The growth of automation in the accounts payable space was pretty hit and miss until recently, but with the onset of the pandemic, the concept has been very successful. Businesses of all sizes must be paid, and if writing a check and depositing it in the bank is no longer an option, then an alternative must be found.
The advent of remote work and the sudden urgency of a solution that can help businesses get paid without processing checks in the office have been beneficial for Beanworks. The company sells accounts payable automation (AP) software infused with artificial intelligence (AI) to process invoices and get them approved and paid faster.
“Accounting teams typically always worked in an office and almost never at home,” said the co-founder and CEO of Beanworks. Catherine dahl in an interview with Karen Webster of PYMNTS. “That’s what sparked the most recent wave of people interested in this.”
While difficult to quantify, many factors are believed to be fueling the adoption of automation, including duplicate and fraudulent invoices and abusive employee spending. Surprisingly, while they may seem like important considerations for businesses, Dahl said they are more of a minor irritant.
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“The pain points that really kick in are the approvals and the payments,” she said. “That’s what causes people to start looking, and when they see that duplicates are no longer being paid, all of that fraud protection, it’s really just the icing on the cake.”
That’s not to say that customers don’t appreciate these benefits. On the contrary, being able to easily spot errors in invoices is a big selling point that can help in realizing huge savings over time. Webster wanted to know how big a role AI plays in AP automation, and Dahl recalled how a small HVAC business owner was able to quickly spot a big mistake on one of his invoices to a repeat customer. .
Read more: Beanworks strengthens its accounts payable offering with AI
While doing a quick search, he found another job he had done on the same property, retrieved this invoice, and saw that the price was indeed wrong. And it was all done in seconds. On the other hand, if he didn’t have the Beanworks software and had to go to an office to check his records, chances are he wouldn’t have cared. .
Dahl said identifying this one mistake saved the customer $ 600. Since the software only costs him $ 3,000 per year, the implication is that if users can spot a few more errors, it will pay off more than that.
However, AI can potentially do a lot more than just flagging errors. Dahl revealed that Beanworks is currently working on a “contactless processing” product called BeanFlow that uses optical character recognition technology to read invoices, including every item, and scan them into the system. The benefit of this, she said, is that users will be able to create a history of interactions with each vendor and potentially start handling large volumes of invoices by exception, instead of manually processing each one.
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“You can do this in a very robust way when you have just one person handling a huge volume of invoices,” Dahl said. “This will only work if you have an AI in place that can search for patterns and detect anomalies.”
Webster asked if it was possible to integrate Beanworks’ AP automation tools with automated accounts receivable (AR) systems. Beanworks was acquired earlier this year by business process automation company Quadient, the parent company of YayPay, which specializes in augmented reality automation.
Read more: Quadient buys Beanworks, AP Tech company
Dahl said that since she got the chance to work so closely with YayPay, she has developed a vision around the idea of AR-AP connectivity. If the two systems can communicate with each other, they can offer compelling benefits to users. So, for example, when a supplier sends an invoice with YayPay to a customer who uses Beanworks for their AP, the system is able to send alerts to both ends. Users can see the invoice being processed, when it has been approved, and finally receive confirmation that it has been paid.
There are also benefits for CFOs, Dahl said. They can now use a single tool to see all the entities on both sides of the ledger, making their job of managing the company’s money much easier.
“You have to be able to manage debts as money comes in and receivables as money comes in,” she explained. “So if you could put the two together, you can give the CFO a much better picture of their cash flow in one place. “
The biggest challenge for Beanworks now, said Dahl, is trying to raise awareness of these benefits. She told Webster she had encountered many struggling businesses during the pandemic, trying to develop their own automated solutions, scan documents, and create shared folders for everyone to see, joining email approvals and more.
“They themselves invented systems in a really choppy way,” Dahl said. “So we spend a lot of time trying to get in front of CFOs. We want to show them that there is a way to do it that doesn’t involve putting together different abstract technologies like Dropbox just to get paid.