The Real Challenge of Accounts Payable May Surprise You


The Accounts Payable role has its fair share of difficulties. This department plays a critical role in ensuring that business operations flow smoothly, and that the company maintains good relationships with vendors and suppliers. Despite the importance of thorough record-keeping, many AP teams are laboring under manually-intensive processes that result in errors, delays, and late fees. In fact, many companies’ invoice approvals process looks like this:

In that whole matrix there’s only one AP person involved. The rest are people in various roles (buyers, people that requested the goods or services, approvers, vendors, managers, etc) who are also involved in the approvals process. Their participation is just as crucial to a successful invoice processing as the AP person is, but their contributions to the conversation are stymied by inefficient multi-channel communications.

This brings me to the point: Accounts Payable’s real challenge is taking back control of the process by transforming people from bottlenecks to collaborators. The right technology can make a huge difference here.

Power to the People!

Statistics show that collaboration in the workplace – whether it be through physical office configuration or through tools – has great impact on productivity. It’s clear that by implementing technology and processes that encourage natural communication between people, issues are resolved more quickly, and tasks are completed more easily.

PayStream Advisors recently published a report on how mid-sized companies can improve their Accounts Payable processes by improving communications for everyone involved in the process. The difficulty is that these people are often busy, geographically dispersed individuals.

Controllers or AP Managers who find their teams struggling to manage and chase invoice approvals, keep vendors happy, and make payments on time should consider how new technology can help.

An ideal, communications-based Accounts Payable process should look like this:

Put AP in control by putting everyone in control. Once an invoice is sent off for approval, AP loses control and visibility. That’s when the chase begins. When everyone in that matrix is given control over their piece of the puzzle they become more than a signature, they become an ‘stakeholder’ invested in a successful outcome.

User-friendly tools.  Empowering employees to do their work most efficiently really requires an intuitive solution that doesn’t require them to learn any new skills or workflow. Providing these users additional benefits will make them feel more involved and accountable for the process, Such benefits can be updates re invoices they approved and easy way to find previous invoice in order to approve a new one

Open invitation. To really streamline the process, it’s important that everyone has the ability to invite others to contribute to the conversation. This allows an invoice to quickly reach its final destination and for Accounts Payable to know that the agreed terms have been satisfied.

ERP integration. The last thing any team wants is to get IT involved in another implementation project. If you’re using NetSuite, Intacct, SAP, or another ERP, having an Accounts Payable solution that integrates with that system can save a lot of time and hassle.

It’s the best of both worlds; no change to current business processes, only faster results and happier people on all sides of the Accounts Payable process. When you give people the ability to communicate naturally, great things can happen!