The Great Technology Misconception: New Survey Reveals Invoice Automation Not The Silver Bullet Companies Expect

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To obtain a clear picture of current invoice processing practices and trends in the US, AP Now’s 2016 Invoice Processing Survey explores current practices related to the handling of invoices, the use of automation and the problems companies have in this area as plans for the future. The results reveal little difference in the amount of problems experienced by those using technology and those still entrenched in manual processes.

The latest accounts payable research from AP Now reveals there’s a long way to go before invoice processing will be completely or almost-completely automated. In an exhaustive survey of how companies are currently processing invoices AP Now discovered that adoption of invoice automation by accounts payable departments remains stubbornly low and even those companies that do adopt it find many problems are not eliminated as they expected. There were a number of unanticipated outcomes from the survey data as detailed below.

Finding #1: Invoice automation does not equate to fewer problems. You would expect that companies who had automated their invoice processing would have far fewer problems in their accounts payable function than those remained steadfastly entrenched in a manual paper-based process. Alas, according to a new study just released by AP Now, this is just not the case. It was one of several unexpected insights gained from this investigation. Companies that are highly automated have only slightly less problems with their invoice processing.

“Perhaps,” says Mary Schaeffer, president of AP Now, the survey’s sponsor, “companies who purchase technology to handle their accounts payable and payment functions simply have unrealistic expectations about what technology and automation can do for their processes.” Technology is not the silver bullet that makes all related operational problems disappear. People do not miraculously improve their behavior once technology enters the picture. Vendors that produce inaccurate invoices continue to do so. Employees who dragged their feet when it comes time to review and approve invoices will continue to make that task a low priority.

Finding #2: Data entry is alive and well. While technology definitely helps the accounts payable process, it is not a magic wand that casts a silver spell alleviating other operational issues. Interestingly, the need for manual data entry is still high. Automation may take away some of the manual efforts needed but it doesn’t come close to eliminating that task. “Data entry has long plagued accounts payable departments and little has changed in this regard,” says Recharged Education’s Lynn Larson, the lead researcher on this project. Over three-quarters of the survey participants (78%) of respondents report manual data entry for at least three-quarters of invoices.

Finding #3: Email plays a key and growing role in invoice delivery. Probably most illuminating, was the explosion of emailed invoices seen across virtually every organization. Over one-third the respondents indicated they were receiving the majority of their invoices by email. This is in stark contrast to just a few short years ago. It also reveals a dramatic change in the way invoices are sent from vendor to customer. It is expected this trend will continue, effectively removing the post office from the process of invoice delivery. This in many ways emulates what has long been going on in the consumer market, where individuals choice not to receive paper bills.

An executive summary of the results of the survey can be had by emailing publisher(at)ap-now(dot)com with the words “Invoice Survey Executive Summary” in the subject line. More information can be found about the entire Invoice Processing survey here.

About AP Now’s 2016 Invoice Processing Survey
The purpose of AP Now’s 2016 Invoice Processing Survey was to determine how companies are handling invoices, how much automation they are using in that process, what strategies companies are using to process their B2B invoices today and what their plans are for the future. Respondents also shared tested tactics that have helped them successfully make the move away from paper.

About the AP Now, the Survey’s Sponsor
AP Now is a private, member-based, resource for those serious about accounts payable, procure-to-pay, payments and all related issues. Within the private, members-only area, is a comprehensive source of in-depth information on topics related to the accounts payable process. It includes the most current business intelligence impacting the accounts payable process. AP Now also creates e-Learning programs and live and online lectures. For additional information about AP Now’s free and paid memberships go to

Reproduction is permitted provided the source is acknowledged. Contact marys(at)ap-now(dot)com or call 302.836.0540 for more in-depth information, to read the full 25-page report or to arrange an interview.

Media Contact
Mary Schaeffer
302 836 0540

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