Breaking news: AP Automation is not an emerging trend!
In its earliest forms, AP Automation has actually been around for decades, inspired by the idea of paperless offices as far back as the 1960s. And while AP Automation has not yet been universally adopted, elements of AP Automation, such as EDI (electronic data interchange), are commonplace in most “back offices.”
It won’t be long before AP Automation is an industry standard, as it already is in Europe where there is government legislation encouraging businesses to adopt electronic invoicing practices. The United States has no such legislation yet but does recognize the value of this technology. The US Treasury, for example, estimates that merely implementing e-invoicing across the entire federal government would reduce costs by 50% and save $450 million annually.1
Now that we’ve established that AP Automation itself is not an emerging trend …
What does the future hold for further advances in AP Automation?
If you have not yet implemented AP Automation, you may find it hard to believe how much further it could evolve. So buckle your seatbelts as we take a ride into the future and explore a few forces you may need to reckon with in the digital age.
Some visionaries are looking at the potential impact of edge computing, a technology that may replace the cloud. Edge computing, the technology that processes data and services on the edge of a network, has many advantages. It accelerates processing speed, provides quicker insights into larger amounts of data, and offers greater security. So finance departments should be carefully watching this trend.
Similarly, it’s worth exploring the potential impact of bitcoin and blockchain, the duo that will give finance departments a central hub for every user to access, audit, and approve secure transactions. Since there are already more than 100,000 merchants and vendors who accept bitcoin payments, a number that is increasing every day, you may need to heed the call or risk being left behind.
But perhaps the most interesting development coming down the pike, and arguably the most realistic, is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). WNS, a giant in the field of business process management (BPM), is cautiously optimistic about the role of RPA in AP Automation. To paraphrase their conclusions, they believe that autonomics will allow companies to re-define the way they think about the AP process. And further that RPA will radically transform the cost, speed, and accuracy of the AP function.
Indeed, the cost of a software robot can be as low as one-ninth that of a human. And, robots work as much as 20 times faster than a human resource. Figures like these cannot be ignored, and prove that autonomics for Accounts Payable is a game changer.2