Controllers Council recently held a panel discussion on A Hands-On Guide to AI Adoption in Finance and Accounting, sponsored by AvidXchange.
AvidXchange is a leader in automating invoice, payment and AP processes. A FinTech unicorn, AvidXchange processes more than 215 billion transactions annually with 1600 employees, 6,000 customers, and 225 system integrations.
Our expert panelists are Rhonda Greene and Tyler Stubbs. Rhonda Greene is a certified accounts payable solutions consultant, APSC, and a principal solutions consultant for AvidXchange. Rhonda brings more than 25 years of experience to help companies streamline AP. Tyler Stubbs is a solution consultant for AvidXchange. He joined AvidXchange in 2017.
Following are key takeaways to this discussion. If you are interested in learning more, view the full webinar archive video here.
Top Priorities and Challenges of Finance Leaders
Today, when we talk about challenges, we think of those finance executives out there. AvidXchange actually conducted a survey of 500 finance executives at middle-market companies back in September of last year because we really wanted to understand their priorities and concerns as they planned for 2024.
The breakdown showed us that the top three priorities are all closely together: data protection, security, and regulatory compliance. Digital transformation followed very closely by creating operational efficiencies. Attracting, hiring, and retaining talent, and ESG initiatives are still very important.
So, the top concerns of finance departments were security, fraud, and phishing attempts, followed by data management. Then the digital skills gap of teammates, which we’re hearing a lot more of as we move more toward a digitized world. Recession concerns, bias, and inaccuracies in AI. A tight labor market, sustainability, regulatory compliance, and others.
AI does not refer to a single technology. Instead, it signifies a category of computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. Those are things like machine learning, which is ideal for finding patterns and relationships within large data sets. Also, deep learning, which is like machine learning, but for very large and complex data sets such as, but not limited to, video data. Also, NLU, or natural language understanding, which recognizes text or speech input used to process textual data. And I think we’re probably all have been familiar with that in terms of when you’re calling customer service maybe for your card, or maybe it’s for your cable. A lot of those businesses are already using that.
Also, object detection, which identifies and locates objects in an image or video, and it’s used for inventory management and improved security. So, if we drill down into these types, again, object recognition is seeing those objects in an image or video, but it’s extracting that information from financial documents like invoices and bank statements. AI is used for forecasting. So, it is creating predictions based on algorithms and improves forecasting accuracy, and optimization with building models using mathematical logic. And so, it informs strategy and decision-making.
The State of AI in Finance Departments
The Pew Research Center reports that 19% of US workers are employed in jobs that are exposed to AI. So, our 2024 trend survey found that number is much higher for finance professionals with almost three quarters of respondents sharing that their organization currently uses AI within their finance department. So, 72% said that they’re using AI, which is a little different from what we came to understand in the poll that we just took a little bit ago, but it’s something that is moving more and more businesses are understanding its importance, but also, I can understand there are some concerns with AI as well. So, you’ve got to find a balance there.
But 60% of senior finance professionals say that they’re very comfortable working with AI, and 67% of finance professionals say that their department is using AI for customer service. I think all of us are probably the most familiar with that scenario where you call a company and you are immediately answered with an AI response and they’re asking for you to tell them what you want, what departments you want to talk to. So, they’re even either asking you to say it or maybe to push some buttons. So, this is that sort of technology that’s been around a while, but obviously it is expanding into other areas.
Most of the finance leaders that we surveyed said, when it comes to types of AI in finance, what are you using? Most said they are using natural language processing. So, NLP tools can automatically extract financial data from documents, like balance sheets, and enter them into financial systems and spreadsheets. Computer vision, that’s another popular AI tool for finance departments. It can see and extract data from images. So, finance teams use computer vision to be able to improve accuracy and efficiency in data entry.
We also asked, what are the main AI use cases in your finance department? And while customer service via “chat box” is a well-known way, many organizations are using AI, there are other valuable use cases that can improve operations in the finance department. And some of the most impactful include anomaly detection that reduces risks, data analysis that identifies opportunities and automation that streamlines processes.
AI Revolutionizes Accounts Payable
AP is one of the finance functions that benefits most from AI. Not only can AI help speed up the AP process, but it can help improve accuracy and reduce internal costs. So, AI in AP you have invoice entry and verification with computer vision that can now automate that invoice entry and improve accuracy, which obviously is key when it comes to data entry. It can help with PO matching. AI can validate invoices against those purchase orders and those receipts without any human intervention. Also, things like workflow automation. AI-driven workflow automation tools can route invoices for approval based on both machine learning and predefined rules.
To view the complete webcast, download full webinar here.
ABOUT THE SPONSOR:
AvidXchange is a leading provider of accounts payable (“AP”) automation software and payment solutions for middle market businesses and their suppliers. AvidXchange’s software-as-a-service-based, end-to-end software and payment platform digitizes and automates the AP workflows for more than 7,000 businesses and it has made payments to more than 700,000 supplier customers of its buyers over the past five years.