If your team is still processing invoices by hand, we get it—change can be scary. But as your business grows, relying on paper and manual processes will only slow things down. More suppliers, inbound invoices, and complexities make it easy for errors and duplicates to creep in. Not to mention the delays in payment that hold up your cash flow!
Many of our clients share the same frustrations. In fact, research shows that 90% of CFOs want to modernize manual invoice processing. It was considered one of the top business processes that required improvement in 2023.
Luckily, today's digital tools make streamlining your invoicing flow easier and more accessible than ever. In this article, we'll walk through five signs it may be time to upgrade your invoicing, so that you can see the real-world impact of an invoicing system that's falling behind. We'll also share real-world examples of how small changes can make a big productivity impact. The goal is to help you streamline processes, avoid errors, and get paid faster. Sound good? Let's go!
I. Lost or Misplaced Invoices
Even if your company uses fancy financial systems, chances are some suppliers still mail you plain old paper invoices. These might get dumped in the mail room until someone in Accounts Payable finally sorts through those bins. After hunting down the right customer file, your poor AP clerk has to manually enter all that data.
With thousands of pages to handle monthly, invoices routinely get shuffled around misfiled folders. AP personnel waste tracking down these buried documents just to get payments going.
But when invoices get lost, your company misses out on early payment discounts while allowing late fees to stack up quickly. Suppliers waiting on payments might hold off future shipments or increase pricing as a result of your disorganization. What seems like a temporary slip up actually risks revenue and relationships.
Luckily, new tools make it easier than ever to go digital and eliminate all these frictions. Mobile capture, email submissions, and EDI connections let you access invoice data instantly without the paperwork. Optical character recognition can automatically pull invoice details into your accounting system too. No more shuffling papers or manually entering numbers!
Switching to digital makes invoice management so much smoother. Your AP team can focus on more valuable work, suppliers get paid faster, and those revenue risks disappear. It's a win-win for your business's bottom line and relationships! Let us know if you'd like help transitioning off paper invoices.
II. Duplicating Data Across Financial Systems
With disjointed workflows and disconnected enterprise software systems, teams often end up entering invoice details manually in multiple places- such as procurement software, inventory databases, accounting platforms, and payment engines.
This repetitive administrative work bloats processing costs with additional labor. Additionally, it creates the possibility for typos, duplicates, miscategorizations, and missing information needing corrections. All of these stall downstream approvals and extend the time it takes to make a payment. As invoice complexity and total volumes increase, it just means even more documents that need reworking.
Connecting core financial operations through modernization and unified digital workflows smoothes data sharing across integrated ERPs. Automated booking validates contract details, so specialists handle just true exceptions.
By eliminating manual re-entry across disconnected systems, businesses reduce labor costs and errors that delay payments. Streamlined workflows with integrated systems and automation enable clean, consistent invoice data sharing. This saves time, speeds approvals, and improves supplier relations.
III. Invoice Reconciliation Challenges
Even with unified systems, mismatches often pop up— usually between purchase orders, inventory receipts, project costs, and final supplier invoices. These all need a human's effort to identify the mismatch and reconcile issues in order to approve invoices for final payment.
This can mean AP staff can spend days sorting through paperwork and corresponding with multiple business departments before compiling information for payment release. These delays push out vendor payments, meaning you've lost your early payment discounts.
Smart matching algorithms can auto-validate invoices against contracted rates, expected totals, and defined variance thresholds. This removes noise and paperwork to accelerate cycle times and capture discounts.
By automatically flagging only true mismatches outside tolerance levels, intelligent matching simplifies reconciliation work for AP. It fast-tracks invoice processing to maximize vendor discounts and incentives. Removing the busywork of chasing down discrepancies across systems and departments lets staff focus on more strategic tasks.
IV. Lack of Visibility During Approval Stages
Internal payment workflows get held up when authority chains across siloed business units are unclear.
Without visibility into required sign-offs or who oversees specific spending, high-value invoices stall awaiting formal approval chains. This delays payments.
Digital routing tools integrated with centralized hubs instantly notify all people in defined workflows and track approvals across a company. Configurable rules set by the CFO automatically forward invoices to leaders based on accounts, locations, geographies, or budgets.
Automated routing eliminates ambiguity in internal approval chains. Digital tools provide transparency into who must sign off on what spend. Invoice approvals are accelerated by automatically sending them to the right people in the right sequence. CFO-configured rules ensure the right leaders oversee the right payments. Removing approval chain guesswork speeds up workflows and critical vendor payments!
V. Sudden Spike in Processing Costs
Invoice processing is often seen as non-strategic, and many CFOs underestimate costs until company growth begins to unveil broader issues.
Reliance on manual workflows quietly inflates expenses as invoice and labor volumes spike across suppliers, eating into margins.
Studies indicate enterprises spend around $14 to manually process an invoice, compared to between $1-$2 with software automation. Those costs can multiply into hundreds of thousands of dollars in preventable financial leakage, depending on your company's average annual invoice inflow.
Rather than just operations, evaluating automation's hard ROI drives investment decisions. Digital tools provide instant invoice access without paperwork, route approvals in seconds instead of days, and resolve exceptions 90% faster—all while cutting costs.
The bottom line is that manual workflows silently bloat expenses as volumes increase. But automation delivers measurable returns, from slashed processing costs to accelerated approvals. Evaluating the ROI rather than just operations helps build the case for automation investments. The numbers don't lie - going digital cuts costs and speeds workflows.
Signs Your Organization Needs Invoice Automation
If these challenges sound familiar, it may be time to consider automation. Small pilot projects can show quick wins like saving wasted time, reducing redundant labor costs, and redeploying staff to strategic work. Those gains help fund larger rollouts.
Processing high invoice volumes manually puts companies at a real disadvantage compared to rivals using automation. Partnering with experts unlocks modern, seamless workflows to empower your back office as uncertainty grows.
The bottom line? Invoice automation is becoming crucial to stay competitive and fuel growth. The numbers and efficiency gains speak for themselves. And automation partners provide the knowledge you need to transform workflows.
Upgrading invoicing processes may seem daunting, but the payoff makes it very worthwhile. Intelligent automation can unlock game-changing productivity, savings, and strategic advantages. Take that first step with a pilot - you may be surprised how quickly the benefits add up.
We help leading B2B companies to improve supplier pricing and invoicing processes to strengthen visibility, cycle times, accuracy and their bottom line. We work with your current systems to identify the right processes and reduce wasteful ones, build secure and stable automated workflows, and bridge the gap between new and existing systems. If you have struggled with invoice processing and you’re noticing a hit on your bottom line, reach out to our professionals. Set up a time to talk to our team and learn more about how you can work faster and scale invoicing operations across your organization.