All businesses around the world have felt the effects of the recent crisis in one way or another, and businesses using outdated AP software have suffered most of the crisis. In the past, many companies did not see AP Automation as a priority, but this is changing rapidly. The shift to working from home and increased digitization has created an increased need to speed up payments and manage cash flow more effectively. Keeping money flowing is vital to the financial health of any organization, especially as so many businesses face financial uncertainty.
Unfortunately for businesses that still use manual accounts payable processes, many struggle with limited visibility and control over their invoices and unrecorded liabilities and cash flow. These problems create a bottleneck in payments and unpredictable cash flow. By automating parts of the AP process, businesses are able to get a clear picture of their cash flow without manually sorting data and creating reports, while reducing invoice processing costs.
In recent years, the main challenge for AP professionals has been to move away from manual paper-based processes and find a way to automate the invoicing workflow. As the world becomes more data-driven, organizations must digitize their business processes and automate manual tasks, or they risk falling behind their competition. Before the crisis, many organizations still managed to stay afloat while continuing to perform day-to-day operations manually. Once the crisis hit, however, that all started to change.
The future of AP: what to expect
1. Ease of use for all users – remote or not
Now that so many people around the world are working remotely, mobile capabilities have become increasingly important. Organizations need to be able to move their invoicing workflows and approvals forward, regardless of where their employees and business partners are located. This can be difficult for businesses that still use legacy software that is not user friendly and requires significant training for new users.
Ensuring a simple and intuitive user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) is essential for maintaining good relationships with business partners. Users are looking for the same quality of user interface and user experience that they see with the mainstream applications they use on a daily basis. Increased automation will further simplify the user experience. Additionally, users are looking for solutions that are easy to implement and require minimal training.
2. Digitization will become crucial
Manually managing invoices is time consuming, expensive and error-prone, and it can often lead to missing invoices and late payments, not to mention the penalties that accompany those late payments. In the post-pandemic world, it’s more important than ever for organizations to reduce inefficiencies and get the most out of their workforce.
Businesses will begin to re-evaluate their processes to remove unnecessary steps and streamline operations, as this is essential to the financial management of any organization. With AP automation, data will automatically flow from clients and systems directly into the AP automation software. Manual data entry, and the errors it can often introduce, will be a thing of the past.
As one of the latest departments to go digital, Accounts Payable is poised to reap the efficiency, cost savings, and strategic benefits that others have achieved through automation. Instead of spending time on tedious tasks, AP professionals will be able to focus on more strategic tasks, which will give organizations access to more information and help organize important documents and documents.
3. AP Automation will be powered byAI and machine learning
Organizations use AI and ML in different ways, including to spot errors and deviations. Based on historical data and in-depth traffic analysis, AI anomaly detection can automatically identify possible discrepancies or errors in invoice traffic as well as any other issues within the exchange of documents and immediately alert the necessary users to rectify the situation.
Advanced AP automation solutions use optical character recognition (OCR) combined with AI to intelligently fill in missing information in invoice fields. Using information from vendors and similar invoice formats, OCR technology creates an invoice template for organizations and invoice types. This ensures that billing becomes more accurate over time and requires less manual intervention.
4. Additional security to reduce fraud
Automation of access points offers a solution to fraud, which can be very costly for businesses. Data collection and analysis tools can help organizations easily identify anomalies and trace them back to the source. The system sounds red flags when it suspects fraudulent behavior, and AP automation professionals are encouraged to dig deeper into the data. Some examples of red flags the system can identify are incomplete invoices, suspicious connections, last minute changes in bank information, and price changes at particular suppliers.
How Deploying the Latest Technologies is Helping Businesses Move Forward
When businesses move to AP automation, they don’t just reduce AP costs and improve service efficiency; they have the potential to transform their AP team into a strategic, data-driven accounts payable center.
AP Automation has been shown to speed up approval cycles, increase employee productivity, reduce late payment penalties, and reduce overall invoice processing costs.