When companies transform their purchase-to-payment process, they’re preparing their team for the rebound.
By Laurent Charpentier, COO Yooz North America
It’s becoming abundantly clear that work, as we know, is a thing of the past. Just a few data points document this momentous change. Salesforce announced that the “9-to-5 workday is dead.” The software company will let its workers choose how many days a week they want to come to the office and when they want to log in remotely. The renowned World Economic Forum concludes: “Working from home was a luxury for the relatively affluent before coronavirus - not anymore.” And according to consultancy PwC, “it’s time to reimagine where and how work will get done.” Previously sleepy gateway towns far from busy urban centers are now rebranding as “Zoomtowns” for telework.
All of that has real consequences for every business that wants to stay in business and grow. Just think about invoices arriving by mail, day after day, with hardly anyone around to open, process, and pay them. A deserted office or reduced headcount can quickly lead to broken supply chains, frayed vendor relations, sagging productivity, and choked cash flow.
But technology can lead us out of this dead end.
True, when my company Yooz started working on the latest version of our platform to automate the purchase-to-payment process, we had no idea a pandemic was about to hit. We were simply reading the bigger trends of the digital transformation sweeping every industry, and we were listening to customers who wanted to save significant amounts of time and money.
What we’ve built will be a game-changer, amplified by the effects of Covid-19: true end-to-end automation that takes humans out of the loop as much as possible and lets AI do its magic. Yooz Rising, as we call it, gives shut-out office workers the tools to get their work done from anywhere so the orders can keep rolling in, charges are settled fast, and nobody has to wait to get paid.
The rise of robotic process automation (RPA) is a clear indication of where we’re headed. When The Wall Street Journal surveyed major companies recently, it concluded that “software bots multiply to cope with ‘stretched’ resources.” More and more simple programs perform repetitive tasks such as handling documents or customer inquiries. They’re small steps in a longer automation journey, and they’re here to stay as the economy will reopen and rebound.
Future-proof automation in the finance department has to accomplish two things: offer a groundbreaking user experience and powerful technology. On the face of it, Yooz Rising is an example for hiding the complexity and power of machine learning under a sleek user interface that looks and feels much like a consumer app where we track our fitness, finances or followers.
Intuitive look for users
An intuitive look and feel can go a long way to make business users feel as comfortable as possible while WFH. They shouldn’t have to deal with the stress of being stuck at home and relearning what they thought they knew: how to keep a company’s purchase-to-payment workflow humming.
Imagine all you need is a browser window or mobile app that lets everybody see what’s in their approval pipeline, pull up related documents, send them onward to the next person or initiate a payment -- without ever touching a sheet of paper or print a check. In fact, people like to work for companies that are digitally savvy and give them apps that make them more flexible and productive. For instance, dragging and dropping any type of document from any source into your accounting software as if you were cleaning up your photo album. And since many customers told us they want all of this in their own corporate color scheme, we threw in that option as well.
Unbridled power under the hood
The second answer to how we’ll do finance in the post-pandemic era lies under the hood of Yooz Rising. Hiding complexity doesn’t mean sacrificing functionality or features. Quite the opposite. Over the years, our algorithms have seen and read more than 100 million invoices from more than one million different vendors. That’s the biggest training set of its kind in our industry, and it’s paying off now as we can extract every detail from every invoice or purchase order with 98% accuracy or more, word for word, amount for amount and make sense of it. A human would be hard-pressed to be this good all the time, let alone when half the office is on mandatory leave.
Here’s an example that has vexed our industry for a long time. If a supplier sends you 20 or 30 invoices in one big batch, machine learning is now smart enough to automatically split and assign each of them to the right cost center. Being based on the global BPMN2 standard opens a world of opportunities, since you can run multiple tasks on the same document simultaneously, for instance routing it to several recipients for review and approval. What took days is down to a few hours or less.
Financial intelligence for the post-Covid world
Managers expect this type of sophisticated software to run their organization not only because it boosts productivity and employee satisfaction. Platforms such as Yooz Rising also provide them with actionable intelligence to optimize their supply chain and cash management. Having financial intelligence that does things like visualizing accounting entries in real time and auto-refreshing exchange rates goes a long way to become more efficient and resilient. Roles and responsibilities might be different, but now everyone in a company can access his or her dashboard to know what’s happening.
In the end, we can brag all we want about having built the most advanced automation technology to prepare accounting for the post-Covid future. But most importantly, we need to improve the lives of the users. Like the CFO I recently spoke with who told me that, thanks in large part to our new platform, he was able to close the books for 2020 so fast that he still had time to watch his grandson’s game that afternoon.
Laurent Charpentier is CIO and COO of Yooz North America. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked for consultancy Accenture and Dell Inc.