Automated Document Collection with Hubdoc & Fujitsu ScanSnap

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
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What happens when a marketer takes on the role of bookkeeper? Turns out, it’s not as disastrous as you’d think…

We chatted with Hubdoc’s Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Geoffrey Gualano, about how he happened to fall into the role of interim bookkeeper at Hubdoc. Learn more about how he built and optimized his bookkeeping workflows with cloud technology below!

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Hubdoc, and the “How I Learned Cloud Bookkeeping” series?

About me

My name is Geoffrey, I’m the Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Hubdoc. I work very closely with our customers and internal teams to bring products (and features) to market.

About Hubdoc

Hubdoc, much like ScanSnap, is on a mission to help accountants, bookkeepers, and the small businesses they serve save time and increase efficiencies, by automating the administrative tasks associated to the bookkeeping process (like financial document collection).

For ScanSnap, that means powerful wireless scanners that allow you to digitize paper documents in no time and send them to a multitude of online destinations, including Hubdoc, Dropbox, Google Drive, and more.

For Hubdoc, that means no more chasing documents or doing manual data entry. Our application makes it easy for accountants and bookkeepers to access their small business clients’ financial documents. It automatically collects bank statements, bills, receipts, and invoices from hundreds of connections. Clients can also upload documents via mobile, desktop, and email. And with our integration to ScanSnap, going completely paperless is painless. Once the documents are in Hubdoc, we’ll extract the key data using Optical Character Recognition technology. Documents can then be coded and published to cloud accounting software like Xero and Bill.com for one-click reconciliation and payment processing.

About the “How I Learned Cloud Bookkeeping” series

As for the “How I Learned Cloud Bookkeeping” series, I think it would be beneficial to provide some context. If you’ve already read “How I Learned Cloud Bookkeeping – Chapter 1”, feel free to jump ahead!

At Hubdoc, we do our own bookkeeping (with guidance from an outsourced bookkeeper and accounting firm). We do it to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes. For the last 4 months (now 5), I’ve been managing a portion of our books (accounts payable, expense reporting, and bank reconciliation).

I’ve learned 2 things throughout this experience:

1) Bookkeeping is hard. That’s why trained professionals do it. There are so many nuances and tax implications, that without the proper training and experience, things can quickly go wrong (which is why we use external resources to guide us and validate our work).
2) Learning how to use cloud accounting and bookkeeping technologies is easier than you would think. I’m not going to list all the benefits of cloud accounting – you’ve probably heard them all before. What I will say is that if you have a well-documented workflow, and if you use the right online resources, you can learn how to build, implement, and operate a cloud accounting tech stack in a lot less time than you would think. I’m proof of that!

My experience – learning how to manage our books and leverage cloud accounting technologies – was the inspiration for our “How I Learned Cloud Bookkeeping” series. In the coming weeks, I’ll partner with Fujitsu ScanSnap, Xero, Expensify, and Bill.com to show accountants, bookkeepers, and small businesses how we use cloud accounting technologies to tackle financial document collection, reconciliation, expense reporting, and payment processing. We’ll close the series with a webinar that discusses how we built our workflow and tech stack (and how the applications integrate with one another). I’ll also provide a demo of our workflow.

Q: Are you really doing the bookkeeping?

Haha, yes! This is a question I get a lot. Keep in mind, I received extensive training before getting started, took online courses about bookkeeping (www.lynda.com was a great starting point) and receive continual guidance from our co-CEO, Head of Product, and an outsourced bookkeeper and accounting firm.

We do our own bookkeeping to stay connected to our customers, our product, and the problems we’re trying to solve. In any other context, I would definitely recommend hiring a trained professional.

Q: Let’s jump into document collection. Can you tell us how you currently collect documents at Hubdoc?

At Hubdoc, we collect financial documents by using the following methods:

  • Our Hubdoc account connects to 21 online vendors, 3 telecom providers, and 2 banks (Hubdoc connections) to automatically collect recurring bills, receipts, invoices, statements, CSV, and check images. (Documents are fetched as soon as they become available.)
  • If we receive a paper document when making a purchase with a company credit card, we take a picture of it using the Hubdoc mobile application (available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store).
  • If an employee uses their personal credit/debit card to make a purchase (travel, meals and entertainment, etc.) they use Expensify’s mobile or web app to upload the document and submit an expense report.
  • If we receive a bill, receipt, invoice, etc. by email, we send it to our unique Hubdoc intake email. (Every Hubdoc account has a customizable email address. This email address can be used to upload documents to a Hubdoc account.) We also setup auto-forwarding email rules for recurring bills and invoices.
  • If we have documents on our computers, we upload them through the Hubdoc web application.
  • If we still have paper documents at the end of the month, we upload them using our ScanSnap scanners. We own the iX100 and iX500 (to battle test our integration with ScanSnap). The iX100 is great for travel, or when we don’t have too many paper documents. The iX500 is amazing for when we’ve accumulated a lot of paper documents. We managed to scan 20 documents in less than 30 seconds just the other day!

