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Accounts payable automation - Five predictions

29th Oct 2020
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AutoEntry is faster, more accurate and more economical. Spend less time on data entry and chasing documents.

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Five Trends in Accounts Automation

Way back in 1975, Moore’s Law predicted that computers would get twice as fast every two years. The principles of this prediction turned out to be correct, with tech getting exponentially faster and cheaper over the decades. 

This rapid growth in tech led to (among other things) the growth of cloud computing and the rise of automation. 

Trends can help with predictions, and recent months have accelerated several developments, from the rise of paperless to a newfound zeal for remote working (both of which were in progress already). 

Here are some predictions, based on statistics and recent trends. These will have ramifications for both the accountancy industry and those accountants’ clients. 

1- Paper invoices taking another step towards extinction 

Coronavirus was just the latest crisis to hit paper, after the cloud and automation. 

Combining paper and electronic is like having a road with horses and cars - an inconvenient transition period.

Indeed, according to a  survey from Sapio Research and Wax Digital in 2018, “82% of finance departments are overwhelmed by the high numbers of invoices they are expected to process on a daily basis and the variety of formats they’re received in”.

That same survey found that manual invoice processing “accounts for over 30% of the AP team’s costs, and over 32% believe that these costs could be saved if invoice processing was automated.”

In other words, even if a company isn’t automating invoices yet, it looks like just a matter of time before they make the switch. 

2- More accountants moving into consultancy

There are possibly more opportunities for accounting consultants than ever before. Automation is taking on trial balance and paperwork, freeing accountants to analyse and advise. It’s hard to put an exact number on the hours saved, but some surveys say that outsourcing to automation can improve efficiency by 73%.

Don Plato, vice president at Robert Half Management Resources told The Journal of Accountancy: "It's a consultant's market.” 

Statistics seem to agree with him: In the US, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the unemployment rate for accountants and auditors was 1.7% in the third quarter of 2018, well below the national unemployment rate (at time of writing) of 3.7%.

Again, this is a trend accelerated by recent events, as several businesses have been upended and are looking for advice on how to survive. 

3- Increased domination of the cloud

We’re approaching full, industry-wide adaptation of cloud computing, with over 90% of organisations currently use cloud services. Parallel to this, IT spend on cloud services is expected to double by 2021, according to a 2018 survey.

Cloud computing applications are changing the face of filing, analytics, security and, of course, automation. All of these applications will have a bearing on the accounts industry.

Arguably, the tipping point for the cloud was when it became available in smartphones: once a product becomes a user-friendly, b2b service, it can spread through businesses and consumer lives like wildfire.  

4- Data wrangling becoming the most desirable skill

More than 150 zettabytes (150 trillion gigabytes) will need analysing by 2025 (reports Forbes). But this ocean of information is of little use if we can’t parse and analyse it efficiently. 

Unsurprisingly, data analysis is becoming one of the most in-demand skills in the workforce. 

Ease of access to data is one reason why businesses are adding automation to payable processes. In fact, 44% of businesses are looking to do so, citing efficiency, cost-cutting and access to data.

Some industry analysts are already citing data as the most valuable resource on Earth (surpassing the literal dinosaur that is fossil fuels). The most profitable companies right now are data-focussed (Google and Facebook). And Amazon’s purchase of the video game streaming site Twich for US$970 million was partly motivated by Twitch’s user data.  

Marketing is just the beginning for data, as this tsunami of information can be used to automatically scan your bills to find cheaper vendors, predict market trends and much more.

5- Increased use of accounts software as a remote working aid

Many more employers are now offering 100% remote jobs, including in accounting and bookkeeping. But this was already in motion before the pandemic. Between 2005 and 2018, remote working grew 173% in the US (according to Global Workplace Analytics).

Accountancy automation software will continue to play an increasingly big role in this evolution. 

AutoEntry’s software ensure’s less handling of paper and fewer in-person meetings, as our technology allows users to scan and upload documents to software of their choice.  

Automation – your new favourite colleague

It’s important to remember that automation is a friend to accountants, not a threat. It eliminates much of the drudgery of manual data entry and helps instil good habits in clients (snapping and uploading receipts, for instance, is easier than keeping a shoebox of them). 

Automation will make your business faster, smarter and more resilient.  

If you’d like to know more, we would be happy to talk to you about it.