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Finance departments still over-reliant on paper

Four out of five finance professionals in medium to large organisations surveyed by Wax Digital say their department is not keeping pace with the rest of their organisation’s digital transformation plans, with 66% saying finance is more reliant on paper than other business functions and 58% saying they are unlikely to make decisions or manage approvals electronically.

On average, while two thirds of every financial process is automated or managed electronically, one third of every task still requires manual intervention.

The process most in need of modernisation is invoice management, with 66% of supplier invoice data needing to be rekeyed and processed manually – 9% of invoices are still delivered by fax, 15% are hand-delivered, 19% come though the post and 23% arrive via email.

In contrast, only 11% of invoices arrive through e-invoicing portals and 20% via direct integration between suppliers’ billing systems and customers’ financial systems.

Other financial processes with low levels of automation include expenses (36.5% manual), budgeting (35% manual) and debtor management (34% manual).

Daniel Ball

Daniel Ball, director at Wax Digital, said: “It’s clear that finance is lagging behind other departments when it comes to digital transformation. Senior management needs to be on-board with leading a digital transformation for finance so that it matches the innovation shown by departments such as sales and marketing. For example, there’s exciting potential for finance teams to utilise Artificial Intelligence with applications such as robotic process automation, to reduce time spent on manual processes involved in areas such as reporting and transactions, and to minimise tasks such as scanning invoices that are prone to human error.”

In a survey of 200 UK finance professionals, 82% said that poor invoice process management was impacting their teams’ ability to perform effectively and leading to low job satisfaction. Seventy per cent described processing supplier invoices as laborious and 69% said it caused frustration.

Over half of those surveyed regularly have to deal with supplier invoices issued with incorrect financial values. Wrong or missing PO numbers and non-matching line items are common problems for 37% of respondents, while 34% complained of missing VAT numbers.

Daniel Ball added: “The ramifications of not having automated invoice management processes extend beyond organisational efficiency to team morale and personal performance. The big gains, however, come from being able to reduce the cost to process a purchase order requisition through to payment, which can be in the region of £25 to £40 per order.”

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