As payment flows become more complex, manual review and intervention by human experts must become more specialized, putting their intuitive expertise to work exactly where it’s most needed. That compels a higher level of automation in treasury departments to monitor massive transaction volumes and datasets for anomalies, freeing up experts to do yet more.
It also presses the need to trade out reliance on paper for more efficient digital systems.
“Businesses have long wrestled with the frictions inherent in manually processing emailed invoices, prompting them to consider revamping their approaches. Manual invoice entry can consume substantial amounts of staffers’ time and lead to simple employee mistakes,” according to PYMNTS’ latest Next-Gen AP Automation Tracker®, done in collaboration with Bottomline Technologies.
“This could explain why a 2019 survey of firms that planned to adopt at least four payment innovations found that 81 percent wished to automate their AP processes to cut costs, while 84 percent wanted to invest in AP automation to reduce errors.”
RPA Meets AI for Agility
Considering that manual entry is a labor-intensive and notoriously error-prone misery for accounting departments across the known universe, robotic process automation (RPA) is now being paired with artificial intelligence (AI) to create a new kind of accounts payable (AP) automation that is ideal for the shifting digital workloads of the COVID era.
“Companies have recently become more cognizant of and interested in integrating tools like RPA and AI as they aim to make their AP departments more agile, precise and cost-effective. Twenty-seven percent of businesses had already adopted some form of AP automation by early 2019, according to PYMNTS research. Even holdouts have been eyeing opportunities, as 74 percent of companies in the same study said they intended to make such updates within the next three years,” states the Next-Gen AP Automation Tracker.
That’s causing AP teams to get urgent about process and technology change.
“We expect to see accelerated adoption of solutions that enable automation across the procure-to-pay life cycle, better payment security regardless of where employees are working and enhanced visibility into cash flows and transaction-related data,” Bill Wardwell II, Bottomline senior vice president of Paymode-X product, strategy and business operations, told PYMNTS.
“AP teams and the intelligence they can mine can serve as key enablers of overall financial health, pointing out ways for the businesses they support to survive or thrive in the months and years to come,” he said. “Optimizing [days payable outstanding] and working capital through [the] continued adoption of solutions that enable discount capture, intelligent utilization of digital payment methods and improved employee productivity will be critical.”
Optimizing operations by adopting digital processes, replacing legacy systems, and investing in AP automation with the RPA/AI “smarts” needed for security, compliance and speed is the future of corporate treasury. The changeover is seen as a good thing, and long overdue.
“Numerous companies seeking to accelerate their AP processes and reduce errors are adopting tools like RPA. This technology, robotic process automation, directs software bots to take over repetitive tasks from employees, allowing the bots to conduct activities through the same user interfaces that human staff use,” the Tracker states.
“AP departments are recognizing the value in leveraging RPA in conjunction with AI tools to automatically accept, review and correct errors in vendors’ invoices. This can be a considerable timesaver, especially for companies with suppliers that utilize atypical invoice formatting. Financial staff members may find that vendors are unwilling to change their formatting approaches, yet adopting technologies that can automatically reconfigure invoices spares employees from doing so personally and prevents them from hounding vendors with formatting requests, ultimately fostering warmer supplier relationships,” per the Tracker.