AP Automation At Pathetically Low Levels


Small business owners’ ears have been talked off by champions of business process automation. Saving money, saving time, reducing errors — it’s a no-brainer, so SMEs need to automate, they say.

One of those champions is V1, a U.K. provider of automated solutions, like expense and document management. But the company has just revealed insight into how ineffective all that chatter can be.

According to V1, just 5 percent of SMEs in the U.K. surveyed said their accounts payable processes are “fully automated.”

That means 95 percent of companies are still using some kind of paper-based, manual process to pay suppliers and reconcile their payments, researchers said when they announced the findings last week.

“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,” said V1 Managing Director Janette Martin in a statement. “With the technology today, there is no reason for businesses to still rely on manual, paper-based processes.”

Martin added that it is “encouraging,” though, that 97 percent of respondents said they are at least considering boosting their AP automation capabilities.

But V1 found some more depressing news: Most businesses haven’t embraced mobile solutions for their finance and accounting processes, with just 22 percent reporting the ability to do such tasks as invoice approval via mobile device. Once again, a significant number of businesses said they are at least considering adopting mobile tools for this purpose, with 77 percent saying they are either considering or planning on doing so.

“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,” Martin continued. “Most organizations 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 recognize the many benefits and are looking to become more mobile.”

V1 is hardly the first company to reveal the lack of automation within companies’ AP departments, as well as their supposed plans to change that.

Earlier this year, docSTAR offered its predictions for the world of accounts payable automation for 2016 and beyond, forecasting that invoice automation will be big. The firm cited reports by Ardent Partners that found one-fifth of AP professionals said they plan to implement document imaging technology, for example, while even more said they plan to adopt automated invoice approval tools.

Separately, AP automation company MineralTree made similar conclusions to those of V1.

“There’s no excuse for antiquated AP,” the company declared in a whitepaper in January, citing the lag of AP professionals’ adoption of AP tools. “If the accounts payable process sounds ancient and arcane, add in the headaches of answering anxious vendor calls (‘the check’s in the mail!’), replenishing depleted check stock and printing supplies, fixing stubborn printer paper jams and cleaning up messy toner cartridge explosions,” the company stated.

But according to V1, it’s more than cost savings that demand change within the AP department: The force behind a changing market is even stronger.

“The way that we work is changing, and mobile working is really a must-have in today’s digital age,” V1 declared.