Accounts Payable SMBs and their pain points

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1 Accounts Payable SMBs and their pain points A survey of Finance departments in small and medium-sized businesses in Europe Canon (UK) Ltd Canon (UK) Ltd Canon Ireland canon.co.uk Woodhatch Reigate Surrey RH2 8BF 3006 Lake Drive Citywest, Saggart Co Dublin Ireland Telephone: Fax: Telephone: Fax: Canon Ireland canon.ie Canon (UK) Ltd 2012

2 Conclusions Accounts Payable processes present a major opportunity for improvement for SMB Finance departments in Europe. These processes can have a direct impact on business performance in the form of impaired cash flow visibility and sub-optimal purchasing behaviour. There is also a significant impact on the efficient running of the Finance function, with skilled people s time taken up by unskilled admin tasks. With less time to add value, Finance can come to be seen as a cost centre. The slow flow of payment information is due to long processing times. Three quarters of SMBs take ten days or more to process their invoices. And six per cent take an average of over 30 days. But CFOs and Finance Directors do have an appetite for change 35 per cent of SMBs are looking to buy software-based solutions that would help streamline and automate their Accounts Payable processes. However, while many have adopted some form of automation for their finance processes, many are unable to get the full benefits from them with over 70 per cent still experiencing problems. Too often, these new systems are only used partially and are not sufficiently integrated with other software. Successful automation requires a more joined-up approach. In your view, what would be the main benefit for you from automating some or all of your accounts processes? Base of 398 Drive productivity / efficiency 45% Reduce costs 24% Better manage cash flow 20% Maintain compliance and mitigate fraud 6% Better manage supplier relationships 5% Accounts Payable optimised by Canon Canon provides simple, targeted solutions built around SMBs Accounts Payable requirements. Using a smarter combination of technology and business process expertise, we help you get the benefits of a fully integrated automated solution. More information You can find out more about Accounts Payable solutions that are specially designed for SMBs by visiting canon.co.uk/accountspayable. Or you can arrange an informal scoping meeting with a Canon representative to see how a simple solution could be applied to your organisation by calling or Invoice data capturing Check & match data Approvals Pay Archive Receive invoice in multiple formats Digitise index prioritise Match PO, supplier, currency, vat Check, flag exceptions automatically Multiple approvers multiple channels Resolve queries quickly Approve Pay, export data to ERP & create reports Archive & analyse Payment visibility & transparency 11

3 Executive summary The situation SMBs across Europe continue to face a tough and unpredictable environment. Many business leaders are looking to squeeze costs further, and concentrate resources on core business activity. And with credit still expensive and difficult to come by, SMBs need to manage cash flow especially carefully. SMB finance departments can add a lot of value in this turbulent economic landscape, getting more from supplier relationships, identifying efficiencies and growth opportunities in the business, and controlling and forecasting cash flow closely. But significant process challenges in the finance function are preventing many of them from achieving this. The benefits of change The challenges Many finance departments are restricted by documentheavy processes that result in skilled professionals spending time on repetitive, unskilled tasks. A significant number are unable to find information quickly or even at all. This slow information flow limits Finance s ability to add value and can position it as a cost centre in the business. Currently, around two-fifths of Finance departments have no workflow automation, even more in smaller companies, where the tight management of cash flow is critical. Finance departments are taking action, with over 75% already looking for software to automate or streamline their processes. They identify Accounts Payable as a key area for process improvement, still dominated by paper and manual inputs. The opportunities for improvement within Accounts Payable are numerous: Control and visibility of cash flow through faster access to payment information. Cost and efficiency savings less time spent on manual processing, fewer errors and disputes, less time searching for or ordering replacement documents. Better supplier relations improved visibility can reduce lost discounts and exposure to late payment penalties, and make it easier to spot inefficient purchasing behaviour. Higher workplace satisfaction cutting the number of unrewarding, time-consuming and repetitive tasks. Improved transparency thanks to more complete audit trails, fewer lost documents and tracked, attributed changes. The importance of integration The research suggests that SMB finance departments that implement the right mix of integrated technology and process improvements will give their businesses a significant advantage over their competitors. Whatever finance processes are involved, integration is vital solutions that are adopted or applied in isolation can underperform. Staff morale An unexpected benefit of automation is the improvement in staff morale by reducing repetitive, low-end tasks, so that people are able to undertake more challenging analysis and investigative work. Daily time spent by department...retyping incorrect invoice info in the AP system. Base of 361 Errors 0-10 mins mins mins >61 mins Transparency Accounts Payable automation provides transparency and a complete record of past transactions allowing targeted analysis to reduce discrepancies and improve efficiencies. Correcting errors manually slows down the process, with 46 per cent of Finance departments spending more than 10 minutes per day retyping incorrect invoice information into the Accounts Payable system. Around four per cent spend more than an hour per day. Lost invoices The majority of Finance professionals interviewed (53 per cent) report losing at least two per cent of invoices, requiring a duplicate to be created, while eight per cent lose at least one in ten of their invoices. Losing track of payment information can have serious implications for transparency, caused by the lack of a clear audit trail. Accuracy 54% 9% Supplier relations Dealing with supplier calls and queries consumes a lot of time in the Accounts Payable process. Around one in three receive more than 10 invoice payment enquiries every day. That translates into more than 2,500 enquiries every year. * Over a third spend more than half an hour each day on these tasks which works out at 11 hours per month, almost eight per cent of a typical employee s working time. * New supplier set-up also takes up significant time even for those businesses with some automation. A third of these spend more than 15 minutes setting up a new supplier, while six per cent say setting up new suppliers takes more than an hour. Cost 33% 4% Accounts Payable processes are an important area of opportunity for cost and efficiency savings. Skilled professionals are still spending significant time on unskilled work, chasing and retyping information, correcting errors and dealing with supplier disputes. Slow cash flow information (75 per cent of Finance departments have a picture of their payments that is 10 days behind) could be impairing Finance s ability to maintain more efficient purchasing regimes. Automation is a major contributor to error reduction in Accounts Payable. A simple transposition error can cause significant problems and take substantial time to uncover. Automation avoids human errors that arise from fatigue or distraction. 4 * Calculation based on 22 working days per month, and an average work day of seven hours 9

