The myth that the use of artificial intelligence (AI) only pays off in large companies is widespread but false. In reality, the effects of automation measures can be enormous, especially in small and medium-sized organizations. That is because each euro saved there is worth more in relation to the total costs than in a large corporation. This is also the case in NENI’s three-person financial management, where the team is small but the innovative power is great. Vincent-Frederic Kotazka, Head of Finance of the NENI Group, tells us how by automating the incoming invoice workflow they managed to reduce the time spent on document processing by half.
Medium-sized companies are the backbone of the Austrian economy. They differ from the big players not only in their company size, but also in qualitative characteristics such as a family-oriented management culture, agile organizational forms and innovative strength. That makes for an excellent breeding ground for digital innovations. This can also be seen in the example of the NENI Group, a family-run gastronomic company with four operating companies:
- NENI am Tisch GmbH, which produces and distributes the supermarket line,
- LIB Gastronomie GmbH, the company that runs Tel Aviv Beach and the cooking school,
- LIB Franchise GmbH, which is responsible for all franchise companies that operate restaurants outside Vienna, such as NENI Berlin in the 25h Hotel, and
- C.O.P GmbH, a new restaurant which will open soon in the Biberstraße in Vienna.
The Molcho Holding GmbH, based in Vienna, acts as a holding company and takes over the administrative and coordinating tasks for the operative businesses. Together they employ about 100 employees. In addition, there are several hundred employees who are employed through the franchise companies. A clear organizational structure, the threads of which come together at Molcho Holding GmbH. In view of the strong growth – besides C.O.P. another new opening is already being planned – the limited capacities in the parent company could have quickly become a bottleneck. In fact the opposite has happened: The financial management team has freed itself from manual, repetitive activities, thus creating resources for planning and analytical tasks that created a healthy basis for the rapid growth.
Artificial intelligence as a future model for medium-sized businesses
The challenge facing Vincent-Frederic Kotazka and his 2-person financial management team was, on the one hand, to process an increasing volume of documents with the same capacities. And on the other hand to free up resources for planning and setting up the new companies. This would not have been possible with the invoice receipt process as it was set up until the beginning of 2020:
- Prior to the introduction of Finmatics, the documents were received either by mail or electronically and then manually digitalized. The document data had to be typed in. Paper receipts additionally had to be scanned.
- The documents were then stored in the folder structure of the BMD accounting system on the corresponding ASP server.
- The accountants accessed this folder structure in order to post the incoming invoices in the next step.
- The last steps consisted of a final check, the payment approval and the bank transfer.
In summary, NENI operated with a highly manual workflow, which was not very demanding but very error-prone. Also, it took up about half of the existing team capacity in financial management. Vincent-Frederic Kotazka was brought on board as Head of Finance 2.5 years ago to optimize processes like this one. Together with Abacus and BMD, he and his team have succeeded in doing just that: Today, 3 out of 4 steps in the incoming invoice process are eliminated because
- the majority of invoices are now sent by the suppliers to a dedicated e-mail address
- Finmatics has direct access to these documents via the e-mail inbox
- invoice characteristics can be read automatically thanks to an innovative OCR technology
- Finmatics provides an interface to BMD enabling posting proposals directly in the accounting system (read more here)
What would you do if you could do your work in half the time?
Today, at NENI, only a final check has to be made in order to ensure that the software has correctly recognized all data and that all document fields are filled accordingly before the payment release can be made. This saves NENI’s financial management staff no less than half the time per document. With 50 incoming invoices a day, the total time saving is enormous. To be precise, thanks to the process optimization in the accounts payable department, the entire working time of a team colleague was saved, who now deals with the planning, management and control of the company divisions within the framework of controlling. Due to the improved database and the freed capacities, NENI’s management can be provided with standardized reports in an increasingly high level of detail. This in turn enables a data-based, well-founded analysis and evaluation of decision-relevant factors that lead to better decisions and ultimately ensure the success of the company.
Looking back at the start of the cooperation in spring 2020, Vincent-Frederic Kotazka says: “It is surprising how quickly the planning and implementation phase was completed. One to two months of lead time was sufficient to set up the system landscape in a way that allowed us to stop making manual bookings right away”. NENI started with a standard configuration of Finmatics. Due to the success achieved in the first few months, the company decided to make some software adjustments in cooperation with Abacus to tailor the workflows even better to their requirements.
When it comes to AI, some medium-sized entrepreneurs still think of complicated applications that involve large investments. This is a fallacy that might turn out to be expensive. AI-based applications such as Finmatics manage to reduce the workload in accounting significantly – by up to 50%, as the example of NENI shows. Relative to the savings achieved, the investment has paid off since the first month of its use. We are looking forward to our upcoming projects and wish the NENI team all the best for their exciting future ventures!