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How AI is set to change payroll in Africa

November 5, 2017 • General

How AI is set to change payroll in Africa

Edmund Pohl, Head of Outsourcing, PaySpace.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the way businesses operate. All functions, including payroll, stand to benefit from the enhanced efficiency this technology brings. That said, there are some concerns.

Payroll is a vital business function. If it doesn’t work smoothly, the company as a whole will suffer. Payroll processes make use of highly sensitive data – and some professionals worry that the information is less safe in the hands of machines, rather than humans.

Africa’s business decision-makers are also asking themselves if the continent is ready for such technology. While digital infrastructure is advancing rapidly, some believe that it’s too soon to rely on machines. There is also some concern regarding job security; payroll teams and their managers are reluctant to adopt a new system that could make their roles redundant.

However, the benefits of AI are too good to ignore. Payroll professionals spend many valuable hours on laborious, administrative tasks. This time could be put to better use; enabling employees to focus on more strategic work that helps drive their business’ growth objectives. AI is an exciting development – and payroll managers in Africa need to give it careful consideration.

How AI impacts payroll processes
AI can transform payroll processes across all sectors and businesses. Its applications, such as raw data filtration and validation, predictive information supply and business information mining, are relevant tools in any modern company using digital tools.

Using intelligent algorithms, AI technology can translate natural language into form fields. When a new employee joins the company for example, the algorithms can scan the contract and use the information it contains to complete the employee’s personal details form. The payroll team no longer has to enter the data manually.

AI can also act as an extra pair of eyes and check that a document has been completed correctly. The technology is more advanced than a standard information filter – it uses previous responses to gauge new data and the more documents it scans, the more intelligent the technology becomes.

In fact, as AI technology advances even more, it will be able to interpret and implement raw legislative data. Once implemented, it will test the real results against the system’s expectation and flag any issues.

All of this is a huge help for payroll teams that can easily miss or make an error. Smart and fast double-checking can help companies maintain legislative compliance and avoid any mistakes.

AI and humans
In any AI-related discussion, the topic of job security is sure to rear its head. Many fear that the rise of the machines, so to speak, heralds the beginning of job losses. There is no doubt that jobs will change, but this doesn’t mean less work for humans – it just means different work.

Like many other business functions, payroll has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years. Globalisation has created new business challenges and in response, technologies have advanced to help companies operate with greater efficiency. Not too long ago, payroll professionals used labour-intensive Excel spreadsheets to calculate salaries and tax. Now they can rely on automated payroll technologies and submit tax returns online.

AI is yet another technological advancement. It too needs to be learnt and understood, requires training and testing, and careful implementation. Professionals should collaborate with AI rather than compete against it. The closer they work with it, the more they’ll see the gaps and opportunities for upskilling themselves. This will keep them relevant and employable in a changing world.

AI in Africa
Those that still describe Africa as the ‘dark continent’, are surely misinformed. Connectivity is increasing daily – both within countries, and between the continent and the rest of the world. The same financial, taxation and structural principles apply in Africa as they do anywhere else. In fact, in the absence of certain legacy infrastructures, Africa has leap-frogged some first-world countries to adopt, implement and innovate new technologies. AI is just as feasible in Africa as it is on any other continent.

AI will transform payroll processes in Africa – and payroll professionals need to accept this and prepare their systems and processes now. It won’t do any good ignoring it or trying to block it. Of course, the technology is still in its infancy: payroll, HR and finance teams have only just started to test the potential of AI. But rather than fight its advancement, businesses need to embrace its efficiency and the new job opportunities AI brings.

By Edmund Pohl, Head of Outsourcing, PaySpace

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