b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_103672115.jpgStudies show that best-in-class companies outperform other businesses by automating their invoicing processes, and other key business processes, with document imaging and workflow systems.

According to Aberdeen Research’s “Invoicing and Workflow” study, businesses that automate their account payable operations reap significant advantages—including processing their invoices significantly faster and at much lower cost.

For companies that fail to automate, the study found, “Paper invoices and manual processing continue to hamper accounts payable operations, keeping suppliers in the dark and failing to give Finance the visibility it needs to actively manage organizations’ cash positions.”

Best-in-class companies, on the other hand, overcome this impediment by pursuing “comprehensive accounts payable automation to drive continued performance improvement.” The end goal is to maximize the impact of automation on all accounts payable processes, from receipt to scanning to approval workflow through payment.

How well does automation improve invoicing operations? According to Aberdeen’s research, best-in-class companies outperform their peers by a considerable margin, taking 3.8 days and a cost of $3.09 to process an invoice vs. the industry average (middle 50%) of 9.7 days and $15.61 per invoice. For the bottom 30%, it takes 20.08 days at a cost of $38.77 per invoice.

Respondents who implemented document imaging and workflow automation reported 21% lower invoice processing costs than others, while also securing early payment discounts on more than twice the number of transactions. Further improvements, the study found, can be gained from integration with back-end financial and ERP systems and the use of performance-monitoring dashboards.

A Surge in Workflow Deployment

Aberdeen Research’s findings jibe with those of PayStream Advisors’ latest “Invoice and Workflow Automation” survey, which showed that “electronic invoicing and automated workflow are both experiencing increased adoption, as more companies strive to migrate from a manual paper-based invoice system to an efficient automated system.”

As PayStream Advisors notes, “Skeptics may still doubt the ROI of automated approval workflow, but it is getting harder to defend that position in the face of the facts.”

PayStream Advisors’ study, which surveyed 500 accounts payable professionals, showed that the top three financial automation technologies that have been most useful include eInvoicing, workflow, and front-end imaging/OCR.  Electronic invoicing and automated workflow are the top automation goals for accounts payable in 2013, the study showed.

The number-one benefit cited for approval workflow was the quicker approval of invoices (76 percent), while one-half were able to increase employee productivity, and nearly 60% reported lower processing costs.

As PayStream Advisors notes, invoice processing can be expensive and time consuming when performed using manual processes and paper documents, while electronic invoicing and automated workflow can lower costs and speed up processing.

Overall, more than one-half of companies that adopted eInvoicing solutions cited a reduction in labor or processing costs and faster approval cycles as key system benefits, as well as greater visibility into spending, improved cash management, and an increased ability to capitalize on early-payment discounts.

As workflow technology becomes easier to deploy and more affordable, including software-as-a-service offerings, more businesses are able to obtain the benefits. As PayStream Advisors reported, “The market for electronic invoicing and automated workflow continues to open up as adoption trickles down from large organizations to small and medium enterprises.”

To learn more about workflow and how it could help your business improve its document processing, contact the experts at Imaging Solutions.