Processing purchase invoices – four steps to improved efficiency

Processing purchase invoices – four steps to improved efficiency

When it comes to digital processing of purchase invoices, many organisations don’t have efficient processes in place. Due to other priorities within the company or IT department, invoice handling routines can be overlooked. The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity for improvement and the necessary software is readily accessible and easy for employees to use.

In this document, we offer a few pointers on how to improve your company’s current routines for processing purchase invoices. When receiving invoices is automated, it leaves your employees time for activities that add more value to the organisation. Below are four steps to improved processing of purchase invoices.

Step 1: Identify the bottlenecks

Before you start improving processes, it’s important to analyse the way they are currently set up. Where are the bottlenecks and what issues do you run into? Note what goes wrong in the current routine and list the improvements needed. Processes that are not broken should not be fixed! Pointer: think about the steps for processing purchase invoices and calculate how much time each particular step takes.

By asking yourself the following questions, you will get a fair idea of the current processes and identify the bottlenecks:

  • Which steps are still done manually and how much time do they take?
  • Which steps are repetitive and could be automated?
  • Which processes touch on invoice handling, and does this automatically create a bottleneck in another process (for example, payments to suppliers)?

Step 2: Choose the bottleneck you wish to remove

Once you have identified the processes and associated bottlenecks when processing purchase invoices, choose which ones you want to improve. Don’t aim to get rid of all issues simultaneously. Tackle one problem at a time. That way, you can improve matters quickly and celebrate your successes. Start with the processes with the biggest issues. Prioritise bottlenecks in terms of time wasted but also the risks associated with them. Think for example of the likelihood and impact of errors made in the manual handling of purchase invoices (as well as the time taken to process them).

Step 3: Consult the people involved in the process

Successful realisation of change in processing purchase invoices and changing ingrained practices requires the employees involved to be on board. If they are not convinced of the need to change, this can lead to delays or failure to achieve the desired process improvements. Our experience shows that implementation of a new billing solution has little impact on the internal organisation. It is important to recognise and address the fact that people are used to doing things in a certain way. Make sure they are involved in discussions about desired improvements and the selection process of the software.

Step 4: Select the right software solution

Once the current operating procedures, bottlenecks and desired improvements to processing purchase invoices have been identified, it is time for the next step: selecting the right software solution.

If your organisation already uses software for digital processing of purchase invoices, the question is whether existing software can be adapted to the organisation's requirements or whether cloud-based solutions might offer a better alternative.

If no software is used yet, the outcome of the previous steps can be used to select the right software vendor. Today, standard cloud-based software offers many opportunities for standardising and automating invoicing processes, and customisation is no longer necessary. In addition, as an organisation, you don’t have to invest in hardware, development or software security, which leads to a predictable cost in the form of a subscription model.

When talking to the various vendors, make sure that any process improvements you require are visualised during demos, to leave no room for doubt as to whether the software can support your processes. It’s also a good idea to check references from existing customers who dealt with the same issues you’re facing when processing purchase invoices.

Where to start?

With the steps described above, you can start to digitise and automate processing purchase invoices. This will create invaluable efficiency improvements within your organisation as well as reducing the margin of error by automating the process.


Cor Aardappel
Business Development Manager

Learn more about Heeros Purchase Invoices