SaaS Brief

From Skynet to Enron: How AI is Helping Mid-Market Companies Scale

The next time Siri answers a question for you or Gmail finishes a sentence in your email, you might want to thank Enron.

The juggernaut energy company commanded a revenue of more than $1 billion in 2000. Then, due to fraudulent accounting, it filed for bankruptcy a year later. In the wake of its investigation, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released more than 1.5 million Enron emails to the public. The Enron Corpus, as it came to be called, has since evolved into a helpful (and free) research tool for computer scientists across the nation.

One of its most common uses: training AI.

Numerous companies, including Apple and Google, have turned their tech loose on this treasure trove of meeting recaps, lunch invitations, and early-aughts chain emails – all in an effort by companies to develop AI-powered tech and make it smarter.

Fortunately, your business doesn’t need the Enron Corpus to benefit from AI. While some companies are building AI in-house, others are turning to the most convenient source - their technology providers – to find out how AI can help their businesses. They’re finding quite quickly the advantages of artificial intelligence in accounting. 

AI – A Quick Debrief

AI, at its core, is when a computer or anything nonhuman starts taking on human tasks. While many software programs can do this, the differentiator with AI is that it learns in the process and its capacity increases the more it learns. 

Machine learning makes AI smarter. Technically, it’s a subset of AI and involves applying different statistical or learning models to data sets and then using the models to create inferences and outputs. For example, robots use the Enron Corpus to learn how people talk to each other so they can understand it and perform it themselves. 

We’re far from a Terminator-esque existence (remember Skynet?), as AI is an emerging technology with more use cases appearing every day. However, there have been many thrilling advances. AI has discovered new planets, found missing children, and diagnosed illnesses before doctors can. It also plays a mean game of Texas Hold ‘Em.

The easiest source for AI

In the business world, AI use cases include identifying fraud, eliminating data entry, and providing useful analysis of large amounts of data. It detects hidden insights, identifies new opportunities through pattern recognition, and applies creative problem-solving and social intelligence to business challenges.

With these benefits in mind, large companies have jumped feet first into building their own AI. The process, however, is time-consuming and demands a vast amount of technical knowledge and talent. Most businesses discover they don’t have the bandwidth or money do go this route. 

Fortunately, most companies looking to gain benefits from AI don’t have to create their own. They may even be using it already. The most effortless ingress to AI is the technology your business uses every day.

Advantages of artificial intelligence in accounting 

AI is particularly suited for accounting. It can ingest and analyze large sets of data, as well as eliminate manual work. Best of all, machine learning makes AI smarter. The AI your business uses will grow more educated about your company’s performance, guidelines, and reporting. It will even begin to anticipate your needs. The end result is that you will gain greater financial insight into your company while spending less time in the trenches. 

The Impact of AI on AP

AP for mid-market companies comes with a lot of challenges – challenges that may be so ingrained in the culture of the company that they’re accepted simply as a part of doing business. And yet, if most people faced those same challenges in a different context, frustration would bubble up. Imagine only being able to pay your personal bills with handwritten checks. Or having to run to the bank to get $20 to pay a friend back. There are better ways to accomplish both tasks, and both include technology.

A big AP challenge is data entry. Teams must enter bills into systems to capture the necessary data – invoice amount, vendor, due date, etc. Then, double data entry usually must happen to make sure all accounting systems reflect the same information. And don’t forget reconciliation. To put it bluntly, it’s death by a thousand paper cuts. You’re so busy completing a task,  you’re not considering the compiled amount of time it takes to do so.

What if an AI solution could take data entry off of your AP team’s plate?

Well, it can.

Your own Intelligent Virtual Assistant recently launched its Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA), an AI solution that takes the heavy lifting out of AP. IVA automatically handles invoices and approval processes so there’s no manual lag time. It eliminates manual data entry, capturing data from invoices and recognizing human error like duplicate invoices. Its AI core allows it to anticipate needs such as recognizing workflows and thresholds for payment and it can even create business rules for businesses based on past activities and guidelines. Ready to reduce more AP friction? AP teams can set up IVA to auto-pay recurring bills. 

When paired with these other technology innovations, AP becomes even more streamlined:

  • Digital business payments – Eliminate the hassle of paper checks by swapping them out for electronic payments such as ACH transfers, EFTs, virtual cards, and international payments.
  • AP automation – Allow your business payments platform to handle the bill approval process. The system identifies the proper workflow, alerts those in it, and lets them review and approve the payment by PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
  • Integration with Sage Intacct – Ensure all your financial information is up-to-date and eliminate double data entry by syncing with Sage Intacct.

The result: Your team shaves 50% off their time spent on AP and approvals processes happen up to 3 times faster. And your company has more time and resources back at its disposal.

It’s truly a revolutionary time for technology. With the help of AI, the traditional processes of the back office are being quickly transformed.  Take advantage of them now to create a more efficient company.

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