Thousands of working hours wasted on manual scanning and typing of data

The structure and format of e-invoices, account statements and card receipts must be harmonised. This will enable companies to use real-time and automated systems to perform most of their accounting functions. The Federation of Finnish Financial Services (FFI) has made a social commitment to sustainable development together with the Association of Finnish Accounting Firms and the accountancy firm Leppävaaran Laskenta. The commitment was published on the website of the Ministry of the Environment on April 1st, 2015.

”Although e-accounting may not sound like an immediate environmental accomplishment, the aim of the commitment is to lower the environmental load and costs of office work considerably while also enhancing the operations of organisations”, says Piia-Noora Kauppi, managing director of the FFI.

”The social commitment to sustainable development fits well with the financial sector’s digital agenda. The financial sector has spearheaded the promotion and development of electronic services, and wants to continue the work by co-operating with the government and the other sectors in promoting and implementing a national information society strategy”, Kauppi adds.

Using the full potential of structured information

E-invoices, account statements and receipts already contain nearly all of the necessary information, but most of it is still entered manually in accounting systems.

”At the moment, the processing of cash receipts – manual scanning, typing, photocopying and archiving – consumes hundreds of full-time-equivalent work years. These resources will soon be needed elsewhere in tasks such as client business consultation”, says Vuokko Mäkinen, chairman of the Association of Finnish Accounting Firms.

In electronic account statements and receipts, the structure of information is essential. Dates, totals, itemisations, places of purchase, and all other details must be in their specific places so that other systems can automatically tell what information they are processing.

If the information is not structured, the receiving system is unable to analyse and differentiate between the content types so that it could utilise them in accounting, for example. Some data – such as the details on receipts – often is not electronically transmitted at all, but instead requires manual entry into accounting systems.

”If the sending and receiving systems have the same information structure, purchases with different VAT rates can be automatically entered in the right places. The same works for dates, places of purchase, and even cost pools”, says Pirjo Ilola, development manager at the FFI.

Real-time financial information

When invoices, receipts and account statements have the same structure, and information is transmitted electronically, accounting systems can produce all kinds of automatic reports with almost no real-time delay. Vuokko Mäkinen and chairman of the board Tuomas Tahvanainen from Leppävaaran Laskenta present the viewpoint of small enterprises.

”When the Federation of Finnish Financial Services proposed that we make this commitment, it was a step forward that entrepreneurs had been waiting for. The use of structured information and system-to-system communication will reduce the amount of routine, manual tasks, which will give accountancy firms more room to operate. Working hours can then be more expediently spent with client businesses.”