Challenge

Accenture is an intelligent enterprise that applies artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and embeds analytics into our operations. Our internal IT Enterprise Insight organization collaborates with Accenture business stakeholders to drive new, innovative capabilities and use case-based intelligent products to bring greater insights to Accenture’s businesses.

With 477,000 employees around the world, Accenture purchases a high volume of goods and services, amounting to nearly 200,000 purchase orders annually. Our global procurement organization, Procurement Plus, uses SAP Ariba’s Guided Buying capability on SAP Ariba Buying and Invoicing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to optimize spend totaling more than $4.5 billion dollars every year. Internally, Accenture branded the SAP Ariba product to Accenture BuyNow. Accenture also processes 1.1 million invoices annually through our accounts payable function. We realized that buyers of Accenture goods and services were less familiar with the downstream accounting of their purchases, and that this was creating friction and driving inefficiency and cost into the process.

There was an opportunity to improve efficiency in purchase requisitioning and non-purchase order invoice processing by using predictive analytics and automating the recommendation of general ledger accounts to buyers at the point of purchase. Predictive analytics, embedded as AI, and automation better prepare buyers who are less familiar with accounting to be more accurate with their purchases and significantly streamlined downstream accounts payable accuracy, time and cost.

The challenge: To create an artificial intelligence model using predictive analytics that provides general ledger recommendations for goods or services being purchased, improving subsequent accounts payable accuracy and efficiency and enhancing the procurement experience for Accenture.

Strategy and solution

The starting point for the development of our General Ledger Recommendations began with the artificial intelligence model we connected to Accenture’s BuyNow procurement solution and our SAP S/4HANA® accounts payable solution. Accenture Procurement Plus worked with Enterprise Insight to develop the solution for both purchase order-based and non-purchase order-based spend. For purchase order-based buys, BuyNow needed to improve the assignment of general ledger accounts at the point of purchase requisition. For non-purchase order-based buys, Accenture needed to improve the assignment of general ledger accounts within the accounts payable process. Both situations were manual, time consuming and prone to error.

To increase accuracy and efficiency, Accenture Procurement Plus and Enterprise Insight designed an artificial intelligence model to recommend the best account from more than 5,000 available general ledger accounts. Drawing from the accounting on historical purchases and invoices, the model recommends the general ledger accounts for new buys at the point of entry. The solution was directly embedded into the Accenture BuyNow platform experience.

From a technology perspective, Enterprise Insight approached the problem as one of classification. First gathering historical purchase and accounts payable activity, the team ingested the data into Accenture’s data lake. The team then used the data to build and train a General Ledger Recommendation model with an AI machine learning algorithm. Using the patterns created on the historical data, the model was also able to make a predictive recommendation of a general ledger for a purchase.

Once the model was trained, the team embedded the solution into both the Accenture SAP S/4HANA accounts payable process for non-purchase order-based buys and the BuyNow procurement process for purchase order-based buys. The model continues to learn and retrain itself to increase its accuracy in making classifications for new goods and services buys.

Transformation

AI is helping Accenture to move to a new generation of business process intelligence. Analytics products like these are advancing Accenture’s transformation journey to becoming an enterprise that is automated, intelligent and insight-driven.

Enterprise Insight continually drives innovation and applies predictive models, AI and machine learning to products to bring greater insights to the business. Within Enterprise Insight is the Studio, the research and development organization of data scientists, user experience experts and software engineers that experiments and builds advanced analytics solutions. It operates with a culture of creative agility, following emerging technology market trends, prototyping new analytics concepts and working with a fail-fast culture. A thriving analytics ecosphere is promoting winning ideas.

Analytics products are advancing Accenture’s transformation journey to becoming an enterprise that is automated, intelligent and insight-driven. Accenture envisions this future digital-insight culture as one that delivers new value in many ways. Accenture’s reporting landscape will become simplified as more clarity on what to use is gained. There will be broader insights into business performance as all business dimensions will be supported with digital insights—anywhere.

By integrating seamlessly with Accenture’s BuyNow and SAP S/4HANA solutions to recommend general ledger accounts for purchase order-based and non-purchase order-based buys, the General Ledger Recommendation solution is projected to deliver significant business value including:

Accuracy and efficiency

Annual savings through decreased accounting staff review and error correction during downstream accounts payable processing.

Improved procurement experience

For buyers of Accenture's multi-billion annual spend on goods and services and the ongoing optimization of that spend by our Procurement Plus team.

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