Business Technology

What ROI can an SME expect on expense and invoice automation?

4 min read

25 July 2018

If you’re a decision maker looking at automating your expense or invoice processes, you probably want cold, hard evidence that it’s the best thing you could do for your business. Cold, hard evidence like the return on investment you’re likely to see.

Well, independent research recently found that one 45-employee firm estimates saving over £81k per year with SAP Concur.

This isn’t an isolated success statistic either. Across the board, the research reported that companies using automation solutions are seeing significant “hard” and “soft” returns on investment.

The research was conducted by global firm, AMI Partners. It surveyed key financial decision makers in 420 SMBs with 1-999 employees across five countries to gain insights into their spend management practices. The respondents included current users and non-users of a range of automated expense, travel, and/or invoice solutions. The survey was supplemented with in-depth interviews of firms using SAP Concur.

Here’s what the research found. It makes for compelling reading if you’re looking for reassurance around the return on investment on automation.

Automation has a direct effect on your bottom line

Businesses using travel and expense solutions say their accounts teams are seeing an average time saving of 15%. They save an average of £22,000 a year by using the tools. Per head, that’s an average of £440 per employee using the application.

For businesses using an invoice solution, the average accounts team is seeing time savings of 16%. This translates to about 40 hours each week for a team of five people. The average annual saving is £25,000 or about £800 for every 100 invoices processed.

(Interestingly, for companies using SAP Concur solutions, these averages go up. The average annual saving for a Concur Expense user is around £29,000 and it’s the same for an Concur Invoice user.)

But the financial ROI is just the start

Aside from the financial returns, there are lots of harder to measure benefits too.

Better visibility of the data

Businesses using automated solutions say they can track cashflow through the organisation more effectively, which means they can make better decisions on their spending. One SAP Concur user, a Director of Company Operations at a small financial services firm, said: “We are now able to better understand the total return on investment of working with a client, which helps us to manage workflow and gives us the ability to be more selective on the projects we work on.”

Improved compliance

Businesses using automation solutions report that employees are less likely to submit non-qualified expenses. A Fleet Manager for a large manufacturing/construction firm said: “Using the system now allows us to pick up on lack of knowledge of certain policies. Now we have a better understanding of what is acceptable and what’s not.” Automation makes preparing for audits easier too.

Scalability

For many small businesses, the trigger for automation is the fact their accounts department is sinking under the weight of the paperwork as the company grows. Happily, automation means this is no longer a problem. A key decision maker at a large technology firm using SAP Concur said: “As we continued to grow, the system just absorbed new employees. The accounting team has remained stable as the company has grown over the last 3 years.”

Next steps

The research shows that there are clear benefits to implementing automation solutions for expense and invoice. In fact, the savings are so significant you could argue that if you aren’t taking steps to harness what they have to offer, you could struggle to compete with those that are.