Try answering the following question: How much of their time do accounts payable staff spend on answering vendor inquiries related to invoices? A whopping one-quarter of their time! Answering phone calls and emails, hunting down documents, pulling folders and checking payment status is a time-consuming task that’s really unnecessary.
And it’s a costly distraction because your staff could instead do really productive work to get invoices processed and paid on time. There is, however, a solution to get rid of the delays and errors due to handling paper and sticking to manual processes. It’s called digital transformation.
If there was one event that drove home the point to embark on intelligent automation in finance, it was the massive disruption caused by the pandemic. Survey after survey has documented how COVID-19 has exacerbated the problems caused by manual processes. There’s a silver lining, though, as it has begun to reshape the finance function as we know it.
Why Companies Are Investing in Intelligent Finance Automation
When Yooz polled more than 1,000 finance leaders in the US and seven other countries earlier this year, 70% of US businesses told us that the pandemic was a wake-up call. It has pushed them to accelerate their digital transformation plans and prioritize investments in the cloud and software-as-a-service. The key driver? The pain they experienced during lockdowns and work-from-home mandates.
Staff was cut, dispersed all over the place, and often unable to get access to important documents and productivity tools. As a result, invoices piled up, went unprocessed and unpaid, and relationships with suppliers suffered. Not to mention the serious cash-flow problems some businesses had to deal with as payment cycles kept getting longer and longer.
If left untouched, these issues will delay the recovery for many companies. No wonder that organizations told us they realize the urgency to not only go digital but to fully automate their processes from purchase to payment (P2P). Investing in digital transformation and in automating the finance function, in particular, is the one key takeaway from our report “The State of Automation in Finance”.
Smooth Sailing Thanks to Intelligent P2P Automation
P2P automation by Yooz delivers both -- digital transformation plus intelligent automation -- because it employs the latest in robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning algorithms to handle purchase orders, invoices and payments faster, safer and cheaper.
In turn, humans are freed from menial tasks. They only have to step in when they can really make a difference, for instance reviewing an invoice that has been flagged for erroneous, incomplete or suspicious details or to engage with a vendor to build a better relationship. Checking in when things are running smoothly and discussing more favorable terms sure beats the old game of phone tag and chasing paper.
With Yooz, you never have to worry about approval backlogs, missing invoices or late payments. As a cloud-based platform, it automates the entire workflow for businesses of any size. Team members enjoy one single interface in their browser or on their mobile device to review, approve and initiate payments, no matter where they are. It adds up to 80% savings per invoice processed and cycle times that are measured in days or hours instead of weeks.
The Five Steps of Intelligent Automation in Finance
Intelligent automation in finance can be broken down into five steps that are familiar to any organization. First, Yooz captures incoming invoices and other documents instantly, regardless of their format -- from a paper invoice that needs to be scanned and email attachments all the way to an electronic submission. Companies that embrace this kind of digital transformation can get started in under an hour. Without prior configuration, they see accuracy rates of 80% or more that beat any manual process.
That’s because Yooz can bring to bear decades of R&D work. Artificial intelligence correctly extracts all the relevant information from an invoice. The platform has read and indexed more than 100 million documents from more than one million different vendors and can automatically GL-code amounts, match an invoice to a PO and verify details such as supplier address, bank or tax information.
Next up in intelligent automation is a streamlined review process. Yooz will route invoices to the right people in the right order to have them sign off on invoices according to smart workflows each organization can easily set up. Straight-through processing means as little human intervention as possible, lowering the risk of costly errors and mistakes. What’s more, Yooz creates a detailed audit trail that lets staff pull up invoices with a simple keyword search.
Why Payments Are a Key Part of Intelligent Finance Automation
Fourth in line is automating the payment process. With the YoozPay module, an organization can set up ultrafast and efficient payments. Vendors are onboarded with a single email address and one-click selection of their preferred payment method. YoozPay handles the entire process, from electronic check to payment by virtual credit card, which means instant payment and additional protection against fraud. It also unlocks cash-back as a new, recurring revenue stream that can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line even for a small to midsize business.
The final step is also intelligently automated. Yooz exports all relevant information to more than 250 financial software and ERP packages, reconciling payment status with purchase orders.
Truth be told, not all businesses are there yet. According to our survey, 20% of companies are still using Excel spreadsheets and manual processes for their accounts payable function, and just 18% have adopted full automation.
The Pitfalls of a Piecemeal Approach to Intelligent Finance Automation
For many companies, digital transformation is still a piecemeal approach. While a fraction of businesses are using data verification tools such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or Electronic Document Management Solutions (EDMS), these do not provide the cost, time and productivity benefits of a fully automated tool.
Hesitating to embrace end-to-end automation means leaving money on the table now, and risks losing out to the competition down the road. Organizations are often held back by false fears. Many believe the process of switching to automation is complex (23%), time-consuming (22%) and expensive (18%).
Far from it. Streamlining AP workflows now can cut the processing time from weeks to days and drastically slash administrative costs. Case in point is the time companies spend on handling vendor invoices in a month. For the average US company, that task consumes 32 hours a month.
Live Dashboards Show the Value of Intelligent Finance Automation
Even more important are the benefits of increased visibility for all parties involved. Picture a live dashboard that shows key metrics in real-time. Even better, the value of this financial intelligence keeps getting better with every invoice that comes in.
When core processes are automated, your finance team can start exploring more sophisticated activities, such as investigating and reducing fraud risk, undertaking detailed cost modeling, and supporting the strategic direction of the entire organization. It’s safe to say that the rise of intelligent automation in finance will change the way organizations operate forever.