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Moving Accounting Functions to Electronic Workflow Saves Countless Hours, Millions of Dollars


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So far, moving accounting processes into the electronic workflow is more than living up to the cost and time saving promises.

George Smith, general manager for the value chain at CONSOL Energy, has different responsibilities from those of Mark Taylor,  who is the financial accounting manager for the Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

But CONSOL Energy and the Sunshine Coast Regional Council each used to have one similar and major issue in common: managing finances.

"The Council required a solution to streamline its accounts payable department and create a more efficient way to collect and record invoices and dMoving accounting functions to electronic workflow saves countless hours, millions of dollarsocuments that would create easier and more effective business practices," Taylor said in a statement, according to Image & Data Manager.

The Sunshine Coast Regional Council processes more than 150,000 supplier invoices annually, which translates to about 13,000 per month. Not surprisingly, this posed a major challenge when the organization was conducting these processes manually, as even scanning the invoices into the system was difficult.

CONSOL Energy had similar problems with its manual invoicing functions, Sharedserviceslink.com reported, which led to poor collaboration and high transactional costs.

In response to what were becoming unworkable barriers, CONSOL Energy and the Council both decided to move their accounting functions into the electronic workflow.

"Primarily, this allowed us to put in electronic order to invoice processes so everything was linked up from procurement to finance," Smith said, according to Sharedserviceslink.com. "We were also able to integrate electronic catalogs, which halted any disputes over pricing, increasing spend compliance."

Analyzing the results

Smith and Taylor voiced concerns over the amount of time their previous manual invoicing processes took, which caused their companies to accumulate massive labor and operating costs. But would invoice automation really be able to solve those problems?

Business 2 Community highlighted the results of a recent Aberdeen Research study, titled "Invoicing and Workflow." The prominent findings include:

  • The average company requires 9.7 days to process an invoice, each of which costs $15.61.
  • For organizations that use best practices, such as automation, each invoice takes 3.8 days to process and costs $3.09.
  • Companies that have adopted invoice automation and document imagining workflow spend 21 percent less in costs to process invoices.

All of that points to these tools as being no-brainer investments, but at the end of the day the Aberdeen study is just that - a study. That doesn't necessarily mean those findings will translate to real life improvements, right?

Well, for Sunshine Coast Regional Council, those benefits certainly came to fruition.

"Staff time savings and increased job satisfaction are significant," Taylor said. "Efficiencies have increased due to the reduction in time spent sorting mail, scanning documents and printing. Now the Council's liaison officers are able to prioritize their work easily in workflow."

So far, CONSOL achieved a great ROI by saving $65 million from its investment, while boosting its first-time match rate from 40 percent to 96 percent.

And for the Council, it's been more of the same. Taylor said the company has developed an automated system where "initiated checks have replaced some manual checks, therefore making these checks more reliable and efficient." This has enabled employees to save around 40 hours simply by not having to review and process invoices, according to Taylor.

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