by Tim Rowe, Microsoft Practice Lead at Delaware UK
Complex and unwieldy finance and taxation processes are common sources of frustration for many organisations, especially ones set on a rapid growth path. They absorb time and resource and can even put the brakes on business activity. Outdated legacy systems and outmoded manual processes still hold sway in many businesses and this can lead to long, protracted sign-off procedures and bottlenecks in accounts payable.
In line with this, a recent global survey carried out by the Institute of Financial Operations and Leadership (IFOL) found that more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents polled still manually key in invoices into their ERP or accounting software today. In addition, well over half (56%) claimed to spend more than ten hours per week processing supplier payments and invoices manually. Nearly a quarter (22%) stated that one of their biggest invoice processing challenges was time spent processing invoice exceptions and the consequent delays caused.
This can be a particularly significant challenge in a fast-growing business, where the numbers of invoices needing processing can rapidly escalate in a short space of time. Problems can accelerate when a business starts selling their goods or services internationally and they have to start navigating complex taxation rules in different countries.
You might be a UK business for example, working with an agency in Middle East that is selling tickets for an event in a different region. The sales tax treatment in such cases is not always straightforward. The time spent unravelling it and ensuring compliance with all the necessary rules and regulations could seriously hamper the business operation.
Bureaucratic financial processes like these can put a real block on growth. There are a raft of reasons why companies that persist with them should think about moving to a smarter, technology driven, automated approach: from reducing errors to saving money and becoming more sustainable.
Finding a positive way forward
The good news today is that automated solutions are increasingly available that enable businesses to break free from slow, error-prone manual processes and instead drive ongoing business growth.
Thanks to the advent of zero-touch vendor invoice processing, and global tax services, delivered by providers like Microsoft, a raft of functionality can be rapidly delivered, streamlining approvals and accelerating business expansion.
With this kind of capability in place, the purchase ledger, or accounts payable department of the business can spark into action as soon as they receive a supplier invoice. Those invoices can automatically converted into a digital version and passed to Dynamics 365 Finance with the original invoice as an attachment. Dynamics 365 would then automatically apply business rules to confirm compliance with delivery receipts / invoice tolerances and present itself ready for payment without any human intervention – zero touch.
In terms of disparate tax rules in different territories, an automated global tax service can be put in place that addresses the nuances of any tax regime in real-time. So as the business is raising a purchase order or a sales order, for instance, the automated service is dynamically working out what the real tax treatment should be for that particular scenario.
Reaping the rewards
By opting for the latest automated tools for financial processes like invoice management, or tax services, businesses can potentially access a wide range of benefits. A more automated approach will, for example, enable them to win back time by reducing the time needed for data entry, exception management and the resolution of billing discrepancies and approvals. That will, in turn, allow businesses to give their accounts payable team more time to work on added-value projects, or tasks.
Critically too, such an approach allows organisation to save money, cutting the cost of invoice processed or tax document analysed to collect faster and boost cash flow. Coupled with that, the ability to attain a real-time, accurate view of the business’s cash position supports smart payment and investment decisions. Audits become much easier with built-in data verification and quality assurance, and suppliers are happier, thanks to the ability to deliver faster and more accurate payments.
Perhaps most, important of all, however, a smart automated approach to financial transactions has the potential to streamline and drive efficiencies across previously bureaucratic processes, enabling organisations of all types to more easily scale and drive successful business growth.