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How AI in Accounts Payable Is Transforming AP Automation to Achieve Best-in-Class Results

Andrew Pery,Mark Brousseau

December 15, 2023

No finance task is as big a drag on back-office efficiency as accounts payable (AP).

According to the Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM), controllers rank accounts payable (AP) as the most paper-intensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive function in finance and accounting (F&A) – topping notoriously burdensome functions such as accounts receivable (AR), tax and reporting, and payroll1.

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How to achieve best-in-class results with AI-driven LCNC accounts payable automation
How conventional approaches to AP automation fall short
How to achieve AP automation success
How low-code no-code AI-based solutions optimize AP processes
Business outcomes and benefits of LCNC AP automation
ABBYY puts your information to work

How to achieve best-in-class results with AI-driven low-code no-code accounts payable automation

There are plenty of tools on the market that automate the processing of invoices. Capabilities are offered by some well-known brands in the technology world such as Amazon®, Google® and Microsoft®. Robotic process automation (RPA) vendors such as UiPath® and Automation Anywhere® embed automated document capture capabilities as part of their portfolio. And there are a wide range of purpose-built accounts payable automation solutions such as Tipalti™, NetSuite®, SAP Business One®, and AvidXchange®.

Yet, the availability of such offerings notwithstanding, 84 percent of the typical AP practitioner’s workday is spent keying invoice data, shuffling paper and emails, fixing mistakes, and responding to telephone calls and emails from suppliers about the status of invoices and payments2.  For their part, accounts payable managers spend more time on transaction processing than on staff recruitment and the other managerial tasks they were hired to perform2

All the time that accounts payable teams waste on manual, repetitive tasks is time that they cannot spend on higher-order activities such as analyzing data and collaborating with procurement and other stakeholders.

It’s tempting to blame a lack of automation for the manual tasks holding accounts payable back. But 48.9 percent of AP departments use an automated invoice processing solution4. One-quarter of AP departments that have deployed technology have automated their procure-to-pay (P2P) process end-to-end.

So, why is it that so many accounts payable departments still manually handle so many invoices?

How conventional approaches to AP automation fall short

For starters, only 61.7 percent of accounts payable departments that have deployed automated invoice processing technology have automated the way their department captures the invoice number, due date, amount, and other header and line-item information from the invoices submitted by suppliers3. This means many AP departments are relying on manual, error-prone keying to capture these crucial details.

Similarly, less than two-thirds of AP departments have an automated way to match invoices with details of purchase orders (POs) and delivery receipts residing in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) application. As a result, accounts payable staff waste lots of time comparing invoices to POs and receipts. 

And most accounts payable departments have taken a piecemeal approach to automating their invoice processing cycle, targeting specific functions such as approvals (automated by 68.8 percent of departments). Gaps in the invoice processing cycle contribute to higher costs, more errors, and less visibility.

The foundation of accounts payable automation starts with best-in-class automated invoice capture and processing

The biggest reason that most finance departments never achieve the full benefits of AP automation is their accounts payable solution’s outdated approach to capturing invoice data and matching it to purchase orders (POs).

Consider the typical approach to invoice capture. Most accounts payable departments that have automated their invoice data capture (55.3 percent) rely on optical character recognition (OCR). While OCR helps AP departments reduce the need to manually key invoice data, conventional OCR systems:

  • Require accounts payable departments to build templates to capture the data from new invoices
  • Involve significant coding and in-house development expertise
  • Can be difficult to integrate with upstream and downstream systems
  • May lack the flexibility to extract custom fields or define table headers
  • Cannot support invoices in multiple languages without retraining the system.

It’s no wonder that 59.5 percent of AP leaders believe that human intervention will still figure prominently in the way their department processes invoices, even as it becomes more automated3.

Use cases for AI in accounts payable

Fortunately, a new breed of automated AI solutions using low-code tools is helping accounts payable departments overcome the barriers to touchless invoice processing to achieve better outcomes.

Pre-trained and ready to deploy invoice processing

Low-code no-code solutions use drag-and-drop, pre-trained accounts payable skills (AI extraction models) to enable finance teams to start processing invoices in minutes with a high degree of accuracy and without any coding or in-house development expertise. Out of the box, the solutions can identify the document type and recommend a corresponding accounts payable extraction model or “document skill.” The technology can suggest a pre-built, ready-to-use skill, or users can search a marketplace for the skill that they need. Document processing skills can be built for documents such as invoices, POs, receipts, W-2 forms, utility bills, and health claims. Users can also design and publish custom skills to a catalog and make them discoverable to any process automation platform or workflow.

AI-enabled to deliver superior data extraction and recognition performance

Low-code no-code solutions also use advanced artificial intelligence (AI) with machine learning to extract invoice header and line-item details from the most complex invoices, including those with hundreds of pages and text in multiple languages, and without the need to build templates for invoices from new supplier invoices. Low-code no-code IDP solutions with AI and machine learning can efficiently process documents of any kind, including structured, semi-structured, or unstructured documents, and all types of documents, such as machine-printed, hand printed, and barcodes.

