You’re probably not familiar with the American futurist Roy Charles Amara, but you’ve most likely heard of Amara’s Law. It states: "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run."
Take robots moving onto the turf of knowledge workers. Fears abound that increasingly smarter software will eliminate the need for and soon take over from humans and kill off millions of jobs. While it’s true that robotic systems and processes can already perform many simple and repetitive manual tasks that people used to do - for instance work on automated invoice processing - the much-debated robot invasion may play out differently than we tend to think.
Software can be pretty fast in extracting important data from invoices coming in and properly GL-coding them, flagging errors, and inconsistencies as well as discovering valuable patterns in large data sets. But robots are nowhere near as smart and versatile as the seasoned pro in your accounts payable team who can juggle dealing with an exception and talking to an impatient supplier waiting to get paid, all without missing a beat.
Accounts Payable Automation: welcome to teamwork 2.0
What does all this mean? Simply put, don’t fear the robots! It will take two to tango in the future, i.e., humans plus robotic processes. Yet the current speed of change shouldn’t distract organizations from the fact that collaboration will become the key feature of an automated future.
And there’s a lot to be excited about accounts payable automation. Managing your AP workflow with a platform such as Yooz that offers touchless or straight-through processing offers a whole list of immediate and mid-term benefits. They accrue to everyone involved, from the immediate AP staff to management to your partners and suppliers who become part of a dynamic business network with more visibility and transparency.
Think of AP automation this way: You get to hand off all the repetitive, menial, low-value tasks to an intelligent system while humans - whether they are in the office or working remotely - have their hands and heads free to focus on the tasks they’re really good at and can add value.
How automated invoice processing works
What exactly do we mean by automated invoice processing? It’s really teamwork 2.0, bringing together all the strengths of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) plus Machine Learning (ML) on the one side and human ingenuity and spontaneous problem-solving skills on the other.
Software captures and reads all invoices, gets the data entry right, indexes every word and amount, and makes sure invoices are matched to purchase orders before they are routed to the right people for approval. All this is happening fast and securely in the cloud, with as little human intervention as possible.
Humans, for their part, free up their precious time to use for other areas, ones that are the tougher nuts to crack: reviewing exceptions, dealing with more complex vendor inquiries, optimizing cash management, and managing your company’s relationships with important suppliers. Today, AP staff still spend more than a third of their time on dealing with vendor inquiries. A simple and elegant solution like a self-service portal for vendors in the cloud could answer most questions.
The Top 10 advantages of touchless invoice processing
To be sure, there is a difference between haphazardly automating certain steps of the AP workflow and really automating end-to-end. Efficiencies add up quickly once the entire workflow runs smoothly, from the moment a purchase order is generated to an electronic payment going out and the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system being updated.
Here are the top 10 advantages of AP automation with touchless invoice processing:
1. Quick start
It takes just a few hours with minimum onboarding from anywhere, including mobile devices.
2. Fewer errors
Less mistakes translate into fewer duplicate payments or fraud attempts.
3. Reduced cost
Processing costs per invoice drop by 80%.
4. Faster cycles
Times shrink to days or even hours.
5. Eliminate delays
No more late fees or missed early-pay discounts.
6. Drives value
A traditional cost-center in the back office quickly becomes a value driver.
7. Creates revenue
Automating B2B payments generate new revenue streams through cash-back for every invoice.
8. Happier employees
Job satisfaction jumps since tearing open envelopes and keying in numbers is no longer required.
9. Improved audit and compliance
A live archive in the cloud creates an improved audit trail and no more compliance headaches.
10. Real-time data
Real-time financial intelligence information turns out to be a brilliant by-product of AP automation.
Keep live data at your fingertips with AP automation
The last advantage - real-time data - benefits the entire organization. Decision making takes on a whole new meaning when a smart, secure and scalable platform handles the AP workflow from purchase to payment. Automation lets us keep data at our fingertips and ask questions from a live library of invoice data as they pop up with an interface that’s as simple and intuitive as performing a web search. That means answers with just a few clicks
Unleashing that type of curiosity will keep your AP team engaged and committed. Letting the creative juices flow and unlocking your staff’s hunger for innovating is a key advantage to attract and retain talent in times of frequent job switching and staffing shortages.
It’s exactly this kind of long-term effect of technology like touchless invoice processing that we should keep our eyes on. Robots will help us humans become more productive and efficient, and we’re just getting started.