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What is AI prompt engineering, and how does it work with accounts payable automation?

Let’s talk about artificial intelligence (AI) for accounts payable. More specifically, let’s talk about the convergence of generative AI, prompt engineering and accounts payable. You’ve likely caught on to AI trends reshaping how tasks get done and how they're growing at lightning speed. But have you heard about AI prompt engineering, and how does it work with accounts payable automation?

What is generative AI?

Generative AI refers to systems that generate new content, such as images, text or scenarios. For example, you can use it to create realistic images, write creative pieces of text, or even create new designs. Explore more on this topic and common AI accounts payable buzzwords here.

What is prompt engineering?

Prompt engineering is writing queries for AI tools that produce effective results, and the queries continuously train the AI tool to get smarter. It’s like having a personal assistant that anticipates your needs and provides tailored suggestions based on your behavior and actions. Powerful machine learning algorithms analyze real-time patterns, delivering relevant and timely prompts to enhance your user experience.

How does prompt engineering work?

Prompt engineering gathers user behavior and preferences data, which AI algorithms analyze to create personalized prompts. These prompts can be in the form of suggested actions or recommended content. The system keeps learning from your interactions, refining its recommendations over time, which is why user inputs are crucial in guiding generative AI tools to produce what you want them to. When using these AI models, you shape what comes out as generated content with the instructions you put in. The clarity and precision of what you tell it will directly impact the AI's ability to provide accurate and relevant results. So, giving clear and precise inputs is important to avoid unintended, unwanted or irrelevant results.

Prompt engineering in accounts payable

AI helps streamline and automate much of the AP process in accounts payable. For example, it can analyze past transactions and vendor relationships and give you recommendations for future payments. But how does it actually work?

Imagine you have a vendor from whom you regularly buy office supplies. With the right instructions (or prompts) to your system, your accounts payable system can recognize this pattern and suggest automatic invoice payment, so you don't have to do it manually. This not only saves time but also reduces the chances of making mistakes.

Prompt engineering in AP automation goes beyond just automating payments. It's about giving clear instructions to the AI for handling different financial tasks. For instance, you can tell the AI to extract specific information from invoices, match it with purchase orders and update your records accordingly. However, successful prompt engineering requires understanding what AI can do and giving instructions that fit your AP automation needs.

An AP prompt engineering example for invoice approvers

The Medius Agent AMA (Ask Me Anything) brings generative AI to accounts payable, specifically for invoice approvers and suppliers. It helps approvers by giving them useful information about invoices, like the approval path, potential discounts and links to the vendor's five most recent invoices. Suppliers can also get up-to-date information about invoice status and better understand when they can expect to be paid without requiring an AP staff member to take time out of their day. With prompts for common invoice questions, you can get smart and contextual support for quick, confident and accurate approvals.

Common questions include:

  • Why have I received this invoice?
  • Who else is approving the invoice?
  • What have I done with similar invoices previously?
  • Tell me more about this supplier.
  • How can I send an invoice to somebody else?
  • How can I return the invoice to AP?
  • When is the invoice expected to be paid?
  • Early cash discount opportunities?

And if the prompts don't cover what you need, you can ask any question in your own words, and the Agent will give precise and informed responses.

What can go wrong, and what do AP users need to know?

woman in dark office looking frustrated

While AI-driven AP automation is exciting, there are some challenges and pitfalls to keep in mind. Inaccuracies can occur if prompts are misleading or unclear, leading to errors in financial processes. So, users need to be mindful of their language and instructions to ensure accurate interpretation by AI.

Also, it’s important to remember there is a presence of biases in AI models' training data, which can result in unfair outputs. AP users should be aware of this and actively work towards reducing biases for an ethical and unbiased approach to AP automation. Regular monitoring and validation of AI-generated results can help identify and fix any discrepancies.

Keep learning, and AI will, too.

As AI advances and prompt engineering and AP automation integrate more, users will play a vital role in unleashing the true potential of these technologies. The more you learn as a user and prompt giver, the more AI will learn and improve. In fact, it’s a skill that will likely become a part of your job and maybe even your expertise over time. Prompt engineer roles are on the rise, according to a McKinsey survey from August 2023, which shows seven percent of respondents who work at organizations that have adopted AI are hiring prompt engineers. How much will it affect the world of finance and AP? Stay tuned to find out.

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