Interoperability with downstream AP business processes

Hyperautomation simplifies the orchestration of processes between multiple technologies. For instance, AI can be used to capture and verify invoice data, and RPA can be used to automate data entry and data look-ups in ERP or accounting software packages. And AI accounts payable solutions can integrate with systems such ERP and accounting software packages, business process management (BPM) applications, chatbots, mobile platforms, and more.

ABBYY Named a Leader in Intelligent Document Processing

Everest Group names ABBYY a Leader in its Intelligent Document Processing Products PEAK Matrix® Assessment 2023

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How AI low-code solutions accelerate and deliver superior business outcomes for AP departments

Adoption of AI in accounts payable is accelerating. According to a Gartner report, 70 percent of new applications companies will use low-code or no-code technologies by 20254. The technology will empower organizations to reduce development time by as much as 90 percent, enabling finance organizations to unlock a completely new level of efficiency and agility by reducing transaction costs, improving visibility to cashflow, and enabling them to achieve better allocation of working capital.

Low-code no-code (LCNC) solutions with AI and machine learning are a big step forward for AP departments. 

Only 27.4 percent of accounts payable departments use AI with machine learning3.  What’s more, 22.5 percent of AP leaders admit that they “don’t know much about AI,” while 35.5 percent describe themselves as “still learning about the technology3.”  Less than 4 percent of leaders believe they are an AI “pro3.” 

But LCNC solutions with AI and machine learning may change all that. 

Some 11.8 percent of AP departments are currently deploying an invoice processing solution and another 11.8 percent of AP departments are currently evaluating invoice processing solutions3

Sixty-five percent of accounts payable departments have plans to automate in the next year5.

Automating the capture and validation of invoice data is top of mind for many of these departments.

Nearly one-third of finance leaders report that their department plans to automate the way it captures invoice headers and line-item details within the next year. More than one-quarter of AP leaders (26.3 percent) plan to automate the way their department matches invoices with POs and delivery receipts. 

LCNC solutions with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will help ensure that these departments realize the full potential of AP automation and eliminate the manual tasks that are holding them back.  

AI AP tools are poised to empower finance teams to implement their own business applications, thereby reducing development time, improving staff productivity, rapidly responding to business needs, and realizing positive business outcomes in shorter time. 

Using drag-and-drop, pre-trained invoice models enable finance teams to start processing invoices in minutes with a high degree of accuracy without any coding or in-house development expertise, including extraction of invoice header and line-item information from the most complex invoices with hundreds of pages and multiple languages.   

Through the application of neural networks and machine learning, finance organizations are poised to deliver greater performance, reduce the need for human intervention, accelerate end-to-end invoice processing to enhance productivity, lower overall operational costs, and improve employee satisfaction. 

ABBYY leads the way in delivering best-in-class invoice processing that transforms accounts payable operations

ABBYY puts your information to work. We combine innovation and experience to transform data from business-critical documents into intelligent actionable outcomes in over 200 languages in real time. We enable more than 10,000 companies globally, including many of the Fortune 500, to drive significant impact where it matters most: customer experience, operational excellence, and competitive advantage.

With ABBYY, these business outcomes are made possible by delivering advanced AI-based intelligent document processing designed for line of business in a low-code / no-code application environment. Intelligent document processing takes process automation to the next level by providing business users with advanced natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, and advanced recognition capabilities. 

ABBYY is a recognized leader in intelligent document processing by 10 analyst firms just in the past year. We process 1.5 billion invoices every year. The world’s leading enterprises trust ABBYY to get results like 91 percent reduction in invoice processing transaction costs, 90 percent-time savings in invoice processing cycle, 99.5 percent accuracy, and 95 percent straight-through processing. 

For a more detailed analysis of ABBYY's leadership in intelligent document processing solutions, please refer to Everest Group Intelligent Document Processing Products PEAK Matrix® 2023

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1 Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM), Senior Executive Survey

2 Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM), AP Benchmarking Survey

3 Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM), 2023 Benchmarking Survey

4 Computer World, Low-code tools can fill a void caused by the Great Resignation by Lucas Mearian

5 Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM), Virtual town hall meeting

Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) Intelligent Automation Digital Transformation Accounts Payable Automation
Andrew Pery ABBYY

Andrew Pery

Digital transformation expert and AI Ethics Evangelist for ABBYY

Andrew Pery is an AI Ethics Evangelist at intelligent automation company ABBYY. His expertise is in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, application software, data privacy and AI ethics. He has written and presented several papers on the ethical use of AI and is currently co-authoring a book for the American Bar Association. He holds a Masters of Law degree with Distinction from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/C), (CIPP/E) and a Certified Information Professional (CIP/AIIM).

Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.

Mark Brousseau

President of Brousseau & Associates

Mark Brousseau is president of Brousseau & Associates.

Over the past 29 years, Mark Brousseau has established himself as a thought leader on accounts payable, accounts receivable, payments, and document automation. A popular speaker at industry conferences and on webinars and podcasts, Brousseau advises prominent end-users and solutions and services providers on how to use automation to improve document- and payments-driven business processes. Brousseau has chaired numerous educational conferences and has served on several industry committees and boards. He resides in Center City Philadelphia with his wife and three sons.

Connect with Mark on X-formerly-Twitter and LinkedIn.

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