As the nation continues to struggle with an economic downturn, small and medium-sized businesses are grappling with managing cashflow impacts from the changed business environment.
Many Australian and New Zealand businesses are now reviewing their processes to see where savings can be made, and efficiencies gained. Artificial intelligence (AI) and its subset, machine learning, could be the answer for resolving cashflow management issues for SMBs, according to Fabian Calle general manager SMB and Nationals, ANZ, SAP Concur.
“It may seem counterintuitive to invest in a new program or system during an economic downturn; however, without the insight and oversight that an automated program can offer, SMBs could struggle to get a clear idea of where money is being spent and saved.”
SAP Concur has identified three ways AI can improve cashflow for SMBs:
1. Reduce fraud and increase compliance
Manual expense management processes often create fraud and compliance issues due to double handling, human error (or deliberate fraud), and physical copies of invoices that may be lost. AI-enabled expense management systems can reduce this risk by eliminating physical invoice copies while facilitating online expense submissions and approvals, and generating instant reports that give the business real-time visibility of expenses.
2. Streamline data entry and analysis
Reporting periods can be a nightmare for financial personnel if they have to manually review and analyse all expenses and invoices. It can sometimes take hours or even days for finance staff to review expenses, add them into the system individually, and then analyse and report on the findings, and this is in addition to the time that business managers and employees spend on filing and approving expenses.
A newly released SAP Concur Finance in the New World of Work study found that Australian managers and employees spend an average 8.2 hours per month filing, reviewing and approving expense claims. In New Zealand, these administrative processes equate to an average 10.3 hours per month.(1)
AI-driven expense management systems can significantly reduce staff cost and time, and avoid double handling, by automating these processes using information that is already vetted and confirmed.
3. Enforce company expense policy
Manually enforcing company expense policies can be subject to human error, or even deliberately fraudulent decision-making. This can result in expenses being approved that should never be considered. SMBs can enforce company policy for expenses and invoices by setting up company guidelines within an automated expense management system. AI-enabled systems can automatically check all submissions against company policy before either approving or denying them, ensuring that the business doesn’t unnecessarily lose money, while eliminating the risk of human error in decision-making.
Fabian Calle said, “Investing in AI and machine learning systems can help SMBs streamline their expense management and reporting with much less cost and effort than manual processes. This way, SMBs can more easily and immediately review and improve their cashflow, better positioning them for sustained resilience and success even in a tough economic landscape.”
Want to find out more ways to take the pain out of accounts payable? Download our accounts payable invoice management template
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