Advanced AI is transforming AP automation

August 15, 2019
Matt Vermeulen

In the B2B world, there are many new services that promise to make life more convenient for the accounts payable specialist. These innovations generally promise their e-invoicing tools will reduce invoice processing time, reduce errors, and double invoices paid.

But there are two distinct types of automation technology AP professionals need to be aware of: smart tools that help you make better decisions—like artificial intelligence —and dumb tools that may speed up your processes but don’t provide any real insights. Below we help you distinguish between these tools to help create an efficient, transparent, and strategic Accounts Payable process.

Automation ≠ artificial intelligence

Many modern supply chain tools highlight their ap automation capabilities, touting that their solution can save you time and create a more strategic AP process. In reality, many of these tools only help you speed up your process, not make it more effective. Two popular tools used by many within the AP industry are:

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) — this tool mimics mouse-clicks, and keystrokes humans would typically do to process PDF invoices and emails, significantly cutting back on invoicing time. 
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) — this solution allows you to convert different file types into editable, searchable data. File types that work include paper, pictures, and PDFs. 

These two technologies are popular because they can help enterprises reduce processing times, automate paper processes, and cut down on waste. But, without the support of advanced learning tools like artificial intelligence, these tools only help quicken your pace, not make it more strategic. 

The trap of stop-gap solutions

While RPA and OCR may be interesting tools for companies starting their AP automation journey, these tools aren’t true automation. Rather than helping you to embrace a digital-first approach to AP, these tools still utilize paper invoices and just make it easier to process manual invoicing. Essentially, RPA and OCR don’t implement any real change; they just make your existing process more convenient. 

At its core, solutions like these are useful stop-gap solutions. Rather than promoting a truly transformative AP process, these tools believe that paper invoicing is inevitable, and the best you can hope for is to simply make the way you process paper faster.

After recent developments in technology, that mentality is worth challenging. What if your entire system was digitized, so you didn’t have to worry about paper or manual processing? And what if you had technology that gave you deep insights into your financial operation and even suggested smart actions you could take to improve it? 

With the right digital tool, it’s entirely possible. 

Artificial Intelligence: a truly digital solution 

Today’s enterprises need to embrace a real digital transformation. This shift starts by ditching the stop-gap solutions and instead of using technology aimed at helping you achieve greater financial success. With artificial intelligence, digital solutions allow for enhanced collaboration across departments and smarter decision-making.

Modern enterprises would benefit from the practicality that comes with AI in the workplace. Using the vast amount of data your company has, advanced AI can learn your processes and suggest decisions and changes aimed at helping you save time and money. Within the Accounts Payable space, AI helps to:

  • Expedite invoice processing time — automate your time-consuming process to quick your time-to-process
  • Archive and access data and records — all your data, secure in one easily accessible location
  • Add a wealth of data to your existing team — AI brings smart analytics to the table, adding significant value to your current team
  • Track communications and progress — with a digital platform and AI, your company can quickly and easily keep track of conversation history with suppliers and track the progress of shipments and invoices
  • Flag errors and potential risk — advanced AI is built with the intelligence to notice invoice errors and fix them on the fly, flag fraud risks, and suggest automatic approvals to reduce the likelihood of risk

Together, these tools help to dramatically increase your straight-through processing time. What does this mean for you? You can expect easier approvals, a reduced chance for risk, and a more reliable and secure cash flow. In time, advanced AI can help you turn your department into a time-saving wealth generator. And, with more time to think strategically, you have a more intelligent insight into how to make your company succeed. 

To learn more about how a digital-first and strategic approach to Accounts Payables can help you to create a resilient business function, reach out to our team of experts.

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