AI Automation for Your AP Inbox with SAP Ariba and AppZen

by Gary Malhotra July 6, 2021

Accounts payable teams using SAP Ariba have been struggling with long cycle times and high-cost invoice processing for years. These teams find challenges with many aspects of the AP function and are urgently seeking change. We recently held a webinar discussing how AI can drive additional benefits for SAP Ariba users processing accounts payable invoices through finance automation systems. Watch the on-demand recording now.

In this blog, we provide an overview of the webinar, covering details of what Ariba does well, where it struggles in AP scenarios, how AI can plug the gaps, and more.

Ariba for AP Teams

Ariba has numerous capabilities that AP leaders value and naturally fully leverage. Ariba is a comprehensive platform and provides:

  • Network-based smart invoice validation and transmission
  • User-friendly requisitioning and approval workflows
  • Services, purchase order (PO), and contract-backed invoice processing
  • Strong SAP integration

These capabilities are incredibly valuable for regular AP processing and deliver an excellent platform when adding AI into the mix. For example, the availability of structured purchase order data and robust approval workflows augment an AI’s ability to process non-PO invoices and match POs to invoices. 

Our experience finds Ariba customers getting great results when working with electronic purchase orders. However, the results they can achieve on off-network invoices in their AP inbox are limited. These “manual” invoices arrive primarily through your AP inbox, snail-mail, and fax, and cause significant challenges.

All of these challenges leave Ariba AP users craving for an innovative, modern solution to help them process all of their invoices. AppZen Autonomous AP is that solution.

From predictive analytics to advanced data extraction from invoices, AI is driving positive change within the finance department. By adding AI into the accounts payable mix, and specifically by adding the AppZen Autonomous AP solution to Ariba, users can benefit from significant efficiencies.

Let’s dig deeper into the challenges faced by Ariba users, and for each one explore how AppZen + Ariba delivers a solution.

Off-network invoices

The vast majority of off-network invoices arrive as PDF attachments through the user’s AP Inboxes. These have to be manually entered or fed through a scanning and OCR solution, resulting in low accuracy and a high number of manual touches.

With AppZen + Ariba, off-network invoices are processed without manual effort. 

Autonomous AP helps capture off-Ariba network invoices in your AP inbox, processes them autonomously, and sends the captured invoice and extracted data back into Ariba. Autonomous processing of up to 80% of invoices in the AP inbox, with guaranteed accuracy, significantly reduces AP staff handling time.

Supplier enablement

Encouraging suppliers to use the Ariba network is often a significant challenge. Ariba does offer an elementary, free tier and PO Flip to ease the burden, but not all suppliers are convinced. 

With AppZen + Ariba, there is zero supplier enablement required.  

With the increased ability to process any invoice, Autonomous AP removes the need for suppliers to be active on the supplier network. All data from all invoices are automatically extracted via the AP inbox. Autonomous AP removes background noise and contrast in images, separates cover letters and multiple invoices in a PDF file, and does not need separator pages, completely removing the need for any supplier enablement and onboarding.

Lack of AI

Ariba does not have a native solution or strong partnership for AI-based invoice data extraction and validation. To use AI with Ariba, customers need to find their own solution.

With AppZen + Ariba, you get fully-integrated AI. 

AppZen uses cross-customer extraction AI models, pre-trained on over 60 million invoices and expense receipts, and offers 100% guaranteed extraction accuracy. As a result, Ariba users are provided with instant benefits and rapid onboarding, entirely removing system setup time in building and maintaining OCR templates, configuring rules, and checking each invoice type.

Challenge: Manual non-PO operations

Ariba does not offer any meaningful automation for policy compliance of non-PO invoices, making this largely a manual process for users.

With AppZen + Ariba, you can increase compliance against purchase order policies by up to 50%.

Autonomous AP can detect non-PO invoices that actually should have a PO per policy. It can see which suppliers are attempting to game your approval threshold by sending multiple invoices with a lower dollar value. 

Lack of innovation

Numerous users and analysts claim that accounts payable has not been an area of innovation within SAP and Ariba for many years. 

With AppZen + Ariba, you can experience AI-driven autonomous finance.

Autonomous AP leverages cutting-edge innovation to free up AP teams from mundane, manual, transactional tasks so they can focus on strategic AP programs.

The Triple-A Sandwich — Autonomous AP Finance Automation Can Help

Ariba plus AI delivering autonomous AP is a pretty compelling triple whammy. Whether you have already spent five years with Ariba or you just signed your Ariba contract, AppZen Autonomous AP finance automation can help quickly target all the suppliers and invoices in your AP inbox. When adding AI to SAP Ariba, accounts payable teams see benefits such as:

  • Invoice processing costs under $3
  • The ability to process up to 80% of manual invoices without any human touch 
  • The ability to audit 100% of invoices and expense receipts for duplicates before payment 
  • Invoice processing times of less than 1 day

With Ariba as the platform, modern finance teams empowered with the right AI-based tools can radically drive their AP function to greater heights.

To find out more about how you can AI-power automation for your AP inbox with SAP Ariba and AppZen, check out our recent webinar.

Gary Malhotra

VP - Product Marketing, AppZen Inc.