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November 30, 2009

Half of UK firms still rely on manual accounts

Automation could slash 80% from costs

By Vinod

Roughly half of UK firms still use manual accounts systems, missing out on the huge savings automation can bring, according to a Formscan survey.

Slightly more firms had automated the accounts payable than accounts receivable, but many were not using e-invoicing or capturing supplier invoices electronically. Formscan estimated that firms could reduce their accounts process costs up to 80% through automation.

“Cost savings come because it involves less people, paper and transport and less paper storage if you capture and back up electronically,” said Chris Haden, managing director of document solutions firm Formscan.

Not surprisingly, small to medium-sized firms were found to be less likely to have automated their accounts, but almost 30% of large firms with 5,000-plus employees also admitted that they were not fully centrally automated. Despite the patchy uptake, two-thirds of the 504 respondents acknowledged the benefits automation could bring.

“I think the problem is that the technology to do it isn’t the cheapest in the world. There is a base line cost, but over the last five, six, seven years those costs have started to make more sense. So where companies historically processed invoices in regional offices, they now want to process centrally, and that’s where the business case has a better chance of going through,” said Haden.

Haden pointed out that often companies had also put off automating their accounts because it required changes to their procedures and in some cases a lot of customisation. But as recession-gripped companies look for new ways to cut costs, accounts is now beginning to gain attention.

“It’s an opportunity for businesses to save a lot of money. A lot of people who were early adopters have a seen a lot of benefits. And you can go half way and take a hybrid approach or use cloud services,” said Haden.

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