Accounting departments must contend with a constant influx of documents in both paper and electronic form. New invoices, purchase orders, checks and other documents arrive on a daily or even hourly basis.
Unless your department is highly organized from the start and using enterprise content management (ECM), you’re likely to lose productivity and trigger financial setbacks.
Most people in accounting are highly structured and organized. However, when you look at a typical accounting department in a small, midsize or even large company, there are three levels of productivity loss you’re likely to see:
- Shuffling mixed documents piled on a desk: When you have invoices, purchase orders and other miscellaneous documents mixed together, it’s difficult to quickly put your hands on the document you need. There’s a lot of productivity lost in the daily shuffle of papers that you’ve left on your desk because you still need to talk to somebody about it or get some additional information.
- Finding documents that have been moved elsewhere: Once a paper document leaves your desk to be filed and routed to someone else’s desk, you have a second level of productivity loss. Now, when you need to get your hands on that particular document to answer a question, you must stop what you’re doing, get up from your desk and go search for it before you’re able to proceed with your task.
- Managing review and approval processes: In almost every company, paying an invoice first requires a lot of behind-the-scenes activity. Whether that’s gathering approvals for a purchase order, finding a proof of delivery, or simply paying an invoice, these activities take significant effort, and getting approved documents back to you in a short period of time is difficult.
Even if your accounting processes are streamlined and efficient, once the paper leaves the accounting department, there’s potential for lag time and productivity losses. That’s especially true when you’re not using electronic documents and ECM tools.
These types of productivity losses in the accounting department trigger additional financial setbacks. If it currently takes you 20 or 30 days to process payments, you’re probably missing out on early payment discounts, and may even be incurring penalties for paying your vendors late.
Conversely, if you don’t have good methods for tracking accounts receivable invoices, you’re probably not going to be able to get paid on time and won’t automatically know when to charge late penalties. Additionally, if it takes you too long to process the checks when they do come in, it could result in cash flow problems.
Whether you’re talking about paper invoices arriving in the mail or electronic documents received via email, failing to handle these items efficiently results in lost productivity and lost financial opportunities.
Moving to an ECM system is a great solution to these three productivity problems. Whether you’re dealing with paper or electronic documents, the key is to get them into your ECM system as early as possible. When a person opens a paper invoice, they immediately scan in the document. Or, when you open a purchase order in an email, you press a button and automatically import it into the ECM.
From there, the ECM system indexes and sorts the documents by type, and then uses the digital workflows you’ve put in place to automatically route the documents to the right people. These documents immediately show up on the right person’s computer for easy review and additional steps. From scanning an invoice to issuing the payment, the entire process could be finished in minutes.