The pandemic has certainly accelerated transformation across finance, but the need for businesses to transform hasn’t necessarily translated into action when it comes to accounts payable automation

A recent survey of accounting and finance professionals across 26 countries by Accounting Today and Ephesoft found that most companies are still using predominantly manual processes, with two-thirds processing invoices manually. 

Distributing or processing paper documents

The survey did, however, find that the shift is occurring, just very slowly. Companies are slow to change when it comes to digitally transforming invoice processing and other financial documents. 

Just 15% of respondents said that their organisation is fully paperless. Which of course means that 85% are not. Of the companies still running manual processes, slightly over 50% are actively pursuing a paperless environment. One-third of companies are predominantly paper-heavy.

The average cost to process an invoice is about £11. Without some measure of automation, companies will limit their growth and stifle productivity. 

Current technologies

The majority of companies report having some type of document management and workflow tools system in place. But AI and automation adoption is lacking. Here’s the breakdown, further showing a lack of current automation tools:

  • Less than one-third (30%) employ accounts payable automation.
  • 12% utilise RPA tools and 11% use AI.

Responses to the question ‘What is your organisation’s location on the AI journey?’ were split, with 42% saying they were in the planning stage and 40% saying they were not planning on implementing AI tools at all. 

“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, Ephesoft CFO. “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.”