Did you know that 95% of business documents are computer generated? Itís a staggering statistic when you think about it, and also an exciting one, because it demonstrates the dramatic effect that electronic documents have had on the business landscape.
Letís take a moment to reflect. Pre-computers, we wrote, we typed and we faxed. Things took time. Today, e-documents mean we can get instant results. Orders are processed faster, products are delivered more quickly and itís easier to trace orders in the event of queries or audits. We can reduce our administration and staff costs because thereís no need to key everything in twice.
With paper trails so inefficient and prone to human error, it seems strange that there are still a number of small and medium sized enterprises who havenít embraced electronic processing.
Burdens, a Wolseley UK company with 37 branches specialising in below ground drainage, has been investing in this area for over a decade now. We have achieved big gains from computerising our whole procure to payment cycle.
Indeed, a large portion of companies in the construction industry have now invested in some form of electronic trading, resulting in fewer discrepancies and a cleaner payment cycle
Thereís a big commercial incentive to go electronic, too. All public sector buyers will be required to carry out procurement electronically by 2016, a deadline set by the European Commission (EC) Ė so youíll miss out on a whole load of potential work if you donít e-trade.
The EC has also stated that a total of £82bn can be saved annually from the £1.6tn procurement spend across the EU by using e-procurement. This doesnít just include exchanging business documents electronically, but also posting all contract opportunities online, making all tender documents available, the electronic submission of bids and making all communication digital.
Central government bodies will have to achieve all this by mid-2014. The wider public sector will have to achieve the first two elements by the same data, but will be given until mid-2016 to meet the communication aspect.
E-trading is here to stayÖ and itís better to embrace it and reap the benefits than to resist the change. Plus, think of all the trees we will save Ė itís win win.
Alan Long is trading director at Burdens.