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Data in, value out: AI in Finance and Procurement

28 November 2018

5 minute read

Data in, value out: AI in Finance and Procurement

In ancient Greece, when anyone from slaves to soldiers, poets to politicians, needed to make a big decision on life's most important questions – stuff like "Should I get married?“ or “Should I attack the Persians?" – they would consult the Oracle of Delphi to reveal the answer or predict their future.

In terms of human behaviour, not much has changed since ancient times. The future is daunting, so people still feel better knowing that they can make a decision with some degree of assurance around the outcome.

Oracles of the modern world

However, the Oracles of modern world have changed significantly. We’re now seeing a proliferation of AI-powered digital assistants like Alexa and Siri. Just a few short years ago, they were something of a novelty, but with rapid advances in the underlying technologies, these smart assistants have actually become pretty clever: according to Amazon, Alexa has mastered over 25,000 skills.

If you haven’t yet used Alexa, it’s amazing! She tells me when I need to leave my house to get to an appointment. She knows the music I like to listen to when I’m cooking dinner. She can play games with me. She can answer just about any trivia question I throw at her. She can order the stuff I need. In fact she can prompt me to order the stuff I’m about to run out of, which is a bit scary.

Alexa! What’s our top spend category?

So what happens if you ask Alexa a typical procure-to-pay question, such as “What is our top spend category?”. We have actually done this live on stage at Basware Connect events, and Alexa didn’t have a clue. Having fallen at the first hurdle, there was no hope of her accomplishing anything more sophisticated. “Alexa! Code all my non-PO invoices for me!”. “Alexa! Alert me to fraudulent invoices!”.

So why couldn’t she answer the most basic question, well within the capability of any finance or procurement professional? It’s simple: the all-knowing, all-powerful Alexa is only as smart as the data she has access to. The bottom line is, if you don’t have the data, you don’t get intelligent answers, no matter how many times you ask.

Gartner recently published a report on why businesses need to start preparing now for the impact of AI on procurement, which states: “Even though great advances have been made in AI, the tools still need data to work with – in most cases, a lot of data.” Essentially, while the technology is already available and accessible today, machines can’t learn, artificial intelligence can’t think, and analytics can’t predict or prescribe what happens next unless you have a foundation of complete, accurate, timely data.  But if you’re using Basware, you can have exactly that – and here’s how you achieve it.   

100% of suppliers

Firstly, you need to ensure that 100% of your suppliers are digitally connected. The foundation is the Basware network – the world’s largest open commerce network – which caters to all levels of supplier sophistication: from the largest multi-national organisations using EDI/XML, to the mid-tier suppliers using an online portal or sending PDF invoices, to the little ‘mom and pop’ shops that continue sending paper, we can connect to 100% of suppliers across the world, including the long tail. We help you transform the way you do business without any cost or change on the part of your suppliers. That’s how we drive 100% supplier adoption.

100% of end users

Next, you need to get 100% of your end users onboard. You achieve that with a procurement solution that is so easy to use, employees have no reason not to use it. Basware’s procurement solution fits seamlessly into the way they work and it’s the easiest way for them to procure what they need, from preferred vendors, at the negotiated price (which just so happens to be exactly what Procurement wants them to do!).

100% of invoices

Finally, you need to be processing 100% of invoices through the Basware system. A huge part of the P2P value proposition lies within AP: processing efficiencies, lower costs, increased discounts, and eliminating late payment penalties. But that’s only possible when you have the capability to process 100% of your invoices through one service. Basware helps you handle all invoices irrespective of format – paper, PDF or electronic – and deploy a true AP automation hub to process these invoices. Whether you’re handling PO-based invoices or non-PO invoices, direct spend, indirect spend, facilities or utilities invoices, it makes no odds: with us you can capture and process 100% of your invoices.

Once you have 100% supplier and user adoption and 100% invoice capture, you can gain visibility into 100% of your spend. In fact, the only thing Basware can’t do is play the music you like to listen to while you’re cooking dinner…!