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Accounts payable processes are often not automated for small businesses

Only 5 per cent of small businesses describe their accounts payable (AP) processes as ‘fully automated’, according to a new survey by V1.

While the vast majority say that their AP processes are still paper-based (48 per cent) or semi-automated (47 per cent), this figure looks set to shrink as 58 per cent are planning to increase automation with a further 39 per cent considering doing so.

According to research firm APQC, labour costs typically consume 62 per cent of total AP costs, due to the need for manual intervention and posting and printing documents. Organisations that automate these processes typically achieve savings of 60-80 per cent.

Janette Martin, managing director of V1 says that automating tasks such as data capture and invoice approval is proven to generate substantial time and cost savings for businesses, allowing staff to spend more time on adding value.

‘With the technology available today, there is no reason for businesses to still rely on manual, paper-based processes, so it is encouraging that 97 per cent are planning on or considering increasing automation in AP processes to unlock efficiencies.’

The survey also reveals that the majority of organisations have yet to introduce mobile technology into the finance function, with only 22 per cent having the capability to perform tasks such as authorising invoices on mobile devices.

However, 40 per cent say they are planning to introduce mobile capability in the near future, while 37 per cent report that they are considering it.

Greater efficiency is recognised by half of the respondents as the main benefit of using mobile AP processes. Just under a quarter (24 per cent) say that mobile functionality would benefit them by accelerating invoice approvals, with 22 per cent identifying cost-effectiveness as the primary benefit. Other benefits cited in the survey include better compliance, more flexibility and increased productivity.

Martin adds, ‘Introducing mobile capability can further streamline AP processes and enhance efficiency, particularly when budget holders are spread across different sites or are frequently working on the go.

‘Most organisations have yet to embrace mobility in their AP function, but it is certainly becoming more common and our survey highlights that finance departments across all sectors recognise the many benefits and are looking to become more mobile. The way that we work is changing, and mobile working is really a must-have in today’s digital age.’

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