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Accounts Payable Automation Taking Off with UK Businesses, Says New Survey

A majority of UK businesses are planning to automate supplier invoice processing within their Account Payable (AP) function, according to a new survey from ITESOFT, the leading developer of electronic document capture and automatic invoice processing solutions.

ITESOFT's email survey of finance managers and senior AP staff in UK public and private sector companies, showed that while just over half of respondents currently do not have any form of AP / invoice automation, they have firm plans to implement it.

Of the respondents that do not have automation in place, 18.4% say they are currently implementing a project. 18.5% said they will implement automation within the next year, and 21% say automation is planned for later in 2009.

The survey also highlighted the reasons why businesses want to automate AP. When asked to name the top three pressures impacting their need to improve AP processes, 85% of respondents cited improving efficiency, with 73% stating reductions in invoice processing costs.

44% wanted to reduce the purchase-to-pay times thereby capturing early payment rebates and avoiding late-payment penalties, while just 22% named regulatory compliance as a driver.

Businesses that have automation already in place were asked what they were using. 56% were using e-invoicing; 22% were scanning and keying from a scanned image; and 22% were scanning, classifying, matching and uploading to their ERP system.

The survey also revealed the three biggest causes of invoice queries in business, which clearly show the link between efficiency gains and reducing reliance on paper-based AP processing. Although quantity or price discrepancies was named as the biggest cause by 65% of respondents, incomplete documentation (57%) and lack of purchase order (56%) scored highly, with no Goods Receipt Notes scoring 32%.

Bill Webb, UK Managing Director at ITESOFT said: “It is clear that businesses understand the benefits of automation, and are making concrete plans to deploy automation solutions to relieve pain points within their AP departments. This is incremental business value that they can rapidly realise, over and above the benefits from ERP and finance system implementations made in the last 5-10 years.

“Although most respondents say their reasons for considering automation are ongoing cost savings and efficiency gains, there are many other perceived benefits from automation such as compliance, quality and reducing the overall purchase to pay cycle.”