By Alexander Hagerup, Co-founder and CEO of Vic.ai, shortlisted for Best SaaS Product for Business Accounting or Finance at The SaaS Awards 2022   

As companies grapple with the pressures of inflation and the threat of recession, they are looking for ways to save costs. During challenging times such as these, companies often look toward automation solutions, which promise to maintain or even increase output for less money, time, and human effort.

Few departments stand to benefit from automation more than finance – especially within accounts payable. Every company generates accounting transactions daily, and all these transactions need to be classified appropriately into the general ledger – a task that is just as tedious and manually intensive as it sounds. And different companies perform accounting tasks in innumerable different ways – meaning there are equally as many opportunities to maximize and streamline those processes.

But in 2022, it’s time for companies to think even bigger. Finance leaders should look beyond just automation toward true autonomy – made possible by recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI).

Automation vs. Autonomy – What’s the Difference?

Many digital accounting solutions exist on the market, all promising to save companies time and money. However, they do not all deliver on that promise. Some solutions only automate a tiny sliver of the process, therefore still requiring a heavy amount of human intervention. And many rules-based solutions are so rigid that they require expensive maintenance and are highly prone to failure.

The single factor that makes a significant difference in terms of both efficiency and accuracy is AI. AI algorithms continually learn and adapt, making the solution smarter and more accurate with time.  In contrast, to generalized rules-based solutions, AI also allows for business-specific precision because it is always learning and adapting to a company’s specific data.

The result? Today’s accounts payable AI – which can be up to 99% accurate – has already been proven to cut invoice processing time by up to 80% from the current best-in-class, and up to 40% of invoices can be processed without any human touch. That’s the difference between automation and true autonomy.

Autonomy in Finance – The Sky’s the Limit

How can today’s high-tech AI solutions help our finance departments? Let us count the ways.

  • Faster process times: AI is slashing the time it takes to process an invoice by upwards of 80%;
  • Less human intervention: Because AI is more accurate – for example, at reading an invoice in any type of format – employees spend less time intervening to fix errors;
  • Seamless approvals: Automated approval workflows are kicking email chains to the curb. No more chasing down approval signatures – or having a high number of invoices kicked back due to errors;
  • Richer data: AI software can intelligently analyze enormous quantities of data in real-time – data that inform smarter spending and better business strategy;
  • Smoother closing: Getting month-end and year-end close “right” can make or break a business. AI is already helping companies close their books with better speed and accuracy;
  • Higher-level thinking: By freeing personnel of tedious, manual tasks, finance leaders can elevate their employees to more strategic roles.

And this is only the beginning. As AI becomes more sophisticated, it has the potential to take the reins on vendor management, spending decisions, and many other tasks. With spend intelligence, companies can get a complete overview of the cost base on such a granular level that it’s possible to lower the total base by up to 15%. In a world of high inflation rates, these cost savings can make the difference between survival and bankruptcy.

Invest Wisely

There is no more free money on the market, and the cash companies that do have isn’t going as far as it did a year ago. Business leaders are being more careful about their investments than they have in a decade. In this type of climate, software has historically been a safe investment.

But today’s software solutions must go beyond “safe” and demonstrate real, fundamental, long-term value. AI is doing just that for our finance departments – increasing speed and accuracy while also freeing up employees for higher-level, strategic responsibilities. It’s not about what it costs but the massive cost savings you can achieve with AI automation. With short onboarding processes, the ROI is immediate. And it will only get better with time.

About the Author: Alexander Hagerup

Alexander Hagerup, co-founder and CEO of Vic.ai, is a serial tech entrepreneur with a strong passion for artificial intelligence. Prior to launching Vic.ai, Alexander founded two other technology companies; the last one was funded by Northzone Ventures and later acquired by NASDAQ-listed J2 Global Inc. in 2014. Alexander has a finance and accounting background and is a former board member of 24SevenOffice.com, the largest cloud accounting and ERP system in the Nordic region, currently listed at the Spotlight Exchange in Stockholm.