For years, businesses have been leveraging technology to automate a lot of those important yet time consuming administrative tasks that take too much of an employee's focus away from more important matters. AP management software, for example, can be used to automate everything from invoice receipt and management to electronic payments, reporting and analytics, supplier management and more. All of this makes sure that humans have more time in a day to focus on matters that drive as much revenue as possible.
But it's also true that AP automation itself is in something of a state of constant evolution. There are several emerging technologies for example that will absolutely have a big impact on the shape of AP automation for years to come — technologies that are absolutely worth a closer look.
The Era of Artificial Intelligence is Upon Us
Artificial intelligence, otherwise known as AI for short, is a type of system that actually gives a computer the ability to perform even complicated tasks without the need for human intervention. In other words, it's all about giving computers the ability to mimic the way a human thinks and uses logic while on the job.
A subset of this is called machine learning, or ML. This takes the concepts of artificial intelligence ot the next level by allowing computers to actually "learn" and "get better" at the jobs as they ingest more data and perform these tasks on a regular basis.
Why is all this important in terms of AP automation? Because both AI and ML are a great way to detect errors and other discrepancies that harm work quality, to intelligently match items across multiple purchase documents and more. With the right execution, these systems can even be used to learn invoice and supplier habits to improve the invoice capture process — all while freeing up the invaluable time of actual humans to focus on those matters that really need them.
The Rise of Big Data
The amount of data that even small enterprises are working with and creating on a daily basis has absolutely exploded over the last few years — which is really what the heart of big data is all about.
Big data is a term that refers to information sets that are too large and too complex for humans to draw meaningful conclusions from on their own. Big data analytics is therefore the process of using AI and ML powered algorithms to perform this work on an employee's behalf, uncovering certain trends and patterns that would have otherwise gone undiscovered.
The reason why this matters so much in terms of AP automation is because it generates an almost unprecedented level of visibility over an enterprise. Not only can you easily dive deep into a company's past performance, but you can use that information to reasonably predict future outcomes as well.
In other words, you can use facts and data to support future business decisions rather than relying on gut instinct and intuition. This can even be a great opportunity to create better reporting over cash flow, to optimize your spending policies and more.
It's All About the Blockchain
Blockchain is a term you may have heard used in the context of cryptocurrency, but it's many applications are far larger in scope than just that. The blockchain is a decentralized, distributed ledger technology that gives users more control over the way that information is created and updated. For businesses, it's a great way to securely and accurately keep track of information in a way that does not allow anybody to edit it in the future.
With regards to AP automation, many organizations are already using the blockchain to increase the security of the data they're storing, and to help create safer and more effective money transfers. Blockchain can also be a viable way to create connections among groups and individuals, to decrease latency in transfers between parties and much, much more.
In the end, it's true that a lot of these technologies are still emerging — but they're gaining traction at an incredibly fast rate. Soon, businesses of all types will be able to automate important AP processes to improve supplier relationships, to simplify audits, to reduce fraud and much, much more. Not only will this have a direct impact on a business' financial health, but it will also help form the basis of their own competitive advantage in their market for the next decade and beyond.