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Time to take the ring binders out of the finance office
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How Rapid Pictures eliminated paper from finance

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In a recent webinar with AccountingWEB, finance manager Sue Sharp shared her experiences of implementing a paperless accounts payable automation system.

7th Sep 2022
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Sue Sharp has been financial controller at Rapid Pictures for four years. During that time, the company added a post-production subsidiary, and at the start of this year, a new studio facility.

Looking back at the beginning of 2022, Sharp told viewers of the recent Turbocharge your finance function webinar that having to look after another entity was the final straw. “This is when I decided we needed to change the way we do our accounting,” she said.

Sharp currently handles around 200 invoices a month, which is likely to climb up to 300 as studio bookings increase. Most of the invoices come in by email on a Monday morning. She used to print them out and put them aside for her records and forward the invoices to different managers for approval. When the approvals came back, she had to shuffle through the invoices to find them and often send them on to the next manager for approval.

“There was so much paperwork floating around my desk, as we started to become much busier, it was becoming a problem,” she said. “I spoke to the MD and said I would not print out paper any more. We had to find another way to process invoices. That’s when I started looking into the accounts payable systems. I knew the software was out there, we just hadn’t looked into it.”

After a reasonably quick search, the managing director was happy to act on Sharp’s recommendation to implement Beanworks from Quadient.

“He didn’t like the paperwork thing any more than I did,” she said. “When I pinged him 25 invoices on a Monday morning, he would have to open all those invoices and send me the approvals back. He was affected as much as I was with the process we were using, so he was quite happy to move.”

The impacts on finance teams

At the start of the webinar, viewers were asked in a poll about the issues that were currently bothering them the most. Their answers included: having to rely mainly on manual data entry (73%); being distracted from more valuable work by day-to-day admin (60%); cumbersome authorisation processes (53%) and time wasted hunting for documentation (33%). (More than one answer was allowed.)

The pain points were very familiar to Beanworks sales manager Warren Moir. “Sometimes more valuable tasks are put onto the back burner or you don’t get to them,” he said.

“Until you take a step back like Sue did and take a look at the time spent doing all these manual tasks, the paper is just sitting there on the desk waiting for somebody to do something – and there’s no visibility for anyone else.”

Returns on investment

During the webinar, one viewer asked Sharp about the costs of putting in a system like Beanworks. “I don’t think it was expensive,” she answered.

“Printer ink costs £700 for a cartridge that lasts eight months. I then have to buy paper and lever-arch folders.” When the folders pile up in her office, they have to go into external storage, she continued. 

“That mounts up over a couple of years. We were going to employ someone else in the accounts department and I don’t think we need to. Before, I’d say 50% of my time was spent on accounts payable and considerably less time is spent on it now.”

Automating processes can save on all the costs Sharp identified, but was not just about getting rid of people or downsizing, Moir said. “It’s about streamlining the way you work to give you and your team that ability to focus on the real high-value, core tasks that will bring in more revenue and allow the business to expand.”

Process automation software

Also taking part in the webinar was Chris Downing, Sage’s director of product marketing for accountants and bookkeepers. He picked up on this theme and argued that the time was never better to consider investing in process automation software like Beanworks: “As business owners, we all want to grow the business and get more customers and be more successful. Why not implement these really robust systems and controls when your business is small?”

He continued: “If you’re employing someone, you want to get the best out of that individual. As you scale, you’ve got the right systems in place, so you don’t have to find people to service the business. You’ve got the technology doing so, so therefore you get the best return on your investment from it.”

Watch the full webinar to hear in more detail how Rapid Pictures automated invoice processing and for fuller answers to the questions raised by viewers during the live session. A whitepaper on important performance indicators for accounts payable teams is also available from Beanworks.

 

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