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Shaping the Future of Finance with Generative AI


Here’s why finance teams are training generative AI coworkers

by AppZen June 22, 2024

Incorporating disrupter technologies like AI–especially generative AI–always involves a human element. At AppZen on Tour in Dallas, our customers shared their teams’ fears of an AI coworker, how training the AI helped them gain control and visibility, and what they're doing now, with all the extra time on their hands. Here are our top three takeaways from the conversation.

Train your AI like you would a new employee

There are a lot of concerns in Finance about implementing generative AI in business processes, particularly the fear of AI making mistakes. Lynae Brunstetter, Accounts Payable Manager at Applied Industrial Technologies, explained that her company's three-way match policy safeguards against errors, but noted that they're also working to train their new AI solution, the same way they'd train a new employee. While it started with a base level of expertise, it didn't know the company's business processes–the equivalent of its standard operating procedures. Now, the AI is learning quickly and constantly improving.

Lynae emphasized the importance of monitoring the AI as it learns. Because their AI solution asks the team for assistance when its confidence is low, it's easy to correct errors, which improves the system's accuracy over time:

“I wasn't concerned about [the AI] extracting an S instead of a 5, as long as we could see that it was learning. That helps snowball things, going forward. You're pushing a repetition through the software until it gets it [and] goes through touchlessly.”


Take small steps and involve the team

The Senior Director of Accounts Payable for one of our enterprise healthcare management customers agreed, comparing the AI learning process to “baby steps.” She stressed the importance of teaching it correctly to ensure it learns to make the right decisions. She also acknowledged that the fear of being replaced by AI is natural. “My advice is to find the repetitious tasks that reduce the morale of the team. That's why we had such a revolving door before. AI reduces or even removes that repetition and adds control and visibility.”

Involving her team in the AI teaching process and showing them the insights they were gaining helped alleviate their concerns. During department meetings, she shared the cost savings and positive changes to company employees’ compliance behavior. Seeing real value in the AI integration and the finance team's role in its success motivated the whole group. Lynae agreed. “Now that my team members are not spending time on more repetitious tasks like data entry review, [they] spend time chasing discrepancies with our vendors.”


Find opportunities for more impactful activities

Adding AI to their workflow created more capacity for both customers' teams, allowing for better work-life balance, opportunities for stretch projects, and the chance to gain new skills. One customer's expense auditors found time to assist the Accounts Payable Team, giving the auditors a sense of increased ownership and positive impact. 

Rather than manual email sorting and data entry, these customers' finance teams now focus on more analytical and value-added activities. They’re able to address the root causes of issues rather than applying temporary fixes. They regularly engage in more meaningful discussions with vendors about recurring problems. They can also analyze patterns, focus on exception handling, address complex issues, and work on improving processes. This proactive approach led to long-term time savings and efficiency gains. 

AI implementation has also improved communication and trust between the AP team and other departments. At Applied Industrial Technologies, conversations have become more productive, as faster processing and increased visibility reduced the likelihood of tension-filled internal emails. With AI handling up to 80% of tasks autonomously, team members are making strategic improvements, such as aligning ordering and billing practices with vendors to prevent future discrepancies.

Both customers felt that traditional software like OCR and RPA provided finite, suboptimal solutions. Said Lynae, “I like that, with AI, I freed my team up to focus on [strategic tasks] because I think it betters the entire company. They're not just keying invoices into our ERP system all day. They're identifying and solving real issues that save us hours in the long run.” Another customer seconded that thought:

“I needed an AI to create efficiency. If you talk to any executives, that's a total ‘give me’ and an absolute buy-in. I don't have to explain that AI is helping audit my high-volume expense reports. It gets it done and leaves us time for conversations about spend behavior.”


If you're ready to discover for yourself how AppZen's finance AI will help your team, join us at one of our upcoming AppZen on Tour events or contact us today.