How MYOB tackled one whopping customer pain point with a new Aussie tech startup

Accounting software vendor talks through its new of new data extraction technology and how it's helping SMEs at tax time

Adopting a freshly minted document and data extraction technology is enabling MYOB to tackle a whopping big customer pain point while improving SMB tax time compliance, its product chief says.

The accounting software vendor partnered this year with Aussie tech startup, Sypht, to take on the latter’s artificial intelligence-powered data extraction software and is now offering it to MYOB Essential and Accountright customers.

Sypht was incorporated one year ago and boasts of BPAY and BCG Ventures as major backers. Its system utilises AI, machine learning and natural language processing to automatically extract information out of transactional documentation, such as invoices and receipts. The company has then built a cloud-based API to send captured data into other enterprise systems like CRM, ERP and call centre software.

As Sypht CEO, Warren Billington, put it, the platform is designed to unlock the potential of underutilised data, making it accessible, fluid and actionable.

“There is a lot of information contained in paper and digital documentation relating to communications, processing, billing and receipts,” he told CMO. What’s more, when this data is used, it’s often a highly manual process. For example, in accounting, switching businesses or providers, invoicing, or call centre communications.

“The fluidity of that data is still a big issue. So the trapped data in documentation is the first challenge,”  Billington said. “Then it’s about automating data to make it available into the right systems in real time. For Sypht, the documentation itself doesn’t matter; the point is real-time data access for a company.”

The customer pain point

In MYOB’s case, the business pain point was helping customers save time and reduce administration overheads by capturing transaction data at its source. This data was usually manually entered at a later point in time, leading to inaccuracy, compliance challenges and an additional administration burden on SMEs, head of product, Dale Dixon, told CMO.

“It’s also about delivering our ‘connected practice’ vision, which is connecting the accountant, book keeper and small business together,” Dixon said. “Not only can we help SMEs enter this information, but by capturing source documents and linking them to the transaction, we can eliminate overheads and save these customers time at tax or GST time. Using Sypht, we can link documents instantaneously.”

As Dixon explained, most accounting software has the ability to connect in a two-way feed with the bank. This means transactions are automatically coded into relevant accounts for reporting. What platforms don’t do, however, is give you the GST component.

“You require the source document to apply the correct tax transaction to the transaction you’re reporting,” Dixon explained. “This means an accountant at tax time is reviewing transactions to ensure they’re added to the right account, but also that the right tax treatment is applied so they’re reporting the correct information. That’s why having that source document attaches is so important.”

There’s also a requirement to keep source documents for seven years, a fact that’s led many SMEs to print relevant documents and receipts out, or save them on a local computer or cloud-based storage.

MYOB is now using Sypht to extract key information from bills and receipts including due date, GST tax and total amounts. Dixon said integration was straightforward through Sypht’s APIs. The company quickly channelled documents through to help the system learn and improve accuracy around detecting the right information.

“We worked closely to ensure the system learned and improve so we provided the best experience to customers,” Dixon said. Already, MYOB has boosted accuracy in some fields to 96 per cent – a figure it’s gleaned by understanding how many times a client has needed to change data captured.  MYOB is also extracting and providing data in under five seconds.

“We continue to work to improve that using the AI technology. I’ve even played with handwritten invoices, and technology can read and interpret those, which is pretty cool,” Dixon said.  

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What was arguably more time-consuming for MYOB was making it easy for end clients to capture a document for Sypht to scan in the first place. To do this, the team built and launched the MYOB Capture App.

“Customers can take the photo, straighten and crop really easily in the app, it’s sent to Sypht, which reads the information, then data arrives in a document in-tray,” Dixon said.  

Further app enhancements are underway, including the ability to take photos of multiple pages and upload in one, or upload photos from a camera reel. Alternatively, customers can send documents via email or by attaching to the accounting software itself.

In addition, MYOB wanted to ensure the end-to-end experience was a strong and seamless one.

“Often, with expenses and transactions, you have to manually link to transactions coming through. It’s painful. We did a lot of work to ensure if we have already read the data and amount of receipt, we can automatically or suggest a link to a transaction coming from a bank,” Dixon continued. “We take the data from Sypht, plus data from the bank, and marry the two together to take that burden away from our users.”  

The platform went live a couple of months ago and Dixon said it continues to improve as it reads more documents. The tech has already processed nearly 3.5 million documents and is available to all MYOB Essential and Accountright customers.

Given the strong results, Dixon said MYOB is looking to extract more billing and expense information, such as line information. He saw uses cases past transactional information too, including supplier and employee management.

“Documents related to those areas are also something we see an opportunity to apply the Sypht technology too,” he said.  

Dixon again stressed MYOB saw adoption of the technology as a customer experience improvement first and foremost.

“Experience was a really important part of this. It’s why we focused on capture app and matching the document to bank statement – that’s what makes the experience,” he said.  

Outside of MYOB’s deployment, Sypht has built a self-service platform to make it easier for customers to test its API.

Billington acknowledged scanning documents isn’t a unique technology, and optical character recognition (OCR) is available in several ways. However, he claimed Sypht’s approach, integration capabilities, level of accuracy, and the scalable nature of the technology made it a compelling choice. For example, while OCR boasts of accuracy rates of about 80 per cent, Sypht is getting upwards of 90 per cent. The technology reportedly only needs 500-1000 documents to build capability and such accuracy, meaning deployment can occur in a matter of weeks.  

Alongside customer value-add use cases, Billington saw opportunities for Sypht’s technology in fraud detection, identity management and wider operational efficiency processing.

Given BPAY’s backing, the original and obvious place to start was the banking sector, and Billington cited proof of concept work with smaller banks as well as lending businesses. But there are arguably use cases anywhere where workflows need to be automated. Sypht is also investigating a partnership strategy with other tech vendors, and Billington noted integration SAP to work with BPAY had already been achieved.

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