Neopost recently conducted research to understand how businesses are handling the transition to digital communications. We surveyed employees with responsibility for processing invoices and receipts in organisations with turnovers of between £10 million and £100 million our findings highlight both the rapid take-up of paper-free working and how easily potential obstacles to digitisation can be overcome.
As business managers look ahead to 2016, one thing of which they can be certain is that the transition from paper-based to digital processes, already well underway in most organisations, is only going to pick up speed.
The efficiency gains that persuaded Chancellor George Osborne to allocate almost £2 billion to public sector digitisation programmes in the Autumn Statement and Spending Review are clearly understood. As is the rapid return on investment digitisation offers, with 59% of businesses in a new AIIM study1 claiming to have achieved payback from paper-free projects within just 12 months.
More than nine out of 10 respondents to the Neopost survey have already digitised (8%), or are in the process of digitising (83%), some or all of their core business processes. A further 6% are in the planning or assessment stages.
What their experience shows is that while the digitisation of core business processes presents a number of potential difficulties, from implementing new IT systems to securing employee and/or customer buy-in, these challenges are far from insurmountable. On a scale of 1 to 5, when 1 is 'not at all important' and 5 is 'extremely important', the weighted average for all the main barriers to digitisation, bar one, was around 2.5, i.e. somewhere between 'slightly important' and 'quite important'.
Issues like IT resourcing, financial resourcing, system integration, customer resistance and employee resistance need to be taken seriously, but are certainly not a reason to delay digitisation, particularly as there is such a clear understanding of its benefits. For example, the weighted average for 'lack of clarity over the benefits of digitisation' was just 1.38 – i.e. only just above 'not at all important'.
In accounts departments specifically, problems associated with digitisation are rarely encountered. When answering the question 'what are the most important issues you face when communicating with customers?’, just 3% selected 'physical-digital transition', with 8% ticking 'using multiple channels'.
These are low numbers considering the potential difficulties in aligning paper-based and digital communications and the fact that all of those surveyed already use a mixture of digital (email, electronic payment systems) and analogue channels (the phone, mail) for customer communications.
For the time being, email and the telephone are the most common methods of contacting customers. Currently, only 8% of respondents use an e-commerce payments system. However, of those that do, all use it either 'regularly' or 'mostly', suggesting that they value its benefits.
As more organisations extend their digitisation programmes and adopt e-invoicing to speed up payment and visibility, there is a good chance that the proportion that consider credit control and outstanding debtor days to be the most important issue they face in customer communications will fall from its current level of 28%.
Simply by digitising invoice delivery, a solution like Neopost Netsend can cut several days off the time it takes for an invoice to be entered into a customer's accounts payable system, resulting in faster payment and a reduction in an organisation's Day Sales Outstanding (DSO).
To find out more about how e-invoicing can help you get paid quicker, please visit www.neopost.co.uk/e-billing to read an article on the subject.
1 AIIM Industry Watch, Paper-Free Progress: measuring outcomes, 2015. www.aiim.org