Is Your AP Process Fit for the Future of Finance?
In the second of a three-part series, ‘The Intelligent Automation Revolution’, Konica Minolta, explains how IA can transform the accounts payable process, freeing up time money, and resources for innovation – and enabling finance to become an even more productive partner to the business.
The arrival of Amazon Alexa and in-car autonomy for example highlight the way intelligent automation is moving into our everyday lives. And this is just the beginning. Emerging technologies such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), Prescriptive Analytics, and Robotics, are set to make intelligent automation even smarter, faster, more fluid, and human-like in the years to come.
What about the workplace though? It’s fair to say this 4th Industrial Revolution hasn’t yet impacted businesses the same way it has touched consumers.
Many organisations maybe hesitating, cautious and concerned that this new form of automation could alienate their workers, take away their jobs or more simply diminish the quality of the personalised service they offer. Their tardiness could also be a hangover from previous technology roll-out, with stakeholders and executives weary of project creep, cost overruns and disruptive implementations.
Moreover, there is an uncertain degree of risk associated with changing delicate and interconnected business processes. Sometimes the whole notion of addressing an intelligent automation strategy can just feel too daunting without expert support.
Here’s the ‘but’. Organisation cannot hide from the rise of automation. 42% of CEOs have already begun the process with 56% reporting gains (source: Gartner 2017). For rules-based processes including the intelligent automation of information, organisations saw between a 55% to 65% savings for onshore operations, and 25% - 35% for offshore operations (source: HfS Research 2017).
The answer is to kick-start your intelligent automation strategy with a relatively straightforward business process – one that is easier to administer but also delivers fast return on value. Like the accounts payable (AP) process, for example.
On the surface, the AP process has a very clear purpose and structure: you raise a purchase order (PO), receive the goods, enter an invoice, match the PO, receipt the goods, and make a payment.
Drill deeper though and the AP process becomes significantly more complex. There’s a certain degree of technology automation performing some heavy lifting, but it’s often the people behind and between the automation that keeps things running. For example, dealing with exceptions and manual tasks, managing supplier queries, tracking cash flow, reporting, and coping with that perennial problem of the month-end close.
These AP problems are more than just inconveniences – they are consuming time, and resources. Indeed, 84 percent of an AP professional’s time is spent on transaction processing. Almost two-thirds of invoices processed by businesses require some form of manual intervention. And one percent of payments are duplicate or over payments.
The result? AP departments are so focused on transactional processing, they do not have the time to devote to revenue-generating tasks, be a partner to the business, or look to the future.
Applying intelligent automation to the AP process
It doesn’t have to be this way. Automation technologies play a vital role in processes such as data capture, searches, and workflow. However, it’s when these automations are connected with future-facing intelligent technologies that the opportunities emerge: such as machine learning, image recognition and natural language processing. Combine these intelligent technologies with existing automation technologies, add the power, scalability and agility of the cloud, and disruptive opportunities for innovation emerge.
One of these exciting opportunities is the transformation of the end-to-end AP process: intelligent automation has the potential to almost eliminate manual tasks and interventions. For example:
- No manual data entry: Intelligent capture reliably extracts the data from invoices and other documents in any format and source.
- Reduced manual processing: Intelligent dynamic workflows verify the invoices across many variables to complete the three-way matching process, apply the relevant GL code, and remove duplicates.
- Increased agility: An automated approval process dramatically reduces manual interventions, and where exceptions may occur, intelligent solutions can now reach out to stakeholders and request more information to restart the automation process.
The bottom line? Intelligent automation frees up resources for innovation, reduces risk, increases reliability, and improves compliance. Moreover, you benefit from new levels of real-time, dashboard-based insight. Real-time compliance checks and audits can all be automated. The scalability of the intelligent technology – and the cloud – also gives your business the resilience to manage peaks and troughs in demand. Without the heavy lifting, your AP teams can focus on strategic actions and ideas to improve and control cash flow – not just the transactions.
It’s time for finance teams to become a better partner to the business. Intelligent AP automation delivers that freedom, flexibility, insight, and agility.
To learn more, visit here.