Accounts Payable (AP) is a term used in accounting to refer to the money a business owes its creditors or vendors for goods or services received but not yet paid for. In other words, it represents the short-term liabilities of a business that arise from purchasing goods or services on credit.
Typical accounts payable include bills from suppliers, rent payments, utilities and other services a business uses to operate. Managing accounts payable involves the following:
- Tracking and processing invoices
- Ensuring that payments are made on time
- Reconciling accounts to ensure that they are accurate and up-to-date
Importance of Accounts Payable Management
Accounts payable is one of the areas most prone to business fraud. Fraudulent invoices, fictitious vendors and other scams can result in significant financial losses for businesses. Additionally, missed or lost invoices can bundle up debts and even impact your business credibility.
Effective accounts payable management is critical for companies of all sizes as it helps identify and prevent fraudulent activity, reduce the risk of financial loss and maintain the integrity of financial reporting.
Proper management also ensures that vendors are paid promptly, which can help maintain positive relationships and ensure continued access to essential goods and services. Businesses can maintain good credit ratings, avoid late payment penalties and stay on top of their cash flow.
Tips & Tricks for Proper Accounts Payable Management
Managing a business's accounts payable can be complex and time-consuming. However, with the right tools and processes in place, you can streamline your accounts payable operations, improve efficiency, and reduce the risk of errors or fraud. Here are 7 strategies to take control of your accounts payable and achieve financial success:
1. Simplify and standardise the process
The more complex your system is, the higher the chance of errors or late payments. Simplifying and standardising your accounts payable process can reduce these errors and ensure consistency, making tracking and managing accounts payable easier. This process involves defining clear procedures for invoice processing, payment approvals and vendor communication.
For example, you can batch your payments more effectively to reduce the number of monthly check runs or automate aspects of your process.
2. Use an AP management software
An accounts payable management software can help automate many aspects of the AP process, such as invoice processing, data entry and payment approvals. Automation can save time and reduce errors, improving overall efficiency and accuracy in managing accounts payable.
Additionally, since automated systems generate records of every action taken on an invoice, it provides a more accessible and accurate audit trail, making compliance and monitoring a breeze.
3. Monitor metrics and use KPIs to measure process efficiency
Tracking metrics can help your business measure the efficiency of its accounts payable process, especially when adhering to a new or revised process or upon integrating automation. You can identify areas for improvement, measure the success of process changes and further optimise the process for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
Metrics to measure include, but are not limited to:
- Invoice processing time
- Number of invoices processed per day/week/month
- Percentage of invoices processed electronically
- Payment cycle time
- Days payable outstanding (DPO)
- Average cost per invoice
- Invoice error rate
4. Establish reliable fraud protection
Fraud can happen at any stage of the accounts payable process, from invoice processing to payment approval and disbursement. It can also take many forms, such as fictitious invoices, overcharging, duplicate payments, and kickbacks.
Businesses should implement preventive and detective controls to establish reliable fraud detection. Preventive controls aim to prevent fraudulent activity from occurring in the first place. These include segregating duties and verifying vendors.
Meanwhile, detective controls aim to detect and correct fraudulent activity that has already happened. Some detective controls include performing regular audits and validating bank details.
5. Managing access control and approvals
Managing access control is crucial to managing accounts payable. This mainly involves implementing actions to ensure that no one person has complete control over the entire process. By limiting access and establishing internal controls, businesses can minimise the risk of fraud, errors and other issues that can arise in the accounts payable process.
One way to manage access control is to segregate duties among different employees, which include:
- Invoice receipt and data entry
- Verifying accuracy of data
- Reconciliation of purchase orders
- Reviewing and approving payments
- Making payments
This way, no individual has full authority over the entire process, lowering the possibility of fraud or errors.
6. Implement a vendor management program
Implementing a vendor management program is helpful in managing your accounts payable. This involves maintaining a database of vendors, including their contact information, payment terms, and history.
The program can help track vendor performance, identify improvement areas, and negotiate better payment terms and discounts. This can help reduce costs and improve the efficiency of the accounts payable process.
7. Regularly review and reconcile accounts payable data
This involves comparing the data in the accounts payable system to external sources, such as vendor invoices, purchase orders, and receiving reports to ensure accuracy and completeness. This process can help identify any discrepancies, errors, or inconsistencies and enable prompt action to resolve them. With this process, businesses can improve their financial reporting, maintain good vendor relationships, and prevent fraud or errors.
What happens if you don't have a proper AP management system?
Not having a proper accounts payable management system can lead to several business risks and issues, significantly impacting a company's bottom line and reputation, from financial losses to legal liabilities.
- Fraud and theft
These can be difficult to detect and can continue for extended periods before being discovered. Without proper controls and procedures, individuals may exploit their positions to create fake invoices or divert payments to their personal accounts, resulting in financial loss and damaging a business's reputation and customer trust.
- Cash flow issues
Inappropriate management of accounts payable can result in cash flow issues for a business. Late payments can strain relationships with suppliers and potentially harm a company's credit score, making it difficult to secure future credit or financing. On the other hand, overpaying or double-paying invoices can cause unnecessary cash outflows. These issues can ultimately lead to a lack of funds for essential expenses, hinder growth opportunities and put the company at risk of bankruptcy.
- Inaccurate financial reporting
Incorrect or incomplete records lead to inaccurate financial statements, making it difficult for businesses to make informed decisions about their operations. It can also lead to audit and compliance issues, ultimately affecting a business's reputation and ability to secure funding and negotiate contracts due to regulatory violations, financial penalties, and legal actions.
ProSpend's Hyperautomated Accounts Payable
Managing a business's accounts payable process is crucial for long-term financial success and sustainability.
ProSpend's (formerly expensemanager) AP Automation uses invoice automation and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to prevent fraud and streamline processes. Get compliance monitoring, invoice approval limits, fraud control and supplier management to reduce manual processes and stay on track for financial success.
Our AP Automation also supports all invoice delivery options: from supplier PDF to eInvoice and i-Invoice. Regardless of how your suppliers send invoices, we can automate the process.
Tired of manual invoice processing and errors? Book a demo with ProSpend and see how our hyperautomated accounts payable solution can transform your business spend management.