How manual processes are causing SME failure

| May 5, 2021

Many organisations have been forced to fast-track digital transformation to maintain operations during the disruptions of the past year. However, some SMEs are still using manual processes that are not sustainable and could cause business failure within a few years, according to SAP Concur.

Best-in-class companies have already automated manual processes and are now investing further in digital tools that support workplace flexibility and a remote work environment. In Australia alone, businesses that have adopted automation now have 98 per cent lower costs to process expense reports, and a 30 per cent overall increase in employee productivity.1

Fabian Calle, managing director, small and medium business (SMB), SAP Concur Australia and New Zealand, said, “Leading businesses have already progressed on their digital transformation journey and made automation part of everyday business processes. Unfortunately, there are still many businesses that rely on legacy, manual processes that cost them time, money and the ability to remain competitive in the new digital business environment.”

Manual processes are now rapidly becoming redundant due to the barriers they create for doing business effectively. SAP Concur has identified three key areas where manual processes can have a direct impact on business performance:

1. Productivity and profit
Manual processes are resource-intensive, which involves additional employee cost and time to complete administrative tasks. They also impact productivity by diverting employees from higher value activities that can drive business innovation and build revenue. For example, if employees need to manually enter expense receipts into a business system for each expense, this repetitive activity quickly adds up in terms of wasted employee cost and time when multiple expenses are uploaded each week. This is further compounded with manual approval processes that require managers to physically go into systems, check expenses and provide approvals. Mundane, repetitive tasks also impact employee satisfaction, which has a direct impact on worker motivation and productivity.

2. Slower response to market needs
To survive in business, organisations need to be fast-to-market, and just as quick to respond to customer needs. Inefficient, manual processes slow response times for SMBs, which also impacts business agility and scalability during times of economic change. Being slow to respond to customer and market demands can cost the business its customers, as well as growth opportunities that are lost to competitors with much faster business processes driven by automation.

3. Lack of visibility
Real-time insights into business performance are crucial for organisations of all sizes operating in today’s business environment. Businesses can’t control what they can’t see, and what they can’t see can hurt the organisation. For example, without real-time insights across all financial processes, it is easy for data errors, duplicate entries and fraudulent activity to occur, which directly costs the business money. It can also impact compliance with legislative requirements that could result in penalties to the business. In addition, outdated, inaccurate data makes it nearly impossible to make sound business decisions. Decision-making based on guesswork is fraught with risk, particularly in a dynamic business environment.

Fabian Calle said, “In today’s volatile and fast-paced business environment, SMBs need to make decisions within minutes to ensure they stay competitive and relevant to the market. Manual administrative processes significantly impede this ability, and create a higher risk for businesses, because they are prone to data errors, duplicate entries and fraud.

“Within the next few years, business survival will become much more dependent on secure, automated solutions that deliver real-time business insights and ensure the accuracy of financial information. SMBs that plan to stay in business for the long term should invest in automated tools now so that they can maintain their competitive edge into the future.”