Let’s face it! We have come a long way since paper-based processes – most notably in finance and, more specifically, the Accounts’ Payable function. For many years, if not decades, organisations were filled with the harrowing tales of missing or duplicate invoices, human error and inaccurate data capture, lengthy manual processes, and the inevitable knock-on effect of all of this, and more, on supplier relationships.
Those days are long gone! Over the years, the introduction of technology has increasingly transformed the Accounts Payable function. It has served to automate, streamline, and deliver enhanced capabilities to this vital process. This, in turn, setting businesses up for greater efficiencies and accuracy, improved productivity and, most essential of all – improved relationships!
And, it has just gotten a whole lot smarter! Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the world as we know it and Accounts Payable is no exception! But, before we delve a bit deeper into this game changing aspect of AI, let us look at some of the other technology milestones along the way.
Digital acceleration : SaaS and cloud technologies
Advancements in technology has been revolutionizing what had been a very traditional and paper-based process for many years – from computerized accounting systems that began to change the way employees engaged with financial data through to the introduction of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems allowing businesses to integrate and manage several key business processes holistically. Optical Character Recognition (OCR), with its ability to convert scanned images of text into searchable digital documents, also provided companies with the functionality to capture inbound invoice data far more effortlessly.
The dawn of internet and digital technologies further accelerated the transformation of Accounts Payable such as SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud technologies. Further, ERP connectors and Application Programming Interfaces (API – a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other) made it possible to integrate directly into existing AP processes, delivering inbound invoices directly into your Accounts Payable system.
The automation of Accounts Payable most definitely heralded a new era – undoubtedly one of the biggest benefits of technology across this function. Automated Accounts Payable solutions have become increasingly critical to ensure businesses are able to compete in a constantly changing and evolving world. The benefits are numerous and well documented – full integration across the business, increased efficiencies and speed, reduced costs – and errors, greater visibility and enhanced reporting and analytics enabling real-time strategic decision making together with easier compliance and security to name but a few.
Enter Artificial Intelligence : A game-changer for Accounts Payable
Enter Artificial Intelligence! The advent of which, together with machine learning, is heralding even greater transformation across the Accounts Payable function than probably ever deemed possible. It is securing and automating the processing of supplier invoices even further, both its collection and entry and is outperforming OCR when it comes to reading scanned images of text (for e.g., .pdfs). Further, automation backed by an intelligent process can prompt consecutive processing steps based on scenarios and variables with the use of algorithms able to identify patterns that aid in the decision-making process. It is also able to, quickly and effectively, both validate and reconcile invoice data against purchase orders and goods receipt notes. The result – an almost immediate alert regarding potential discrepancies very early on in the accounts payable process. These enhanced capabilities and efficiencies, amongst several others, can and will revolutionize the Accounts Payable function in its entirety. In addition to which, the resulting increase in security and control measures should render fraudulent activity synonymous with yesteryear.
Historically, many of these technologies that led to visible and tangible AP benefits may have taken years to be developed or become fully integrated into organisations. The same, however, is not true of AI. It has arrived and it is fast – and it is revolutionizing Accounts Payable as we know it! Artificial Intelligence is here to stay! Whilst there may be arguments both for and against, it is upping the ante and the level at which organisations are able to operate. It is time to take the next step!