April 8, 2024, marks the next solar eclipse when the Moon aligns with the Earth and Sun to cast a shadow on our ball of water and rock.  The last solar eclipse occurred in 2016, prompting us to contemplate the strides achieved in invoicing and those anticipated leading up to the next eclipse in 2044.  As we hurtle toward these next two eclipses, the landscape of financial transactions will be unrecognizable compared to the manual processes of yesteryears. Let’s delve into this metamorphosis, where AI will take center stage, eclipsing the old ways of invoice processing.

As we stand on the cusp of a revolutionary shift in the invoicing landscape, it’s imperative to reflect on the journey since the last eclipse in 2016. In those years, the invoicing realm witnessed incremental changes, with some advancements in digitalization, but the overarching reliance on manual processes persisted. The inefficiencies and human errors inherent in traditional invoicing methods were like lingering shadows, casting a need for transformation.

Fast forward to the present, and we find ourselves at the forefront of an era marked by unprecedented technological progress. Conversational AI has emerged as a pivotal force, reshaping the dynamics of invoicing. The conversational interface has transcended its novelty phase, becoming a cornerstone in the evolution of financial transactions. Organizations are increasingly integrating AI into their invoicing workflows, streamlining processes, reducing errors, and enhancing overall efficiency.

The 2016 Prelude: Manual Invoicing

In 2016, the landscape of invoicing was dominated by manual processes, creating a scenario where the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of financial operations were severely compromised. During this time, finance teams were immersed in the laborious task of manual invoice processing, involving the meticulous entry of data, painstaking verification of details, and the cumbersome shuffling of paper documents.

The very nature of this manual invoicing approach gave rise to significant challenges and new solutions. The cost per invoice could be as much as $16 per transaction. The glaring inefficiencies inherent in the manual processes were like shadows, casting a pall over the invoicing landscape.

Moreover, the error-prone nature of manual data entry and verification allowed errors to creep in, introducing a level of uncertainty and inaccuracy into financial records. These errors had the potential to cascade into more significant financial discrepancies and operational disruptions. The need for a transformative shift in invoicing methodologies became increasingly apparent as organizations grappled with the financial repercussions of these inefficiencies.


The 2024 Inflection Point: AI Emerges

As we evaluate the landscape of 2024, we can see the effects of technology on the invoicing market. At the forefront of these changes are AI-driven systems.

Efficient Automation: AI’s integration into invoicing processes significantly streamlines mundane and repetitive tasks, such as data extraction. The result is a noteworthy reduction in the cost per invoice, reaching levels as economical as $3. This automation not only boosts operational efficiency but also allows human resources to focus on higher-value strategic tasks.

Business Insights: AI transcends mere number-crunching, providing businesses with real-time insights into cash flow, payment trends, and anomalies within invoicing data. This analytical capability enhances decision-making by offering precise and timely information, akin to the reliability of a well-calibrated instrument.

Increased Integration: It is no longer adequate to merely digitize invoices; modern invoice solutions excel by aggregating data from various sources, including regional tax data, account hierarchy, contracts, and suppliers across multiple systems. This integrated approach minimizes the occurrence of exceptions that would otherwise necessitate manual processing.


The 2044 Dawn: AI Everywhere

As we look ahead into 2044, AI will be ubiquitous. Imagine an AI seamlessly processing invoices, and reconciling ledgers. The manual drudgery will be a distant memory.

Invoice Processing: No more sifting through stacks of invoices. AI scans, validates, and routes invoices effortlessly. Invoice errors will be a relic of the past. We should expect the invoicing costs to go down to pennies as AI makes it easier than ever to process an invoice.  The value provided won’t be in reading the invoice, but rather the insights the data provides.

Data Analysis: AI doesn’t stop at generating reports; it actively collaborates with traditional forecasting tools to produce actionable recommendations. By seamlessly integrating invoicing data with forecasting models, businesses gain a dynamic understanding of their financial health. Variances are not just identified but interpreted in context, allowing for swift adjustments and proactive decision-making.

