The days of spending hours searching through filing cabinets for documents are well and truly in the past…

My whole life is now on computers and backup solutions are more important than ever to me as there is no longer a photocopy of a document tucked away somewhere in a filing cabinet. Businesses are spending less time and money on filing systems and transferring their investment into ERP systems. Going paperless is one of the biggest benefits of an ERP system. The seamless integration of information across departments allows for greater storage and analytical capabilities, which drive insight.

Before the automation of the finance function you would have to physically find the approver to get invoices and journals signed off, which created delays especially when approvers were on holiday. E-invoicing enables a company to automate their invoice processing, eliminating the risk of invoices getting lost in the office. Companies can leverage their working capital to take advantage of early payment discounts bringing speed, accuracy and transparency to the purchase-to-pay process.

Approvals can be done instantly from mobile devices and through the introduction of journal entry tools such as Trintech which allows real-time visibility of, control and validation of the status of journal entries. This can help reduce cycle time on the critical path of monthly close by accelerating the time from journal entry creation to post. Finance managers can remotely manage productivity of their teams through workflow technology to queue, route and track status of tasks.

Evolution of the paperless office has allowed finance to access information at its fingertips, putting pressure on finance functions to reduce costs and provide better management information to drive better business performance. A FTSE 100 organisation I have worked with in the build and trade supplies industry estimates 90% of late or non payment could be overcome with access to electronic proof of purchase when signed at point of sale. Instead there was considerable effort being made on the phone contacting branches to resolve any discrepancies of sale versus what was perceived as being purchased.

Free of cumbersome manual processes, the CFO role has expanded from being the traditional scorekeeper to an active business partner and indeed “Business Catalyst”. Click here to see our point of view on Digital Transformation and the Finance Function which outlines the role of a business catalyst, advising on strategic planning and operating efficiency, facilitating the business in being more proactive. It’s something I am increasingly seeing within businesses.

Digital document management systems (DMS) have helped to decrease finance’s dependence on paper allowing individuals to store and share information on the Web. A DMS allows the storage of electronic documents which can be located quickly through a file search which means less time wasted, more cost savings, and less need for filing cabinets. It has also translated into less paper waste! The introduction of cloud computing and cloud storage has allowed individuals to access information on any machine, anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.

Did you know that by the end of 2013 there will be more smart phones and tablets in the world than PCs? Employees are even digitising their notes using evernote – a cloud-based service that lets you create and edit notes and synchronises automatically, stopping the user getting buried down in paper and sticky notes.

In summary, the paperless office is both freeing finance from the shackles of laborious, manually intensive processes, whilst providing exciting opportunities to ensure finance a seat at the executive table.