Procurement software providers that target large enterprises get a lot of attention, but the increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning is raising the profile of vendors who serve a vast group of businesses that also are doing some heavy lifting — the mid-market companies seeking to digitally transform. So, we are asking one of those providers, when is the right time for mid-market digital transformation?

Paramount WorkPlace focuses on the procure-to-pay areas of e-procurement and e-invoicing for the middle market practitioner. And it also has a sliver of the enterprise market. We talked to Paramount for a Q&A to gauge how it’s helping to deploy technology and aid digital transformation across a range of businesses.

Spend Matters: How do you see the P2P market serving mid-size businesses with advances in AI and machine learning?

Paramount: While AI and machine learning are often talked about in the enterprise P2P market space, these technologies offer the same advantages to mid-size organizations.

Mid-market companies understand the potential that technologies like AI and machine learning have to transform their operations. However, many mid-sized companies don’t think they have reached a phase in their digital transformations where they can put them to real use. Paramount WorkPlace is working to change that thinking by incorporating AI and machine learning in highly intuitive, easily accessible ways that make smart business sense. Those same technologies scale to meet the needs of enterprise customers, meaning businesses of any size and of any level of digital sophistication can benefit.

What advice would you give a business that’s seeking more advanced technology to handle their digital transformation?

Paramount: Businesses should embrace moving into the cloud and incorporating new technologies to the extent that those technologies deliver real value. Whether you’re a mid-sized or larger enterprise organization, technology for technology’s sake isn’t beneficial. It’s only when integrated into business processes in a purposeful way that technology becomes part of a significant overall value proposition.

P2P is a business function that stands to benefit enormously from technology, as many of the processes are ripe for automation. By incorporating technology tools that speed processing, eliminate manual steps, enforce business rules, reduce maverick spending, improve accuracy and allow companies to scale their operations without adding additional staff, companies can realize the real and measurable benefits of their digital transformations.

Paper invoices still seem to be a sticky issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. Do you see any advances in addressing that problem, like how paper invoices and purchase orders are matched, resolved or rejected?

Paramount: While paper invoices remain an issue, they are becoming the exception. And using advanced OCR technology, even paper invoices can be quickly converted to digital format to allow for automated processing.

Paramount WorkPlace uses a combination of OCR, machine learning and AI to automate and accelerate the on-boarding and approval routing of invoices as well as the validation, matching and approval of requisitions and purchase orders. For example, we have a smart invoice capture function that is capable of recognizing invoices and capturing the data down to the line level. It eliminates inefficiencies, speeds and streamlines the P2P cycle, reduces the time users spend on keying and correcting data, and allows procurement professionals to focus on high-value projects.

Do you have any specific industry that you’ve helped by deploying more robust technology and filling its gaps?

Paramount: We work with companies across a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, gaming and hospitality, not-for-profit, professional sports, professional services, education, local government, technology and public utilities. Our P2P solutions are highly configurable and adapt nicely to most companies’ unique processes and workflows.

One of our clients, a nonprofit membership organization, cut its P2P processing time by more than 50%. Another, an agricultural enterprise, halved the time it takes to turn around a requisition request. And another client, a large casino operation, is saving significant money each year by eliminating the enterprise ERP licensing fees for its procurement users, providing them access to Paramount WorkPlace instead. These organizations are realizing measurable savings that go directly to the bottom line.

What is Paramount WorkPlace seeing as trends as it works with clients across the U.S., in Canada and other countries around the world?

Paramount: One of the trends we’re seeing surrounds what we’ve been discussing here — the rise of digital technologies. Developments like cryptocurrency, blockchain, cloud, internet of things (IoT), AI and machine learning will continue to gain momentum and become an increasingly prevalent presence in the procurement department.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is yet another technology trend that we predict will have real impact on the procurement cycle. RPA is a fast, accurate and highly efficient way to process large volumes of data, making it ideal for handling the numerous transactions involved in receiving and invoice entry.

A McKinsey & Company study found that almost 60% of the hundreds of individual tasks involved in the P2P process have the potential to be fully or largely automated — using currently available technologies. Importantly, the study found significant automation potential not only in transactional activities, such as order and invoice processing, but also in much more strategic tasks, such as vendor selection and management.

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