AP Automation

The Upside of AP Automation

In our latest blog series, we are revealing insights and exploring the industry findings from our Are Friends Electric? Survey analyzing attitudes toward automation among 500 finance and accounting professionals in the US, UK, France, and German. You can find the first part of this series in Automation: Threat or opportunity

As we explored in our last blog, respondents were bullish on the potential of automation to make their work lives easier and more productive. In this entry, we take a deeper dive into why it’s possible they felt that way and look more closely at the value and benefits of automation.


The perceived value of automation vs. the real value

Currently, 71% of survey respondents estimate that automation will have a positive impact on their future career prospects. A majority say they are confident and excited about any changes automation will bring to their current role. 43% of respondents said they already felt very comfortable handing over low-value and repetitive tasks to a piece of software. Given these metrics, the perceived value of automation is observably high and carries an optimistic sentiment.

But beyond the perception of automation, what does the reality look like? Broadly speaking, automation helps businesses to reimagine inefficient business processes. Invoice processing is a great example. When it comes to invoice processing, Accounts Payable (AP) teams currently spend around a quarter of their time chasing and correcting errors. The most recent estimates suggest it takes around 8 days of checking, fixing, and re-checking information just to process a single non-digital invoice. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool data entry clerk will tell you there are more valuable things they could be doing with their time.

According to our survey, among the perceived benefits associated with automation, respondents chose to eliminate low-value, repetitive tasks as the thing most likely to make them happier. But that’s only part of the story.



Automation’s impact on job roles

In the US,  where automation levels are already high, respondents were just as likely to say that more time was the most precious gift that technology could deliver — time to get more done in a day, time to take off or leave work early, time to concentrate on learning a new skill perhaps.

But with all that extra time, how do employees feel this will impact their job roles? Most felt their job would become more interesting, focusing less on low-value tasks and giving them more opportunities to stretch themselves on higher-impact strategic work. Respondents also agreed that more time would lead to higher morale and reduce the risk of burnout.


Interestingly, it was fairly even between the number of respondents who viewed automation as an opportunity to climb the corporate ladder and those who saw an opportunity to gain greater control over their work-life balance.  With an increasing number of countries looking at trying out four-day weeks and more flexible working hours, business leaders could look at automation as a way to offer employees more of what they want from their jobs and less of what they don’t.


Key takeaways

Time, more than anything else, seems to be on respondents’  minds when they consider automation—the potential for more of it and what that could mean for their lives and work. Automation frees up employees from low-value, repetitive tasks and empowers them to focus on things they find rewarding. With automation, they look forward to a richer career, better work-life balance, and greater opportunities for personal and professional growth.


Survey parameters

Respondents to our online survey ranged from junior employees to mid-level managers within the finance department at medium to large-sized companies. All respondents had a high level of understanding of their company’s investment in technologies related to automation in their current job.


Put simply: these respondents know what they’re talking about and are beyond qualified to provide their personal opinion on widespread automation implementation. This can be a controversial topic. After all, we’re discussing significant changes to many people’s careers and livelihoods.

Tradeshift keeps its finger on the pulse of the market by conducting extensive research and surveys to understand the sentiment of today’s workers and better grasp what the future of work looks like.  Our findings, paired with our advanced solutions and platforms, help organizations to better plan, prepare and react to the shifts in the workplace. Want to discover more findings from our latest surveys? Be sure to read through our full report, Are Friends Electric? available for download here.

Stay tuned for our next addition to this series revealing insights and exploring the industry findings from our Are Friends Electric? Survey. You can find the first part of this series in Automation: Threat or opportunity? Keep an eye out for part 3 in this series, Could a machine replace your line manager?

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