Finance staff in SMEs spend eight hours a month on average dealing with "unnecessary" purchasing queries from stakeholders, according to research.
The study, carried out by Invu, found a lack of visibility in the requisitioning process meant staff spent hours responding to questions from stakeholders about whether or not requests had been approved.
The survey found half of finance staff were unhappy with their current purchase ordering process and 47 per cent thought corrective action was necessary.
Some 35 per cent of respondents said current processes made it “difficult to make a purchase on behalf of the company” or “they have to work around the purchase order process in order to get things done”.
The survey, of 200 UK finance workers, found 35 per cent of respondents had multiple methods for delivering purchase orders to suppliers, while a third used email as the sole method.
Almost two thirds of respondents were not using dedicated software as part of the purchase order process, with 16 per cent using a manual process, 26 per cent using Excel or similar, and 22 per cent a hybrid approach.
Ian Smith, general manager at Invu, said: “Time pressure is a massive concern for SMEs who are primarily focused on business growth. Streamlining the purchase order process is one step SMEs can take to help alleviate pressures on finance workers and ensure their time is spent more effectively.”
Respondents who reported no fixed requirement to produce purchase orders said they had a 33 per cent time saving compared to organisations that had a “rigid mandatory requirement for following a purchase order process”.
Meanwhile, organisations that offered a “flexible approach” to purchase orders, using a combination of email, paper and computer applications, spent 20 per cent less time dealing with purchase orders than those who relied solely on paper.
Smith added: “While it is interesting to see variable time savings between segmented groups of respondents in relation to organisational procedures, the overriding conclusion is that time could be saved if employees of SME organisations were engaged with a system and the purchase order process was visible end to end.”