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By: Jacqueline Guarino on January 19th, 2017

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Top Accounts Payable Trends for 2017

Accounting  |  Cloud Computing

As you finish closing out the books for 2016, it’s time to think about what the coming year could hold for the accounts payable industry. This past year we saw a big push toward cloud-based document management and automation. This year we think that trend will continue, with more technologies and advancements around data, artificial intelligence, mobile accessibility and more!


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Big Data

Advances in technology have allowed us to collect more data than ever before. We’re talking about quantities of data so massive it takes sophisticated software to even begin sorting through it. 2017 will be a year of figuring out how best to utilize this data to run your business more effectively and profitably.

Things like aggregating data and real-time analysis will take center stage, with a higher demand for helpful reporting dashboards in AP software and built-in data analysis features. With surveys finding that only 58% of businesses are able to fully interpret analytics data, and only a third are capable of basic reporting, this is sure to be a top accounts payable trend in 2017.

What does this mean for you? “Big data” is often the result of aggregating data from multiple sources and then using sophisticated software to analyze the data for trends and patterns which can then translate into actionable items for you and your team. Expect to be able to pool together information from your ERP, CRM, HRM and other data systems used by your organization.

Just having this information isn’t enough though - big data analysis is becoming more accessible and more affordable for all business types - allowing you to analyze company data across multiple sources and identify areas for improvement and prepare for future predictions.

For example, your company may have a trend of a spike in accounts payable invoices shortly after a hiring round - pooling data from your HRM and ERP can identify this trend and allow you to prepare your AP department for the increased workload by shifting work priorities or hiring temporary help.

Mobile Technology

Improving mobile capabilities will be a big trend in 2017 for much more than just accounts payable. AP departments are sure to benefit from improved mobile applications with increased functionality, as well as increased ability to work remotely.

With 96% of full-time employees in the United States accessing work-related content on their mobile devices according to a Gallup Poll, chances are you’re reading this post from your phone. The same poll found that a third of employees access work after hours from their mobile devices, making the demand for mobile optimization a priority for software product managers.

This is great news for you, the end user, as user interfaces are improved and many software companies improve or develop their mobile app offering. Internet and cloud access makes it easy to stay on top of work no matter where you are, and mobile optimization makes it even easier to complete your tasks on the go without having to log into clunky VPNs, or worse, make a drive to the office due to a mix-up with a vendor or because you need to crunch numbers for your boss.

Artificial Intelligence, OCR and Other Emerging Technologies

We’re not suggesting that your AP department is about to get taken over by the Matrix. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) can seem like a very geeky and somewhat abstract concept, it actually has some very tangible real-life business value add. AI is characterized as self-learning, smarter over time, and excellent at repetitive at tasks (sounds like an ideal employee, doesn’t it?). Specifically, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a form of AI and is an excellent tool for eliminating time-consuming manual tasks such as data entry.

OCR isn’t a particularly new technology, (it got it’s start in the early 1900s), but it is rapidly improving and being developed specifically for AP departments to help improve productivity. OCR is the ability to extract data or information from an image.

For example, an AP automation system with OCR can “read” the invoice number on an invoice and enter that value into the system. The more data fields the OCR can capture, the less the onerous for data entry is on your AP team. Instead, they can zip through processing and devote time to analysis and taking proactive measures based on the aforementioned big data findings.

AI not only helps eliminate paper and manual data entry - as part of your accounts payable automation software, it also has the ability to flag errors and missing information, which means fewer missed/late payments, less disputes and claims to deal with, and improved relationship with vendors. The power of AI should not be under-estimated - it is quite possible to eliminate 90% or more of manual tasks and improve business processes by 100% or more by utilizing AI software. If you aren’t using AI yet, this is one Accounts Payable trend in 2017 you will definitely want to take advantage of.

The Complete Takeover by the Cloud

Cloud-based accounts payable isn’t new for 2017, but this year will usher in it’s complete takeover of the AP space. Companies that have been resistant to automation and cloud-based systems will begin to realize their processes are outdated, and they are actually wasting money and time by not moving to the cloud.

Software hosted on a cloud platform simply means that you can access it from anywhere, at any time, with a browser and an internet connection.  Concerns over security are quickly vanishing as businesses realize that cloud software is often more secure than servers stored in your office, with the additional peace of mind of having backups and redundancies in multiple locations.

For example, if you’re using an accounts payable automation system hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and a hurricane wipes out the server center on the east coast, your data remains secure on a redundant server on the west coast and your work day remains uninterrupted.

Consider if your office was on the east coast and your office servers and filing cabinets were destroyed by flooding - the results would be catastrophic for your company and take weeks (at best) to recuperate from. Consider how easy it would be for you to walk into the server room right now if you wanted to - and compare that to trying to hack AWS or break into their facilities - which do you trust more with your data?

In addition to accessibility and security, cloud computing also offers continuous improvements at no additional cost. Since most cloud software is a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, your ongoing subscription cost covers new rollouts and features - there’s no need to download, upgrade, or get hit with surprise fees.

Cloud computing is also what allows AI, mobile access and big data to work seamlessly together. If you’re still relying on antiquated desktop technology, you will have a hard time taking advantage of these accounts payable trends in 2017 and will continue to lose time and money on manual tasks and procedures.

Recent research suggests that SaaS is poised to double within the next two years and it’s hard to imagine why you wouldn’t make the switch with businesses commonly experiencing such a high ROI.

Get on board as 2017 kicks off and figure out what your estimated ROI will be with this custom calculator. You may be surprised how easy it is to start automating your accounts payable process and take advantage of the technologies emerging in 2017 and on.

 

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About Jacqueline Guarino

Jacqueline supports Uplevl clients through partnering closely with development, sales, and marketing to identify and deliver solutions to meet customer needs.