The ROI of Saving Time
ROI. It seems like an empty concept sometimes—overused and under-justified. But it can be a powerful statement when accurately tracked and evaluated, especially when applied to new technologies and processes.
Even in a digital world, many businesses still default to paper checks for bill payments. The reasons vary.
“It’s how we’ve always done it.”
“Our bookkeeper prefers paper.”
“We don’t have time to move to online payments.”
But the time savings attached to online payments—in particular vendor ACHs—paint a compelling picture. When paired with a dedicated bill payment system and bookkeeping automation that process payments and electronically store relevant information and automate workflows, you can accelerate time savings exponential.
Finding invoices and supporting documents
Does it take an epic (or even minor) scavenger hunt to find paper documents in your office?
Not only do you have to find the mailed paper invoice, but you also must gather information on related payment history, contracts, and more to support the review process. Are these documents stored in one place? Do they reside on different desks or in different offices? Depending on your organization, this task can take 30 minutes or more to complete.
Contrast that with storing all bill payment information—invoices, contracts, notes, questions, etc.—in the cloud in one system. The process looks like this: Login. See the appropriate documents on your dashboard and locate others with a quick search. Click, click, DONE.
30 seconds to a minute.
Paper: 30 minutes
Online: 1 minute
A paper bill arrives in the mail. It lands in a pile of “to do” items on someone’s desk. When ready, that employee determines who must review the bill and starts the paper shuffle from desk to desk. The bill lands on reviewer #1’s desk. It may sit there a while. When he finally reviews it, he has some questions, which are circulated back to the originator. She researches the answers, sends them to reviewer #1. If he is satisfied, he’ll approve the bill and walk it over to reviewer #2 to evaluate. Repeat the same process as reviewer #1. Then repeat it again if anyone else has to take a look (including that one surprise employee who wasn’t involved in the original workflow). Estimated time for paper bill review: 5-7 days.
When handled online, the bill review process drastically cuts the processing time. Cloud-based AP technology migrates workflows online and automates the review process. The system alerts the first person to review a bill. He or she logs in and accesses the bill. To approve, they click and then the bill moves automatically to the next person in line.
Say that person is a little slow to review it. The system will automatically send them a reminder within a specified amount of time. No fuss. No manual reminding needed. Estimated time for online bill review: 1-2 days.
Paper: 5-7 days (or 40-56 business hours, based on 8-hour work days)
Online: 1-2 days (8-16 business hours)
The bill is approved. It’s ready for payment. But how does the time break down for paper check payment vs. digital payment?
Paper checks demand production. They need to be printed. The right person must be tracked down to sign them. Then, you have to address, stuff and stamp envelopes and drop the payments in the mail.
Estimated time for paper payment:
1-3 hours per check.
Authorizing an ACH payment online takes a fraction of the time. The person approved to release payment accesses the bill via an online connection or mobile device. They authorize payment digitally and it is either scheduled or sent immediately. Estimated time for ACH transfer: Less than one minute.
Paper: 1-3 hours per check
Online: Less than one minute
Total time savings of paper checks vs. ACH bill payments
An estimated 59.5 hours
An estimated 16 hours, 2 minutes
Based on these times, your business can save 73% of the paper-based time spent on bill payment processing with an online bill payment system and ACH transfers.
Keep in mind that these time estimates don’t include receipt and reconciliation of payments. While paper checks require postal delivery and manual reconciliation, a bill payment system handles both tasks automatically and even syncs with your accounting software (QuickBooks Online, Xero, NetSuite, Sage Intacct, etc.) to automatically import the information. No data entry required.
How do you clock your own savings?
Here are some simple things that allow you to ballpark how much time paper checks require.
- Review time stamps/dates to determine how long it takes for an invoice to arrive through to payment.
- Ask involved employees to estimate how long it takes them to handle administrative tasks related to paper checks. If they do not know, ask them to track the process over a certain period to capture the time involved.
- Review records to determine how long on average it takes vendors to cash checks and how long it takes employees at your company to reconcile them.
- Try a “paper file drill.” Have someone challenge you to locate paper records and see how long it takes to do so.
Ready to ditch paper checks?