June 8, 2021

For small and medium-sized businesses, automating approvals can be difficult since there are usually no efficient systems in place for handling approvals in the first place.

Inherent Problems with Manual Approvals

If you don’t have a technology platform that can receive, extract, and understand incoming costs, a human needs to step into that role.

The person in that role has to interpret the incoming costs and manually send them out for approval. A lack of well-defined rules often is where problems start. How does the accounts payable (AP) staff member know where to send each invoice? Is it just one approver? Or are there multiple approvers required?

AI-Driven Workflows Reduce Email Risks

Email issues are another widespread approval management problem that AI can address.

Email is how most approvals happen today. The invoice comes in, and the AP staff member forwards the invoice to someone else’s email inbox. That person replies with, “Yes, it’s approved.”

But what happens when those approval request emails blend in with other emails? What happens if there are email deliverability problems? What if malware, phishing attacks, or other cybersecurity vulnerabilities are a problem the company is facing?

From Email Inbox to Mobile App

By shifting the approval location from an email inbox to an AI-driven mobile app, companies can automate the majority of the approval process.

When you combine a system for handling approvals with the right back-end AI platform and a mobile app on the front-end, clients (both internal and external) have a far better user experience because they can manage their approvals on-the-go when they have extra time.

With a mobile app, clients receive a push notification for any incoming approvals that require their review. Clients can then review and approve (or decline) the items in the invoice queue from their phone, tablet, notebook, or desktop.

AI Learns from Clients’ Approvals Over Time

With a well-defined approval workflow and an AI platform to support the approval process, most approval headaches go away.

When evaluating your options among AI platforms, find out if the technology can interpret an invoice and start the approval process automatically, so the invoice or cost doesn’t have to sit in limbo for days, or weeks.

AI Asks for Human Review When Needed

The AI platform you choose should be monitoring and learning from all invoices and costs that get approved, as compared to those that are declined. With this data foundation in place, the AI can start suggesting how approvals should be handled. When AI indicates a course of action, it gives AP staff and approvers superpowers.

The approvers can take these recommendations and decide which are sound to act on, as opposed to starting from scratch, figuring out what an invoice or cost is, and determining whether to approve it.

To learn more about selecting the right AI platform for accounting that works for you, contact Jim Norton, CPA, Senior Manager, Accounting Technology Services, at jnorton@grfcpa.com.