According to a recent B2B Payments Survey, manual invoice processing is the biggest challenge (65%) small business owners say they face, and the second-most pressing problem for treasury departments in larger organizations.
For those larger organizations ($1B+ in revenues), more than half (54%) consider manual payment processes as one of their top three payment-related pain points.
How can a process so common to so many business, regardless of size or industry be such a big problem? And WHY does recent survey data seem to bear out a sense of priority and urgency that’s been lacking in the past (born out in part by the number of companies that continue to handle AP and manage invoices manually)?
One major reason is a true revolution in technology that is making is far easier for companies to get up and running with AP automation solutions in a way that continues to perform over the long term, without incurring increasing maintenance costs or adding to the company’s technology burden. In fact, the application of machine learning to common business process automation stumbling blocks essentially means that these systems can get up and running and then continue to perform better and better as they learn and adapt to process exceptions.
The other reason is cultural. In fact, the holdouts to digitization and business transformation will be those organizations where the culture is resistance to change, literally at any cost. Because at intelligent process automation becomes increasingly cost effective and manual processes become more costly (and risky), the cost of the maintaining the status quo is going to become increasingly harmful. In essence, if we aren’t there already, the cost and effort to maintain and justify manual processes will become the real challenge, and no economic argument will sustain its defense.
It’s no secret that manual AP processes are costly, time-consuming and unrewarding for the teams burdened with the manual labor associated with handling huge numbers of paper and digital invoices and conducting data entry from those source documents, under constant time pressure and a demand for accuracy.
The risks for companies are huge. Late payments impact vendor relations. Duplicate payments inflate costs. A lack of an audit trail and process accountability introduces the potential for fraud, introducing all sorts of compliance risks.
The impact on employee satisfaction is significant. While industry surveys bear out the company executives view their AP teams as hard working and diligent, they fail to see the value of their work beyond their functional within a cost center. Their work is not seen as strategic, even if it is viewed as functionally critical. From the workers’ standpoint, there is pride in a job well done and satisfaction in achieving performance goals. But when most of the work is tied to shuffling through documents and keying in data, staying motivated, seeing the big picture and contributing to higher goals in a way that feels empowering is a real challenge.
In essence, automating document sorting and handling, along with data validation and transaction entry, is NOT taking work away from an AP team member. It’s giving them an opportunity to do more value work that is aligned to bigger, more meaningful goals.
Thankfully, is any recent industry polls and surveys are an indicator, the status quo when it comes to AP may be on life support. As one recent U.S. survey suggests, nearly a quarter (24%) of companies plan to accelerate adoption of financial technology in the next three years.
As time goes by, more companies will be able to demonstrate the kinds of tangible results that can be achieved by automated finance operations, adding to well-established industry benchmarks that make creating a compelling business case a no-brainer. The shift in attitude is already taking place—and the transformation of technologies to streamline the process and ease the implementation burden will only accelerate the pace of change.
To learn how you can automate your AP or AR processes in an little as 90 days, with ROI in 180 days, visit the Artsyl resource page and contact your Artsyl representative for a personalized demo.