SUBMITTED BY Tom Fischer

Are you wondering what this year will bring for your AP team? Maybe this is the year that you fully automate your processes. Or maybe you’ll start doing business in another country and need to implement their eInvoicing rules. While you may not be able to predict just yet what will happen in your organization in 2019, here are the five trends we think you need to watch for all things AP.

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Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation

It probably isn’t surprising to have AI and RPA at the top of our list – in fact, it’s been a focus of ours (and probably yours!) for quite a while now. But as the industry concentrates on how exactly AI and RPA can improve AP processes, expect a renewed and invigorated interest.

You can use RPA for small tasks or large. Depending on your use case, there is likely an automated, bot-driven solution that can reduce human errors and add capacity, without adding headcount. The landscape is similar for AI. Machine-learning technology will be a huge driver in streamlining AP workflows. But it’s important to remember that the most successful implementations of AI and RPA come from understanding how a process can benefit from a technology, rather than forcing a technology to fit a process. In addition, you have to remain in the driver’s seat.

For example, you can use bots to improve the OCR process, but first, you need to have a full understanding of how your current capture process works and which tasks would benefit from automation. You also need to take into account the right balance of RPA vs. human intervention. Considering these things first will set you up for fewer problems with the technology down the line.

Using Data for Real-time Visibility

We all hear about “Big Data” a lot. It can be overwhelming to think about – and keep track of – all the places, people, and systems where data can originate and be stored. Your organization is likely already generating a great amount of useful data, but the question in 2019 will be:

What should we be doing with that data, and how can we make sure the right people in the organization are receiving the right data at the right time?

Real-time visibility into AP data is critical. According to an IOFM survey, 63% of AP professionals say the demand for real-time visibility will increase over the next two years. Poor AP visibility can make it difficult to determine accruals, review past metrics, plan future budgets and goals, and access information for audits. But even good visibility isn’t effective if it isn’t providing actionable data to the right people at the right time. Actionable data is useful for everything from supplier management to compliance. This year, consider implementing a data strategy that takes into account who should be receiving real-time data and why. That way, good data won’t go to waste.

Digital Transformation to a Paperless Process

Digital transformation exists in some form or another in nearly every industry. So, what does it mean for Accounts Payable? At its most basic level, the idea of digital transformation is to convert manual processes and workflows to electronic form. This can affect many processes in AP, but in the coming year, we forecast that the biggest impact will be a shift to fully automated, paperless invoice processing.

In addition to the obvious advantage of less waste, paperless invoice processing eliminates manual tasks, saving time and removing the potential for human errors. According to IOFM, the processing cost per invoice for organizations with low levels of automation is $8.78. For organizations with high levels of automation, the cost drops staggeringly to $1.77 per invoice.

Digital transformation is more than just ripping out an old process and replacing it with a new one, though. To be successful, you must also have a strong change management strategy to ensure your team is fully on board and to eliminate any fear or reservations that they may have with the new process.

Global eInvoicing Mandates

Less a trend and more of a requirement, look for this one to stay at the forefront of your global business strategy for the foreseeable future. As more and more countries adopt eInvoicing regulations, it’s imperative that you stay on top of any requirements in the works for the countries where you do business, or you will run the risk of non-compliance.

The complexities and requirements of global eInvoicing mandates vary wildly from country to country – as do the timelines and deadlines for compliance. Mexico, for example, already has relatively mature eInvoicing requirements in place. Greece, on the other hand, is looking to enact eInvoicing requirements by 2020. And many countries don’t have any concrete plans in place at all but are still advising that they are moving in that direction.

If you want to start moving your organization toward eInvoicing compliance but aren’t ready to take a huge leap, developing a solid archiving strategy is a good start. (And we can help you!)

Fraud Mitigation and Risk Management

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the landscape for fraud mitigation and risk management in 2019. Scammers are getting smarter and better at exploiting internal control weaknesses. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners puts out a comprehensive report every year that analyzes thousands of real cases of occupational fraud and breaks down the costs and schemes behind them. In the 2018 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, the ACFE found that the average organization lost 5% of its revenue to fraud in 2018.

AI and machine learning will become key tools in the fight against fraud by identifying and calling attention to red flags in the AP process. According to the ACFE, data monitoring and analysis led to the largest reductions in fraud loss, with 52% lower losses and 58% faster detection. In addition, surprise audits resulted in 51% lower losses and 54% faster detection. Audits – supported by data provided from AP automation solutions – will remain a big driver in catching fraud and mitigating losses.

We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we’re with you every step of the way. From staying on top of the latest advances in technology to supporting audits and helping you stay in compliance globally, we’re here to help.

What are you planning in 2019?  Let's talk

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