Companies Still Struggle to Digitize Invoice Processing

Survey results indicate that companies are slow to change when it comes to digitally transforming invoice processing and other financial documents.

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Despite the increasing need to process invoices remotely as more employees are urged to work from home, the majority of companies still lag behind in automation implementation with accounts payable departments still largely processing invoices manually, according to a survey of accounting and finance professionals released by Ephesoft Inc. Key findings include:

Distributing or Processing Paper Documents

Businesses are shifting to automate their processes – especially for high-value, high-volume documents like invoices. However, survey results indicate that companies are slow to change when it comes to digitally transforming invoice processing and other financial documents.

  • Only 15% of respondents said that their organization is fully paperless, which means the majority of businesses (85%) are not.
  • Out of those who are not, just slightly over 50% are actively pursuing a paperless environment.
  • One-third (33%) of companies are predominantly paper-heavy, still far from intelligent automation.

With an average cost to process per invoice at about $15, a lack of automation is likely to keep company growth limited, leaving room for a significant increase in productivity. Modern automation has been proven to cut costs significantly, often by 80% or more, which can be reinvested in other areas.

Current Technologies

When asked whether their businesses currently have document management, workflow, AP automation, RPA or artificial intelligence technologies in place, a majority of companies report having some type of document management and workflow tools system in place, but AI applications are still underutilized. Here’s the breakdown, further showing a lack of current automation tools:

  • Less than one-third (30%) employ accounts payable automation.
  • Only 12% utilize RPA tools and just slightly less (11%) report using AI.

While these findings are understandable and relatable, Ephesoft predicts that new AI-powered low-code/no-code, cloud technology, which is evolving at a rapid pace, will remove barriers to entry into AI.

The AI Journey

When the question was posed, “What is your organization’s location on the AI journey?” the majority of responses were split with 42% saying they were in the planning stage to 40% saying they were not planning on implementing AI tools at all. This indicates a lack of awareness of modern technology and tools.

“This survey confirms that the accounting profession has lagged in adoption of newer technologies such as AI/ML, cloud and low-code/no-code architecture likely impacted by traditionally long implementation cycles and complex integrations,” said Naren Goel, chief financial officer, Ephesoft. “The accounts payable space is an ideal example where manual steps like entering invoices into an ERP system can greatly impact efficiency, so it’s exciting that we are finally starting to see innovation in this space with point solutions that are up and running in hours, eliminate manual tasks and allow accounting professionals to focus on higher value-add functions.”

We can conclude from the data that AI has still not been widely adopted, but many organizations have plans to invest in it. There are a growing number of document management, workflow, AP automation and RPA applications that are heavily ingrained in using AI, machine learning, deep learning and NLP (natural language processing) to help businesses boost efficiency and productivity. For instance, earlier this year Ephesoft launched its first low-code solution, Semantik Invoice, which helps accounting departments expedite invoice processing with the ability to deploy in minutes.

The survey on digital transformation, AI, technology and automation was conducted on Nov. 5, 2020, by Accounting Today on behalf of Ephesoft. Responses are from 200 accounting and finance professionals from 26 countries, including CEOs, CFOs partners, CIOs, CTOs, CPAs, accountants, controllers, auditors and consultants in a variety of industries, including banks, energy, government, healthcare, technology, accounting services, airlines, auto, education, large global consultancies and many others.