4 Daily time spent by department responding to supplier enquiries/calls. Base of % 18% Introduction 0-10 mins mins mins >61 mins The solutions Across Europe, two-fifths of SMBs have no workflow automation for Accounts Payable processes. But overall, 35 per cent of SMBs are looking to buy software that would help streamline and automate their AP processes. That number is even higher in sectors that deal with high volumes of paper documents: 53 per cent of engineering companies, 50 per cent of utilities companies and 38 per cent of banking and finance companies are looking for such software. The survey showed a sense of urgency around the challenge 77 per cent of those interested in Accounts Payable software expected to make the purchase within one year. The main benefits that they expect from their investment are: Tighter management of their cash flow. Improved efficiency and productivity. Lower operating costs. A profile of the top performers Accounts Payable automation is now helping many organisations back offices to operate more efficiently and effectively. Research from shows how the top performers have a number of characteristics in common. * High utilisation of shared-services operating models for Accounts Payable processing. High utilisation-based automated workflow solutions to effectively manage the flow of electronic invoice data and images through the organisation for required approval and authorisation for payment. Elimination of paper invoice receipt from suppliers and a transition to higher levels of invoice automation. Average top performers receive per cent of total invoices electronically from suppliers. 37% 16% Room for improvement The proportion of companies without an automated invoice process and no plans to introduce one is alarming and represents a significant opportunity for improvement. Automate for top performance The majority of top performers from respondents of the APPI *, in excess of 85 per cent, deploy a rules-based automated workflow solution to effectively manage the flow of electronic invoice data and images through the organisation for required approval and authorisation for payment. High usage of Automated/Evaluated Receipt Settlement (especially in manufacturing and product and goods intensive Accounts Payable environments). Average top performers still use ERS/ARS for more than ten per cent of invoice volume. High utilisation of advanced data capture, document scanning, and optical character recognition (OCR) for initial digitisation and conversion of paper invoices into electronic data. Effective deployment of purchasing card programs, P-cards, to empower employees to efficiently make low-value, non-recurring purchases from infrequently utilised suppliers. Average top performers utilise P-cards to displace six to eight per cent of invoice volume. Use of electronic-based catalogues for web-based purchasing and electronic settlement (P-cards or ERS) with strategic suppliers for contract priced recurring and high-volume transactional activity. Who is this white paper for? This white paper has been created for finance leaders in small to medium businesses across Europe using research conducted in six countries. What will you get from it? An up-to-date overview of the challenges facing Finance departments in SMBs today and the opportunities for improvement that exist in the Accounts Payable process. A snapshot of the pain points where current processes and systems could be improved through new software and automation solutions. An overview of the solutions that different organisations are adopting and a review of how effective they have been in improving cash flow management, boosting employee satisfaction and efficiencies, and reducing errors. Canon invests time to talk to our customers and fully understands what their organisation wants to achieve. It allows us to develop business solutions that can help them focus on their core business and boost their bottom line. We help our customers take control of and streamline business-critical functions, such as Accounts Payable, to support future growth and profitability. Antonio Recio, Head of Business Imaging Group, Executive Vice-President, Canon Europe Ltd About the research 524 online interviews conducted across six countries, in October 2011 Insight from Finance and accounting professionals in SMBs 61% of SMBs interviewed had employees The research partners Canon has been at the forefront of imaging and document technology for over 40 years. As information flow has become faster and more complex, Canon s role has evolved to include essential business processes. Our expertise in facilitating efficient working practices now helps organisations around Europe to get the most out of their technology. serves as a global voice, chief advocate, recognised authority, acknowledged leader, and principal educator for people in financial operations, with a particular focus on accounts payable, accounts receivable, payments, procure-to-pay, automation, data capture and document management. RS Consulting is a global research agency operating in over 30 countries across five continents. Its experienced researchers provide quality intelligence to some of the world s largest technology companies and government departments. We are committed to developing bestin-class financial operations through the education and development of staff with a globally recognised professional qualification. This survey has identified several opportunities where effectiveness and efficiency can be improved. Jo E. LaBorde, Executive Director, 10 * The Accounts Payable Productivity Index: benchmarking research commissioned by, February,

