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Technology Is Not Eliminating Accounts Payable Jobs. It’s Elevating Them.

on June 16, 2020

When imagining artificial intelligence in the workplace, people sometimes consider a grim future – one where technology replaces us entirely. But AI is already here, and this isn’t the trajectory. Finance teams that are on the forefront of digital transformation have found that AI is not eliminating AP jobs, it’s elevating them.

Most organizations recognize the importance of managing risk, but their current state controls lack sophisticated ways to identify it. Worse, their controls provide no effective way to collaborate among stakeholders, address root causes, make recommendations or measure the impact of those recommendations going forward.

AP teams have long strived to manage the quality of their programs through ERP controls and reporting functionality. But ERP controls are designed around configuration rules and access rights; they do not assess the quality of transactions, nor are they built to assist finance teams in driving process improvements.

The resulting reality was one where AP professionals spent countless hours each year combing through reports and data, attempting to find anomalies (often with little to show for their effort). This situation compounded when other stakeholders, like internal audit and third-party recovery firms, reviewed the data and discovered erroneous payments undetected through earlier efforts. Those kinds of findings, of course, impacted the organization's cash flow and operating capital, but they also drew scrutiny on the entire AP function. Why can’t AP teams catch risk upfront?

Enter, AI. And with it, the ability to layer technology across the procure-to-pay landscape to continuously monitor every transaction, examine every vendor, check every purchase order, audit every invoice and scrutinize each payment. A consolidated control that compares trends across the procure-to-pay process by individual, department and across the organization over time. Transforming passive, manual controls into proactive, automated controls. Automatically alerting the right teams at the right time.

Suddenly it was clear: the technology exists to achieve immediate and sweeping improvements to AP processing and risk mitigation in organizational spend. So yes, AI can, and will, largely take the job of today’s AP processor. But doing so shouldn’t eliminate the AP processor’s role.

In fact, quite the opposite, it should elevate them within the organization. Technology equips AP processors to rise from clerical data managers to strategic business analysts who play a pivotal role in optimizing spend.

Today’s AP teams are at a significant disadvantage. They’re tasked with driving program quality and efficiency while using tools that don’t adequately support those outcomes. AP processors today must manually manipulate large amounts of data in search of the minuscule number of items that actually require action. They spend far more time looking than they do acting.

With the right tools in place, AP teams can fundamentally change the role of the processor. AI-driven analysis gives every single transaction a score for its inherent level of risk, and processors become the tip of the spear in mitigating and triaging problematic findings. By uniformly managing risk across the payables lifecycle, organizations can develop a consolidated lens into spend and compliance, allowing actionable information to be shared to enable smart, real-time decisions.  AP processors become the first line of defense in an offensive, integrated risk mitigation team.

AI is not a replacement for people, it is an advisor that enables faster, more strategic decision making. This is the shift AI drives for AP teams, and why they love it. AI can shoulder the burden of data analysis so that AP teams can spend their time ensuring quality control, managing stakeholder relationships, and taking action to increase compliance, all of which drive spend optimization. Technology is essential, but it’s still people that matter most.

Ready to see how Oversight can transform your AP processor of today into your business process consultant of tomorrow? Let us show you how with a complimentary Spend Risk Analysis.  We’ll apply our AI-powered analytics to your AP data to help identify issues that are impacting your cash flow. You’ll get a full report of findings, related issues and recommended actions.

Apply now for your Spend Risk Analysis.

Chris Elliott

Chris Elliott is a senior solutions consultant with Oversight Systems.

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