The COVID-19 pandemic is influencing individuals and businesses in many ways. However, one of the greatest impacts of the pandemic has been on ensuring payments and maintaining cash flows more effectively. Although maintaining the flow of money has always been critical, in a time of financial uncertainty, it becomes even more important.
According to IDC, businesses lose approximately 20% to 30% revenue every year just because of inefficiencies. Although the majority of finance professionals cite manual processes and inefficiencies as their greatest pain points, businesses continue to use inefficient AP systems to this day.
However, under the financial strain of COVID-19, these businesses are turning to new solutions to improve their situation. In this article, we will discuss 5 Key AP automation trends you can expect post-COVID-19.
Increased Digitization and Automation
With the absence of staff amid COVID-19 restrictions, making processes automated has become essential for businesses worldwide. As much as 36% of firms still depend on paper invoicing, with 47% sticking to manual processes for approval and the rest of them making 49% of payments by check.
Manual processes in AP processing are costly, prone to errors, and time-consuming, leading to late payments and consequent penalties.
In the coming years, businesses will focus on digitizing invoice processing through technologies like Intelligent Data Capture. Doing so will enable companies to make strategic payments, acquire payment discounts, and maximize their liquidity.
The process of digitization has already been a priority in some companies as recent surveys show. Gartner reports that as much as 91% of companies are focusing on digital initiatives to make their workflows more efficient, so after the turn of COVID-19, we can expect it to increase.
Focus On Fraud Prevention
Fraud is always a top cause of concern in terms of invoice processing. In 2020, AFP Payments Fraud & Control Survey, as many as 81% of businesses encountered fraud in 2019. While according to another study, fraudulent invoices, along with other fraud schemes cost businesses almost $7 billion in 2018.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the inherent inefficiencies of traditional AP processing solutions have become even more apparent. These systems lack the checks and balances of automated AP solutions, creating room for invoice fraud. Consequently, businesses affected by these frauds struggle to keep their payments and cash flow running.
We can expect businesses to focus more on AP automated applications with extensive reporting features. AP reporting allows businesses to keep a close eye on invoice processing and identify fraudulent behavior within the workflow.
Instant access to real-time exception analysis, productivity, audit reports makes it likely for businesses to have increased control over invoice processing. Managers no longer need to make decisions regarding payment reminder notices or keep an eye for follow-ups in the system.
Another way AP automation prevents fraud is by minimizing human intervention and rusting more on automated rules, checks, and controls. Likewise, advanced machine learning features provide a greater financial overview, which is critical for detecting and preventing fraud.
Increasing Use of Cloud Technology
The emergence of cloud-based AP automation solutions has made AP automation extremely accessible as a cloud-based automation solution allows businesses to scale AP automation services depending on their usage.
Additionally, using cloud-based services has introduced new technology to the AP automation tool set. Nowadays, many companies are looking forward to “Cloud Faxing,” a new technique for faxing important messages using a cloud-based service instead of legacy fax machines.
In general, the process is an umbrella term for a number of ways cloud faxing is carried out, such as online faxing, internet faxing, and faxing via email. Using a virtual hosting solution to access, store, and process data via remote servers allows teams to share important information safely. By removing the agonizingly slow analog fax machines, cloud faxing has enabled businesses to utilize the safe medium of fax to share documents transparently.
At the same time, a cloud-enabled AP solution simplifies the complex and interconnected nature of today’s global economy by processing separate supplier payment methods effectively. With the help of cloud technology and developing localized versions, companies will be ready to meet local regulations and provide the best quality of AP software.
Artificially Intelligent Solutions
In today’s digital age, data is a strategic asset that enables businesses to overtake their competition. According to Forrester, around 60 to 73% of business data remains unused. With the emergence of data science techniques, companies will be able to leverage financial data more efficiently.
Although some companies used Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks in AP processing, it lacked computational intelligence. However, machine learning enables us to automate invoice processing more effectively, quickly, and accurately by continually learning from the available data.
We can now expect AP automation solutions to adopt intelligent features such as approval workflow prediction, automatic coding using invoice history, flagging duplicate invoices and anomalies, improving exception handling as well as enhancing accuracy data capture through Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
Mobile Capabilities and User Experience Prioritized
While mobile capabilities have always been important, their importance has increased drastically after COVID-19. Amid social distancing measures, people have to work remotely. However, in the absence of mobile capabilities keeping invoice workflows and approvals moving forward can be extremely difficult.
Access to AP processes through authenticated mobile devices may assist employees in performing AP processes efficiently at home. With the help of increased mobile capabilities supported by cloud frameworks, teams will no longer work in the same location.
Additionally, working remotely while balancing family and other obligations requires solutions that are not only automated but also simple to implement and use. This is why business users look for the intuitive user interface & user experience we have in most consumer applications.
By increasing automation and implementing intuitive checks and controls in AP processes, companies can further simplify the user experience. At the same time, it will help companies design solutions that are easy to deploy and need minimal training.
As the dust settles on the events of COVID-19, we can expect more innovations in AP automation. Most new changes will focus on making most of the smart features and making AP automation more secure, accessible, automated, and easy to use.