Only 5% of UK businesses have fully automated AP processes: survey

Ninety-five per cent of UK organisations are still using paper and manual data entry in their finance function, with only 5% describing their accounts payable (AP) processes as ‘fully automated’, according to a new survey by business automation software provider V1. 

V1 surveyed senior finance and IT professionals across a range of industries to find out about their use of technology. While the vast majority said that their AP processes were still paper-based (48%) or semi-automated (47%), this figure looks set to shrink as 58% are planning to increase automation with a further 39% considering doing so. 

According to APQC, a research firm that specialises in benchmarking and performance improvement, labour costs typically consume 62% 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%.

Janette Martin, Managing Director – V1, says, “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% are planning on or considering increasing automation in AP processes to unlock efficiencies.”

The survey also revealed that the majority of organisations have yet to introduce mobile technology into the finance function, with only 22% having the capability to perform tasks such as authorising invoices on mobile devices. However, 40% said they were planning to introduce mobile capability in the near future, while 37% said they were considering it.

Greater efficiency was recognised by half of the respondents as the main benefit of using mobile AP processes. Just under a quarter (24%) said that mobile functionality would benefit them by accelerating invoice approvals, with 22% 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.”