Optical character recognition (OCR) isn’t a new technology or one that we invented. In fact, we aren’t even the first to use it. We did, however, decide to wait to implement OCR until we could decide how it would be the most effective and the least disruptive, which means that we decided to use it a little differently than other companies with similar products.
There is definitely a “cool factor” to OCR, but more often than not, the technology lets us down. We want it to read our receipts and magically input the data for us so that we never have to enter an expense manually again. But often we’re left correcting the data that has been input from the scan or having to fix issues that arise due to a lack of context. It’s still an imperfect science, so the reality is that this isn’t reality… yet.
That doesn’t mean that OCR can’t be helpful.
We decided to focus on using OCR in conjunction with other forms of technology – such as auto-categorization and geo-location – to reap the most benefits and cut down the time it takes to submit an expense. Our plan is to continue improving and iterating on how we use it, experimenting and blending it with other technologies. The goal will always be to make expensing faster, not to make it appear faster at the risk of muddling the quality of data and the user experience.
How does Abacus use OCR?
We currently use OCR in 3 different ways, which we are excited to announce today.
- First, we use it during the expense creation process on the web to bubble up the best match in your receipt bin for the expense data you’ve entered. So when you click on “add receipt” and open your uploaded receipts, the best option will be first.
- Secondly, we use OCR as a verification for admins and managers to know whether the receipt amount matches the expense amount without needing to open the receipt.
- Lastly, and most noticeably, we use OCR to add saved receipts automatically to transactions in your personal and corporate card feeds.
This use of OCR to match receipts has considerably cut down the amount of time it takes to submit an expense, going down from 73 seconds to a mere 43 seconds. That means we are able to cut the time to submit an expense nearly in half!
In addition to releasing OCR Receipt Match, we’ve improved the way to capture and save receipts. If you’ve linked your personal or corporate card, you know it can take 24 to 48 hours for the card company to process your transaction so it can show up in Abacus, which makes it important to save receipts for later.
Now when you add a receipt to use later, you can also add a description that will be used later as the expense description.
Entering Lightning Mode
With our new workflow, which includes Receipt Notes and OCR match, expensing credit card transactions is lightning fast.
- Snap a photo of your receipt and add a description
- We’ll add the receipt and description to the expense when it appears in your card feed
- The category will auto-populate based on your expense history
- You just have to hit send!