AI is boosting efficiency and making life easier for thousands of AP professionals today. But many of these professionals are undoubtedly wondering if sophisticated software might one day put them out of a job.
The fact is, workers today at nearly every level, across nearly every industry, are worried about the same thing. But often, automation actually creates new jobs as it renders old ones obsolete.
Evolving job duties
Take ATMs—at their inception, their presence had tellers naturally worried about their positions being eliminated. And while the number of tellers at individual branches declined as ATMs became more abundant, the cost of operating a bank also dropped. This meant that banks could open more branches and provide more services, which in turn upped the demand for human workers.
Even with the introduction of new consumer payment technologies like PayPal®, Venmo, and Zelle®, personal banking still today is a combination of people and machines, with the result being a business sector that does a much better job of serving the customer.
While consumers enjoy the convenience of using ATMs, bank tellers—with the mundane task of shuffling money around now off their plates—can concentrate on the type of work that a machine can’t do: forming relationships with the customer.
The ATM didn’t eliminate the bank teller—itevolved the teller’s job to something more value-added and interesting.
Fear of job loss to machines is often predicated on the idea that one’s workplace could become fully automated. But a far more likely scenario—and one that’s less nerve-racking—is partial automation.
Partial automation is already changing the game in industries that many believed could never be automated. Intelligent machines are working alongside doctors, lawyers, engineers, stock traders and military commanders, just to name a few, and it is changing the way finance teams manage their workflows.
Workplaces that haven’t yet incorporated partial automation should expect the shift to happen soon. And rather than replacing the AP clerk, it will simply mean that position will evolve.
When an AP professional is no longer forced to spend long hours examining paperwork; manually entering piles of purchase orders, receipts and invoices; tracking down lost invoices; and fixing errors, just imagine what they could be doing instead.
Some of the new duties and responsibilities of the AP clerk have not yet been discovered, while others are already taking shape today. In midsize businesses, the AP department is increasingly playing a much more strategic and central role. That’s because automation lets people graduate from “data entry” with almost no impact to data analysis and collaboration for a much greater impact. Add in machine intelligence, and the AP department becomes part of a broader sourcing strategy.
For instance, imagine managing dozens of restaurant locations. Data analysis helps a company discover trends and discrepancies within its vendor network, but it still takes humans to act on them. Accountants can analyze what they’re paying for specific food items store by store, and they might realize that the same vendor is charging more at some locations or the same product might be supplied by two different vendors. This information gives operators the information needed to start a conversation with suppliers to either consolidate with the cheaper provider or to renegotiate payment terms. That kind of dialogue, coupled with more on-time payments, strengthens those valuable relationships.
Society is only in an early chapter of a much longer story when it comes to automation. Intelligent machines will redefine jobs as they boost productivity, and rather than taking jobs away, partial automation powered by AI might make everyone’s job more enjoyable.
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This post is sponsored by Yooz