Risk Mitigation Through Precision: As automation becomes prevalent, the rise to “game” these systems will rise. AI scans invoices to identify potential discrepancies, fraud, or compliance breaches. This precision in risk mitigation ensures the integrity of financial processes, offering a secure and resilient framework for invoicing operations.


Challenges on the Horizon

But beware—the path to AI enlightenment isn’t without hurdles. Accuracy, data security, and privacy remain critical. The sun of innovation mustn’t blind us to these shadows.  One of the most important aspects of using an AI assistant is the security of a company’s data. The data which the assistant is accessing must be protected from unauthorized disclosure to the underlying AI models.

One of the ways to protect the data is to avoid training AI models using customer’s data. Training AI models means using the data collected from companies to improve the performance or functionality of the AI models. This may seem like a good idea to enhance the accuracy and relevance of the Procurement Assistant, but it also poses several risks and challenges.

Training AI models using the company’s data may violate the privacy and consent of companies. Companies must have control over how their data is collected, stored, processed, or shared. They must be able to access, correct, or delete their data. Also, they must be able to opt-out or withdraw their consent.

Therefore, it is important to avoid training AI models using the company’s data for the sake of security and responsibility. Instead of training AI models using the company’s data, Assistant software should use other methods to improve such as: using anonymized or aggregated data; using pre-trained or transfer learning models, or using federated learning.


Stay Ahead of the Curve

Procurement departments that do not use AI will face significant challenges and disadvantages in the digital economy, such as: If procurement departments do not use AI, they will spend more time and resources on manual, tedious tasks that could have been automated. They may also waste time and resources searching for information, switching between applications, entering data, or following up on actions.

Procurement departments that do not use AI will not be able to keep up with the rapid changes and developments in the procurement field. They will not be able to leverage the power of AI to generate new and creative solutions for their procurement needs and goals. Departments that do not use AI will not be able to adapt to keep up with global regulations, best practices, and market trends.

Another reason why procurement departments should adopt AI as soon as possible is that the incoming workforce will expect this type of technology to augment their daily activities. The new generation of workers, especially millennials and Gen Z, are digital natives who are accustomed to using AI-powered devices and applications in their personal and professional lives.

Also, the new generation is tech-savvy, collaborative, and innovative. They will demand more modern, agile, and intelligent procurement software to support their needs and goals. AI assistants can provide a software solution that can enhance the user experience, productivity, and creativity of the incoming workforce. Also, AI assistants can help attract, retain, and motivate the new talent pool, offering them an engaging, satisfying work environment.

Procurement departments that do not adopt AI early enough risk losing their competitive edge and value proposition in the digital economy. They also risk becoming obsolete or irrelevant in the future.


Conclusion: The Total Eclipse

The evolution from manual invoicing in 2016 to the impending AI-driven landscape in 2044 signifies a pivotal transformation. The 2024 Inflection Point showcases tangible impacts—cost savings, real-time insights, and streamlined operations. Yet, caution is warranted, emphasizing the importance of security and responsible AI integration. Procurement departments are urged to view AI not merely as a technological upgrade but as a strategic necessity, aligning with the expectations of a tech-savvy workforce. This journey represents a shift from inefficiencies to innovation, offering businesses the opportunity to lead in an era defined by agility and adaptability.

About Relish:

Relish is a user-first B2B app development and platform company that extends enterprise applications. Relish’s B2B platform maximizes investments, protects against third-party risk, validates supplier data, automates invoicing, and helps teams across industries, company sizes, and digital maturity to manage information, tasks, and processes.

About Relish

Relish App solutions strategically extend your enterprise applications to maximize your investment.  The Relish Application Platform is powered by native APIs to simplify the complex, close enterprise solutions’ functionality gaps, and bridge enterprise data systems to help teams collaborate. Relish has done the solution development, so you don’t have to…just log-in and go!