The high-tech future of accounts payable

In today’s increasingly nimble and competitive business environment, it’s not a question of whether or not you should automate your accounts payable (AP) processes – it’s a question of how.

Many organizations have adopted some form of AP automation software in their back offices, which has helped lower operations costs, increase efficiencies and drive competitive advantages. And, as more organizations adopt this technology, the more the conversation around AP automation evolves.

The latest buzz surrounds emerging tech like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, blockchain and big data. As these technologies enter mainstream conversations, and software providers begin integrating them into their offerings, another question arises:

How will emerging technologies affect accounts payable?

Let’s find out by taking a peek at a recent market-wide survey by Levvel Research that breaks down the sentiment on these emerging categories, their major use cases and how they may impact payables management.

AI and machine learning

Industry sentiment

AI and machine learning are the most recognizable technologies in the AP industry. The overarching sentiment is that AI will change payables management “in a big way.” Thirty-two percent of companies polled – from small businesses to enterprises – are familiar with AI, and 30 percent with machine learning.

AP use cases

  • AI can automatically detect errors – and subsequently make intelligent decisions on what to do next with an invoice – improving approval workflows and shortening invoice cycles
  • Interactive chatbots can perform administrative tasks, like reminding an approver they have an invoice waiting in queue
  • AI applications can detect changes in routing made over time, and then suggest invoice approval workflows along more efficient paths


  • Reduces temporary hiring and outsourcing
  • Shifts roles for AP professionals from administrative to more strategic
  • Drives bigger investment in innovation, as organizations save money on labor costs and rechannel it into profit-generating pursuits

Big data

Industry sentiment

Twenty-seven percent of companies are familiar with big data in the AP field, according to Levvel Research. Many feel the most value lies in powerful strategic and analytical applications.

AP use cases

  • In combination with machine learning, big data allows for reporting and predictive analytics that give business leaders actionable insights into their organizations
  • By integrating traditional statistical modelling with deep analysis of past information and trends, you can make predictions that support future business decisions
  • Proper integration with ERPs and other financial systems can give you better control over large amounts of financial and supplier data


  • Empowers the C-suite to make more strategic decisions
  • Enables more organizations to use data to optimize supply chain, supplier base and cash flow
  • Drives continued advancements in procurement and sourcing technology


Industry sentiment

Just 13 percent of companies surveyed are familiar with blockchain in the AP industry. This isn’t surprising, due to the fact that blockchain is an emerging technology and not yet integrated into many mainstream payables platforms.

Still, Levvel Research reports some interest in blockchain for the control it could bring to data and payments, and predict it will likely change the way many business ecosystems operate in the future.

AP use cases

  • Blockchain’s most obvious application is its ability to increase the security of data and money transactions, as well as decrease latency in transfers between you and other parties


  • Puts your organization on the cutting-edge of B2B electronic payment tools

Emerging tech today

Despite the potential of these applications, only a fraction of companies list innovative and emerging tech as an important factor when purchasing an AP solution, according to the report. Only 19 percent of large enterprises said they were important – ranking far below factors like ease of use, pricing and easy integration with ERPs.

But while the true impact of these emerging technologies will only be felt in the years ahead, organizations that do prioritize technology usage say it helps create a competitive edge that validates leadership in their respective industries.

For more information on AP process automation and finding the best-fit solutions for your company, check out the full Levvel Research Payables Insight Report.

Danielle Simer is a marketing portfolio manager at Hyland. Her mission is to share best practices and evangelize the power of enterprise content management (ECM) as a tool to automate paper-based processes and improve operations across accounting and finance, human resources, and contract management. Danielle joined Hyland after more than six years with a research and advisory firm devoted to helping senior executives manage their departments and teams more effectively. She received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and her MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer

Danielle Simer is a marketing portfolio manager at Hyland. Her mission is to share best practices and evangelize the power of enterprise content management (ECM) as a tool to automate... read more about: Danielle Simer