90% of Small Businesses Still Plagued by B2B Paperwork

business paperwork

An overwhelming number of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) still have much work to do on the march to digitization, according to “AP Automation Tracker,” a PYMNTS and Beanworks collaboration. Even businesses that have entirely digitized their consumer-facing operations may still have work to do in transforming their business-to-business (B2B) processes. One of the most critical business functions in need of digitization is invoicing.

Get the report: AP Automation Tracker

PYMNTS research has found that:

  • More than 2.2 trillion B2B invoices will be exchanged by 2035.
  • Even though the pandemic fast-tracked digitization by seven years, 89% of SMBs still process paper-based or PDF invoices.
  • 4 out of 5 accounts payable (AP) workers waste 25% of their workday clerically handling automatable tasks.
  • Potential productivity gains are huge — highly automated AP departments can process eight times as many invoices per full-time employee equivalent.
  • Automating AP functions can improve corporate bottom lines.

The nature of the work involved is the most tedious and 20th century tasks, work that easily could — and definitely should — be automated. These include typing invoice data, correcting typos and chasing down the status of invoices in response to supplier inquiries.

In addition to vastly improving efficiency, streamlining the AP process with automation and digitization also has the potential to dramatically improves effectiveness by achieving key metrics, including:

  • Improving employee satisfaction in a tough labor market by reducing AP team members’ stress and overwork
  • Reducing late payments, or even eliminating them, improving relationships in a supply chain environment where better vendor relations are crucial
  • Achieving greater transparency
  • Better security against fraud

As AP technology becomes more sophisticated, all these benefits continually improve as well. AP platforms that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can interpret unstructured files to find and process invoice data without any human intervention. SMBs that adopt the technology now will benefit from system upgrades and enhancements from now on. Thus, automating AP could pay increasing dividend streams to companies in employee retention as well as worker productivity and cost savings down the road, continually enhancing return on investment.

All these are excellent reasons for AP managers to get out the paper shredder.

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