Regardless of how Hubdoc receives a document it will extract the key data, including vendor name, date, and total amount. Hubdoc will also automatically create a new folder based on the vendor name. In the future, if Hubdoc recognizes a document’s vendor name, it will sort that document within the appropriate folder.

Q: How long did it take the team to get into the habit of using Hubdoc, Expensify, and ScanSnap to submit their documents?

We’re fortunate. Our team talks to accountants and bookkeepers every day, so they understand the struggle of chasing clients for financial documents. They do their best to submit documents to Hubdoc or Expensify as soon as they become available. That being said, we’re not perfect. I’ve been forced to chase after documents at the end of the month.

To be honest, trying to find just a few documents is really time consuming. I have to find out who’s responsible for the transaction, and then send them a request for the document. A lot of the time, it’s not their fault (a vendor forgot to send them a receipt, for example). I feel bad for asking, and they feel bad for forgetting… I’m lucky that this is the exception rather than the rule. I have a hard time imagining a world where the opposite is true.

Q: Why is having the source document so important to Hubdoc?

For a few reasons:

  • To understand the nature of a transaction. Although bank feeds are great, they provide limited information. Because we’re a growing business, we work with new vendors all the time for all sorts of reasons. Without the source document it would be extremely difficult for me to accurately code transactions (which is what gives us visibility into our financials).
  • Payables don’t show up in the bank feed. Without the source document, I wouldn’t know about outstanding bills and invoices.
  • Tax isn’t visible on the bank feed. For those living in Canada and Australia, having access to source documents and visibility into tax is extremely valuable.
  • Tracking and fixing mistakes. Because I have access to source documents, and more visibility into the nature of a transaction, I’ve been able to catch a few vendor mistakes, like duplicate charges, etc.
  • To audit-proof our business. Every one of our reconciled AP transaction has a source document attached. Which means that if we get audited by the Canada Revenue Agency we’d be able to quickly and easily provide proof of purchase. This isn’t just an “if”, we were audited in 2015. Because we had access to our source documents, the process was painless.

Q: How was your experience setting up and learning how to use ScanSnap?

Setting up our ScanSnap iX100 and iX500 was a breeze. All I had to do was download the ScanSnap Cloud application from the Apple App Store (the application is also available for PC users here). The app gave me step by step setup instructions. Once it was connected to our wireless network and Hubdoc account, I was able to start scanning receipts and paper documents ( ScanSnap can also scan business cards and photos, but those aren’t relevant for our use case). If I had any outstanding questions I used the Fujitsu ScanSnap Cloud Help center.

Q: How do you use ScanSnap Cloud and Hubdoc?

It’s important to note that Hubdoc only integrates with ScanSnap scanners that support ScanSnap Cloud (iX100 and iX500). As I mentioned previously we use both the iX100 and iX500 to battle test our integration. But if I had to choose one for our business, it would be the iX500 because of its ability to process large amounts of paper documents in no time.

With ScanSnap, I’m able to quickly transition between scanning worn, crinkled receipts of different lengths, to full sized invoices (I can also create multi-paged PDFs and split documents). In either case, the result is a high-quality PDF (or JPEG) that is automatically sent to Hubdoc – which is great, because the faster I get documents into Hubdoc, the faster I can code transactions, make payments, and complete the bank reconciliation process. Ultimately, ScanSnap helps me save time without compromising on quality of work.

Scanning a large amount of receipts in seconds using our ScanSnap iX500.

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High-quality digital version of our receipts in the ScanSnap Cloud application.

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High-quality digital version of our receipts in Hubdoc with data extracted (vendor name, date, and total amount), published from ScanSnap Cloud. This receipt can now be published as an accurately coded transaction with source document attached to cloud accounting software like Xero for one-click reconciliation and audit-proofing.

Q: What’s next in the “How I Learned Cloud Bookkeeping” series?

This week, I talked about how we automate financial document collection using ScanSnap and Hubdoc. Next week, we’re teaming up with Xero to talk about what we do with the documents once they’re in Hubdoc – specifically, reconciliation.

Sign up for the “How I Learned Cloud Bookkeeping” webinar to learn more!