, it’s interesting, because the McDonald’s process is really to make a fast food factory. And so each little outlet is one of those. And I think, as you put these stacks together, you want pieces that will just take a piece and make it happen. And so that’s, that’s exactly what makers hub is in that space.

Randy Johnston  15:47

All right, very good. Well, we hope this insight on the makers hub platform, get you to go look at it if you’re running cast practices that do any AP because the technology is stunning compared to most other things that we’ve seen. And we’ve watched a lot of things as you can tell over a period of years, and

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  16:06

it’s one of the few that’s at detailed level, and one

Randy Johnston  16:10

of the very few, so we appreciate your time. We hope you’ll join us in a future accounting technology lab the day.

Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA  16:19

Thank you for sharing your time with us. We’ll be back next Saturday with a new episode of the technology lab, from CPA practice advisor. Have a great week.

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