Xtracta: Automating your invoices

With several streams of invoices arriving by email for different clients, I’m always looking for ways to reduce tedious data entry.

Enter Xtracta.

I first encountered OCR data matching for invoices at a previous job in a government agency – and already knew this was what I wanted for my own clients, so as soon as I saw Xtracta listed as a Xero add-on I jumped on it and signed up.

After testing and trials I have a fairly good automated system to get invoices from my email, into Xero.

First, get your invoices arriving by email. Not all suppliers can manage this yet – surprisingly it’s the very large organisations that often seem to be stuck with invoices posted by snail mail. But a concerted effort of contacting suppliers has resulted in at least 75% of suppliers sending invoices and statements by email.

Second, using Gmail, I set up filters to automatically tag specific emails with categories. The filters can pick up on the senders email address, specific words in the subject or email body, and whether it has an attachment or not. The filter process needs to be robust, to ensure

Third – in Xtracta create a workflow to process the invoices. I am using a separate workflow for each supplier – and because some clients use the same supplier, I also have to differentiate the client. At the final stage of creating the workflow, a unique email address is created. Sending emails to this email address brings the attached invoice into Xtracta for processing. However it can be automated even more using one more step.

IFTTT.com – otherwise known as “If This, Then That” is the final step. Registering with IFTTT allows you to then register various web accounts (e.g. Gmail), and you can authorise IFTTT to automatically send any new emails arriving in your inbox, with a specific category, to the email address for the workflow you’ve previously created in Xtracta.

You can still manually forward emails with invoices within Gmail, but for one supplier I receive close to 100 invoices each month. For that one I also set the Gmail filter to mark the emails as read, so they don’t sit as unread in my inbox.

There is still the processing of invoices within Xtracta – but most fields are datamatched from the invoice, so it’s mainly a matter of checking, adding a few fields, and then saving. The invoice is then created in your Xero account as a draft, for final checking and approving, with the attachment in place.

Automating this process saves hours of data entry, and also saves the client money.