The Norwegian Automobile Association accelerates into the future with artificial intelligence
NAF has implemented artificial intelligence in its accounting department, resulting in improved user-friendliness and significant time savings.
Of course, everyone knows NAF. They’re involved with EU vehicle inspections, skid pan training, legal aid, roadside assistance and publish the NAF guidebook that all Norwegians took on road trips in the 80s. NAF represents safety and fond memories. Like dad’s old Volvo.
But in recent years, something has happened to Norway’s largest consumer organisation. Are they in the process of transforming into membership-based organisations’ answer to Tesla? Through their own startup, NAF Digital, their premises are now full of IT and business developers. Now, new digital products and services are rolling out at turbo speed.
Head of accounting Vibeke Isaksen confirms that NAF has renewed itself.
– I think NAF is a much more innovative and modern workplace than a lot of consumer organisations, says Vibeke. We meet her at the Oslo NAF centre at Økern, even though she would prefer to show us the new and super modern office premises where even the CEO doesn’t have his own office.
Adopted artificial intelligences
At NAF, not even the finance function is what you would expect from a traditional membership-based company – or any traditional company, for that matter. They have abolished budgets and are instead working according to Beyond Budgeting principles. The SEMINE AI platform was commissioned to manage and automate the approximately 30,000 invoices they receive each year.
– The result is that working with our annual financial statements has become a completely different experience. We have almost 200 users who are now saving both time and frustration when approving invoices, and we have freed up time for the finance department to work more proactively.
We’ll return to that later. First, let’s look at what led NAF’s finance department to be among the first in the country to introduce artificial intelligence.
– The starting point was that we needed a new system to handle incoming invoices because the ReadSoft solution we had connected to Agresso was about to be phased out. We then ran a standard procurement process and had discussions with various suppliers. Semine had already been in touch with NAF, and was therefore on their radar.
Stood out in the crowd
– Semine stood out a lot. Not only did they have a state-of the-art user interface, they’re also the only supplier that uses artificial intelligence. I understood that a more optimal user experience and better use of time would mean a lot to everyone here whose job is to approve invoices.
The fact that the product wasn’t ready at the time didn’t stop them.
– We wanted to buy a solution that would last for a long time. I believe that taking a long-term approach is the key to success at a time when the pace of change is so rapid. I became confident that Semine could be a great supplier,” she says, adding that while some people may consider it risky to be an early adopter, she saw opportunities.
– We have been given the opportunity to challenge Semine and set functional requirements. We have a complex structure, rising both a membership-based organisation and limited liability companies with a combined turnover of more than NOK 950 million. We have many employees who place orders and many different invoices. It’s been great working with a supplier that actually comes in and listens to us, and doesn’t just say ‘this is the way it is’. We found that all our feedback was taken seriously. Being an early adopter allowed us to get very close to product development,” says Vibeke.
– Now we have more time to work proactively. And working with our annual financial statements has become a completely different world!
Working differently now
Since the SEMINE solution went live, the approximately 200 users who approve invoices have a much easier time.
– They’re now saving a lot of time on the invoice approval process, while a significant part of the voucher flow has been automated all the way down to line level. That was the most important thing to me.
The finance department works differently now.
– Now we have more time to work proactively. For example, we work with suppliers to get them to send their invoices in PEPPOL format, we help users and ensure that more of the invoices we receive are correct. We have also virtually eliminated reminder fees, she says.
At the time of writing, she is working on the annual financial statements, and is delighted with how much easier they are now. – Working on our annual financial statements has become a different world. Never have we had so few year-end provisions because now we know where the invoices are at all times, and can follow up users in a completely different way!
– I may be a slightly atypical accounting manager. I know what it can mean to the bottom line when you manage to make things easier. In my previous job as a process manager for Accounts Payable in the ICA grocery chain, I also worked hard to streamline processes, procedures and systems. I am passionate about streamlining and digitalisation – and so is NAF. If we are to retain our 500,000 members in the future, we must never stop reinventing ourselves and creating new products and services, she concludes.