5 Ways forward for Accounts Payable The situation The Accounts Payable function in SMBs is still dominated by high volumes of paper and manual intervention. Most of this is down to invoice processing, dealing with supplier queries and setting up new suppliers. 76 per cent say at least half their invoices arrive in paper format. Three quarters of invoices take 10 days or more to be processed, with six per cent taking more than 30 days. Despite these pressures, only 39 per cent of SMBs have automated invoice processing solutions in place, and only 14 per cent have integrated their solution with their ERP system. What % of your invoices arrive in paper format? Base of % 11% 7% 19% <20% 20-29% 30-49% 50-75% >75% 6% The challenges A number of challenges in the Accounts Payable process can have an important impact on business performance. Slow invoice processing caused by errors, lost documents and complicated supplier relations means poor visibility of cash flow and purchasing behaviour. Late payments can lead to lost discounts or latepayment penalties. There is a likely knock-on effect on reporting too, with more time spent searching for and entering information and higher margins of error. More time spent on admin tasks also impacts on the efficiency of the Finance function adding to its reputation as a cost centre. Reporting In a recent co-produced study, Global Trends in Data Capture in AP, automated technologies are making reporting requirements much easier for 40 per cent of respondents from European-based organisations. Reduced costs In a recent study on Data Capture in AP, 62 per cent of respondents from Europeanbased organisations using automated data capture technologies report costs reduced by up to 25 per cent. Information management in SMB Finance departments: the big picture Framing the problem The document-heavy processes that Finance departments manage require skilled labour but they are often repetitive, high-output activities. A significant majority of Finance departments still struggle with manual, inefficient processes that have little or no effective integration. Many lose valuable time chasing information, correcting errors or ordering duplicate documents. Finance professionals spend on average more than half-an-hour a day looking for work-related information like documents, s or web pages. Frequently they don t have the documents they need available to hand. Visibility We are seeing a growing need for more and better information across all aspects of business activity, and it is essential that this information can be easily extracted and reliably reported. There is also a growing internal need as we need to analyse our processes and procedures to drive costs down. How often do you fail to find necessary information on paper, local drives, shared drives, intranets, or archives? Base of 512 How much time per day do you spend looking for work-related information? (e.g. paper documents, s, internet, web pages etc.) Base of % 12% 40% 16% 6% Average: mins 30% 9% 9% 17% <10 mins mins mins mins mins mins >121 mins 6% What is the average time taken in your organisation to approve and process an invoice? Base of 447 Average: 5-9% 18% 16% 10% 8% 14% 34% 6% 9% 27% 8% <5% of time 5-9% of time 10-19% of time 20-29% of the time 30-49% of the time >50% of the time <5 days 5-7 days 8-9 days days days days >30 days 8 5

6 Framing the problem continued... A number of key Finance processes are causing problems a third of these involve Accounts Payable activity like invoice processing and supplier set-up. Lost documents and errors are a serious challenge. Seven out of ten Finance professionals say at least one Finance process causes them problems, resulting in misplaced documents and errors. 79 per cent think automating at least one of their processes would bring significant benefits. This proportion is higher in paper-heavy sectors and among more senior Finance professionals. How SMBs are responding SMBs are searching for solutions. Over half of SMBs surveyed have installed document management systems, ERP systems or process automation software to improve their finance and accounting processes. Companies that implemented a document management system reported good results: 78 per cent say it delivered cost savings, 80 per cent say it cut the need to print documents, and 86 per cent think it has improved security. For those using process automation software, the picture is similar. 78 per cent believe the software has improved relationships with key stakeholders and 84 per cent say that the software has led to cost reductions. Over three quarters are looking for a software-based solution to help automate or streamline some or all of their finance and accounting processes. The main benefits they expect from such a solution are improved productivity and efficiency, followed by lower costs and improved cash flow management. Which processes cause you the most hassle? Base of 524 Is your organisation looking to purchase software that would help automate and streamline any of the following? Base of 524 Staff expenses 24% Invoice processing 23% Auditing 20% Accounts received 15% Payroll 14% New supplier set-up 11% Other 3% Accounts Payable Staff expenses Other accounting functions Accounts received Payroll Not looking to buy software 35% 35% 34% 33% 32% 24% How often would you say documents are not available for immediate reference when needed? Base of % 23% 8% Average: 5-9% <5% of time 5-9% of time 10-19% of time 20-29% of the time 30-49% of the time >50% of the time 22% 14% 4% Integration makes the difference To get the full benefits of document automation, SMBs need to integrate. Document management solutions and process automation cannot solve all the problems on their own. 74 per cent of those with a document management solution and 71 per cent of those with process automation software still find some of their paper-based processes problematic. Only a very small proportion of Finance departments have a fully integrated and automated Accounts Payable process. 6 7

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