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Accounts Payable departments lag behind in AI automation

75 per cent of businesses fear risk of fraud because of weak accounts payable systems

according to new survey from Ephesoft
Two-thirds of accounting departments still process invoices manually: only 15% are fully paperless

Despite the increasing need to process invoices remotely as more employees are urged to work from home, the majority of companies are still lagging behind in automation implementation. Accounts payable departments are still largely processing invoices manually, according to a survey of accounting and finance professionals released today by Ephesoft, Inc.

The survey gathered responses from 200 accounting and finance professionals from 26 countries. Key findings include:

Distributing or processing paper documents
Businesses are shifting to automation of their processes – especially for high-value, high-volume documents such as invoices. However, the survey results indicate that companies are slow to change when it comes to digitally transforming invoice processing and other financial documents.

  • Only 15% of respondents said that their organisation is fully paperless, which means the majority of businesses (85%) are not.
  • Of those who are not, just slightly over 50% are actively pursuing a paperless environment.
  • One-third (33%) of companies are predominantly paper-heavy, still far from intelligent automation.

With an average cost to process per invoice at about £11, a lack of automation is likely to keep company growth limited, leaving room for a significant increase in productivity. Modern automation has been proven to cut costs significantly, often by 80% or more, which can be reinvested in other areas.

Current technologies

When asked whether their businesses currently have document management, workflow, AP automation, RPA or artificial intelligence technologies in place, a majority of companies report having some type of document management and workflow tools system in place, but AI applications are still under-utilised. Here’s the breakdown, further showing a lack of current automation tools:

  • Less than one-third (30%) employ accounts payable automation.
  • Only 12% utilise RPA tools and just slightly less (11%) report using AI.

While these findings are understandable and relatable, Ephesoft predicts that new AI-powered low-code/no-code, cloud technology, which is evolving at a rapid pace, will remove barriers to entry into AI.

The AI Journey
When the question was posed, “What is your organisation’s location on the AI journey?” responses were split, with 42% saying they were in the planning stage and 40% saying they were not planning on implementing AI tools at all.

We can conclude from the data that AI has still not been widely adopted, but many organisations have plans to invest in it.

“This survey confirms that the accounting profession has lagged in adoption of newer technologies such as AI/ML, cloud and low-code/no-code architecture likely impacted by traditionally long implementation cycles and complex integrations,” said Naren Goel, chief financial officer, Ephesoft. “The accounts payable space is an ideal example where manual steps like entering invoices into an ERP system can greatly impact efficiency, so it’s exciting that we are finally starting to see innovation in this space with point solutions that are up and running in hours, eliminate manual tasks and allow accounting professionals to focus on higher value-add functions.”

The survey on digital transformation, AI, technology and automation was conducted on Nov. 5, 2020, by Accounting Today on behalf of Ephesoft. Responses are from 200 accounting and finance professionals from 26 countries, including CEOs, CFOs Partners, CIOs, CTOs, CPAs, accountants, controllers, auditors and consultants in a variety of industries, including banks, energy, government, healthcare, technology, accounting services, airlines, auto, education, large global consultancies and many others.

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