Time to check AP automation reward

There is a payoff to Accounts Payable (AP) automation, although a new report on AP processes for Australia and New Zealand has found that most companies do not benchmark their productivity at all and are unaware of their true productivity levels.

The survey of more than 400 companies found a huge disparity in productivity rates, although automation of the AP process has a significant impact on the cost to process an invoice, reducing them by up to 25%.

“There were dramatic differences between the lowest performing companies and the highest performing companies,” said Richard Bates, Managing Director of Scan Conversion Services, the survey sponsor.

“But the most telling result was that the vast majority of companies do not benchmark their productivity at all and are unaware of productivity levels except to visually assess that ‘people look busy'.”

Bates said that finance staff were typically besieged by data.

“They spend most of their time processing, chasing and filing invoices,” Mr Bates said. “Coupled with the increased skills shortages and increased incidence of fraud, this is a high pressure environment with little time left for analysis of business performance.”

The survey found that the average number of invoices processed per month by an AP staff member with little automation, and irrespective of organisation size, is 503. The survey found that the number of invoices processed by an organisation is not directly proportional to the number of staff within the accounts payable department or company turnover.

"This number does not compare favourably with individual AP staff productivity as the survey illustrates that departments with only one staff member have an average of 849 invoices processed per person."

The Accounts Payable Benchmark Report looks at the impact of different levels of automation in finance organisations, including the role of automation in preventing fraud.

“Our own and other studies found that staff could be wasting as much as two thirds of their time processing information that requires no action,” said Bates.

“CFOs tell us they want to reduce their time spent on processing and increase their time analysing, yet the report shows that most are s till mired in transactional mode. We sponsored this study to assist CFOs to drive change and achieve best practice.”

A total of 411 of companies, ranging in size from 1-50 employees through to 351-400 employees, responded to the survey, with the results available at www.accountspayable.net.au/benchmark.html or phone (08) 8227 0877.