A shift towards automated and electronic working methods in financial processes

February 03, 2017

Itella Information survey: in 2012, manual processes count for less than 30% of all F&A processes in Finland, Norway, Poland and Sweden. The use of automation will enable future growth in efficiency, better control over the processes and rapid cost savings.

Itella Information survey: in 2012, manual processes count for less than 30% of all F&A processes in Finland, Norway, Poland and Sweden. The use of automation will enable future growth in efficiency, better control over the processes and rapid cost savings.

During the period of September to early November 2012, Itella Information examined how finance and accounting processes are being handled in 800 companies, in four countries: Finland, Norway, Poland and Sweden. The main findings indicate a shift in the way private companies and public organizations carry out financial administration, as automated and electronic processes seem to be preferred by companies on a wide scale, while processes involving a certain degree of manual labour now count for less than 30% of all finance and accounting processes.

The target group and sample of the survey was composed of decision makers in companies with over 20 employees. Larger companies were over-represented, as 70% of the interviewed companies employed over 100 persons. The respondents' area of responsibility in the company was financial and accounting management, or general management. The method of research used in the survey was the telephone interview. There were 200 interviews in each country, 800 in total. The research was conducted on behalf of Itella Information and has an overall error margin of +/- 3.5%.

When asked how the financial and accounting operations are processed in their company, and about the share of digital or automated processes, respondents confirmed that the use of automation and electronic channels is increasing. The general conclusion is that less than 5% of the work is done manually from start to finish. And, in Finland's case, the rate even equaled 0%. The survey also provided indications of the development of F&A activities in the future. Since digital or automated processes are already preferred, this will facilitate improvement in this direction. Yet, there is still a long way to go when it comes to implementing fully automated or electronic processes, as shown in the graph below:

Respondents were also asked how their company mainly handles F&A operations. The responses indicated that Finland leads the way in outsourcing of processes related to financial administration, as the use of internal resources totaled a share of only 60%, compared with the other countries. Norway follows, with the share of in-house operations totaling 77%. In Poland, 87% of the F&A tasks are done by internal personnel, and almost the same share was recorded in Sweden (88%), as the values in the following graph indicate:

Hence, the use of in-house resources is still high (equal to or exceeding 60%), in all the surveyed countries. Companies prefer to use their own personnel when it comes to delivering the work, although it would be possible to assign human resources to carry out less repetitive tasks. Freeing-up resources by outsourcing the F&A processes provides companies with financial benefits. Also, the use of in-house resources produces fixed costs that are higher compared with the variable costs for acquiring services.

Although most companies are not ready to transfer their financial processes to a service provider, despite the multiple benefits, there are two signs indicating that the perception of outsourcing potential is about to change:

  • the survey identified the existence of solutions bought by companies from service providers that are referred to as "in-house" methods. Nevertheless, this helps to bring service providers closer to companies, when implementing solutions to optimize the F&A activity;
  • the rate of adopting automated processes and electronic tools is already high and will continue to increase; this refers to countries with previous experience in utilizing such working methods, and countries that have recently came into contact with these solutions.

Optimization through automation and use of electronic channels enables overall organizational growth, starting with increased efficiency in the financial supply chain processes, due to better control over the phases. It also leads to rapid cost savings and, ultimately, if the choice to outsource is made, it results in a better use of resources in the entire company. This allows companies to focus on their core competences and invest in further development.

Further information:

Tiina Härkönen
Head of Communications
Itella Information
+35 85 03 84 31 62
Tiina.i.Harkonen (at) itella.com

Itella Information provides financial process services and cash flow automation solutions that improve customers' profitability and agility, and facilitate their transition to the e-world. The services cover all aspects of financial management: from purchase order to payment and from sales order to management of incoming cash flows, plus a full range of accounting and payroll services. With benefits of scale, automated processes and best practices, the company manages its customers' financial processes in an efficient, professional and flexible manner.

Itella Information operates in 11 European countries and has an extensive global partner network. The company employs more than 2,200 people and the 2011 turnover was EUR 273.7 million. Itella Information is part of the Itella Group.