Many businesses would be surprised to hear what passes through accounts unnoticed.
Imagine how easy it would be to sign off on an order of stationary or computer equipment with a decimal point in the wrong place. A 10p biro could easily end up costing £100, or a £4.50 computer mouse £450.
Imagine the price difference when two divisions of a company are buying heavy machinery, one from a supplier which makes a 50 per cent margin and one from another supplier which makes a 20 per cent margin.
Those rogue invoices could be worth tens of thousands, or even more in a bad year, but spotting them is extremely time consuming and hard to do with the human eye. Enter artificial intelligence.
We increasingly rely on technology to ensure smooth, efficient financial processing systems. The upshots include reduced costs and increased efficiencies, but our ability to have true visibility of the day-to-day is decreasing.
Einvoicing is a prime example of where technology can improve business processes. A PwC survey estimated the time saved per invoice was as much as ten minutes, with a minimum cost reduction of 60 per cent.
Given that an accounts payable department of a company may handles thousands of invoices per month, the sums to be saved are considerable. Using einvoicing also means happier suppliers. Each can keep track of their invoice status, so don’t need to ask or chase the buyer for updates, and can access early payments.
These computer-led systems open up a huge amount of data that can help improve future business, but this data is so vast it is impossible to analyse manually. Each entry simply cannot be checked with the naked eye, and therein lies the flaw.
Analytics allows clients to analyse where and how they are paying their invoices, often uncovering significant opportunities to streamline invoicing systema.
This streamlining can go further, however, with the help of artificial intelligence. We are now using it to unearth more opportunities to cut costs and reduce over-payments. This, we believe, is the future.
Read more about analytics:
- Alibaba uses data analytics to link SMEs with trusted Chinese suppliers
- How analytics can help improve customer service
- Why SMEs need analytics: The rise of the quantified enterprise
It is now possible to use artificial intelligence to cross-check each and every invoice. If something seems slightly amiss, such as a stationery item at 100 times its normal price, flags are raised and it can be checked by a real person, who can quickly rectify the mistake.
We believe artificial intelligence has a lot to offer and so far we have only scratched the surface. That is why we have launched a new research partnership with Goldsmiths University to delve into what can be done to help improve businesses everywhere.
The new Tungsten Centre for Intelligent Data Analytics will support three senior professors and fund PhD and post-doctoral research programmes, and we expect to begin delivering new artificial intelligence software for commercial applications within 18 months.
Artificial intelligence isn’t just about robotic dogs. The possibilities it represents for businesses are endless, or at least further than the human eye can see.