Rise of the machines
There’s increasing buzz over the impact of AI (artificial intelligence) in the workplace. With all the B2C impacts we’re seeing of late it’s with good reason. Just consider how Alexa and all the Amazon devices, or Siri on iPhones, or the Google suite of products are changing how we do life at home and you’ll quickly grasp the pace and scope of the landmark changes in our world. This is all well and good in our personal lives, and somewhat easier to comprehend, but the business implications of artificial intelligence in the back office can not be understated. Sadly, many companies still don’t grasp how this technology can be leveraged in the here and now to create better business outcomes, reduce costs, improve cashflow, and drive profit, all in back office areas.
The primary way that AI is influencing AP automation would be three fold:
- OCR - It’s by no means a new technology, but one that has been changing and improving for a while. OCR is now a highly reliable, trainable, adaptive technology that utilizes a machine learning engine to continuously improve in terms of accuracy and data throughput. At a minimum, if you are in the data entry game in areas like Accounts Payable, this is a technology that can deliver a massive amount of value and should be on your roadmap to explore. Granted, it’s not for everyone and typically only fairly large companies have successfully deployed it, but rest assured there are cloud and BPO models that can take your documents and data and run through an OCR engine with validation services to deliver high quality data back to you (and without breaking the bank).
- Workflow - Business Intelligence can be applied to drive documents or processes forward and this is a welcome change. For anyone who has been trying to push approval processes forward and understands the challenge of doing this across a large or geographically dispersed organization, this is a definite win. By applying your unique business rules to an electronic workflow, you can obtain the approvals needed to advance a transaction all while establishing a digital audit trail that can be tapped into later as a means of process visibility. Various triggers can be used in conjunction with OCR so an AP automation system intelligently knows who and where to route invoices or transactions for human interaction. Things like Address, Vendor Name, or Dollar Amounts can all be triggers for delegation or escalation and will help most businesses navigate even the most cumbersome of processes.
- Payments - Payment broker technology is a relatively newer development in the B2B landscape, but is a technology that can intelligently apply payment to your vendors based upon their preference. This is massive for Payors as it enables them to push ePayment adoption and thereby advance their interests in terms of divesting themselves of traditional, onerous payment methods like Check. Also, due the increasingly diverse set of B2B payment rails, it’s a welcome support to the AP staff that are otherwise responsible for executing payment transactions. In today’s business climate, companies can pay via Check, Wire, ACH / EFT, credit cards, or virtual payments. As such, having this technology that can intuitively offer payment according to the vendor’s preferred payment method, or one that can be designed to offer payment by the Payor’s preference as an initial offering and then default to a secondary method.
All of these are solid examples of the use of machine computing and intelligence to bring about positive wholesale operational benefits that come with a major financial upside. If you haven’t explored these yet for your business it’s time to get serious and look into these for yourself to see where you might be missing out and learn what you can do about it!