Even though accounting software has revolutionized financial management for several decades, a significant reliance on manual processes still prevails in numerous accounts payable (AP) operations. Activities such as keying in vendor invoices, initiating check runs, and dispatching mail payments are executed by accounting staff who spend considerable daily hours on these repetitive, tiresome tasks. Tasks that could, quite readily, be streamlined through automation, thus eliminating inefficiencies that plague traditional methods.
Unmasking the Hidden Expenses of Manual AP Practices
Manual methods are not only time-draining and laborious but also fraught with potential errors. These processes tax accounting resources, usurping time that could be better invested in high-value tasks such as data analysis and anomaly investigation. Companies that persist in using manual AP methods are often burdened with elevated overhead costs, with some estimates suggesting they spend nearly quintuple the amount to process a single invoice compared to organizations utilizing full automation.
Consistent use of manual AP techniques can lead to payment delays to vendors. While this might be a temporary reprieve during cash flow hiccups, habitual late payments can inflate supply costs and negate potential savings.
Suppliers tend to extend their best prices to reliable customers. Although purchase volume is a significant factor, the harmony in the customer-supplier relationship is also influential. Punctuality in payment strengthens this bond; hence, a company known for late payments is less likely to secure competitive pricing compared to one that always settles its dues promptly.
Numerous firms provide early-payment discounts. It may not always be plausible to exploit every discount, yet an occasional advanced payment leads to substantial savings. If manual AP procedures inhibit even timely payments, such potential savings remain unattainable.
Moreover, manual AP procedures enhance the risk of errors and financial fraud. Manual data entry is a notorious source of blunders. Simple mistakes such as transposing numbers or omitting a digit while inputting a vendor invoice or transferring data across systems are common. These can be corrected if identified in a timely manner, but the time-constrained closing process may not always allow a thorough review of all transactions.
The identification and rectification of inconsistent or misapplied accounting regulations are even more challenging. Organizations may remain oblivious to these errors, but they could prove exceedingly costly, particularly for public companies and those preparing for an initial public offering (IPO).
Payment fraud is a burgeoning issue, and a heavy dependence on manual processes exacerbates the risk. Ensuring a division of duties and maintaining other financial safeguards are crucial to prevent the internal personnel from submitting and approving fraudulent invoices. To evade such fraud, each transaction must be meticulously monitored to ensure the consistency of approval hierarchies and adherence to other procedures. However, overburdened controllers and managers often lack the capacity for such close scrutiny, especially when it entails combing through hundreds or thousands of daily transactions. This leads to the enforcement of internal controls becoming haphazard, at best.
Exploring the Potential of Automation in AP
Automation in accounts payable can fundamentally streamline invoice processing, approvals, and payments, significantly easing the task of tracking invoice due dates for the accounting staff. Furthermore, it diminishes the likelihood of fraud by guaranteeing the legitimacy of vendor invoices. Automation can contribute to cost savings by facilitating timely vendor bill payments and simplifying the process for companies to spot and capitalize on early-payment discounts.
Invoice Acquisition: As highlighted earlier, the manual entry of vendor bill data into the accounting system is a time-consuming process and a substantial origin of errors. However, advancements in technologies like Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and machine learning have significantly matured over the recent years, making the conversion of PDFs and image files into accurate digital text a reality.
For AP personnel, this translates into the automatic importation of bills in electronic format directly into the accounting system, bypassing the need for manual data entry and thus minimizing the possibility of errors.
Invoice Reconciliation and Approvals: It’s essential to verify the receipt of goods and services prior to settling a vendor invoice. Conforming the purchase order, invoice specifics, and receiving documents is a routine procedure, but it often necessitates input from multiple departments, inducing potential delays. The automation of this three-way matching considerably simplifies the process. Receipt data can be digitally captured and associated with the purchase order and invoice within the accounting or ERP system, facilitating an easier comparison of documents to guarantee precision.
Automation also reinforces the proper supervision of payments by executing payment authorization policies. Once the authenticity of a vendor bill is affirmed, it can be automatically emailed to the pertinent individual or group based on the company’s established internal approval hierarchy.
Executing Payments: The process of printing and mailing physical checks not only consumes considerable time but also elevates processing costs, and obstructs the capacity of companies to make early bill settlements. Automation of payment processes enhances the productivity of AP staff by abolishing these manual tasks. Electronic payment solutions provide companies with superior flexibility to decide the methods and timing of payments, enabling them to retain cash for extended durations while evading late fees.
Streamlining Accounts Payable with NetSuite
NetSuite empowers businesses to conserve money, mitigate risk, and enhance efficiency by automating the entire process of vendor bill settlement. NetSuite’s AP Automation offers a straightforward, swift, and secure mechanism for processing invoices and executing payments. By digitizing and automating the entire vendor bill settlement workflow, NetSuite aids in time-saving and makes supplier payments smoother. It equips businesses to upscale their complete accounts payable process, thereby allowing AP teams to bolster business growth without the need for increased staffing.
- Receipt: Capture and transmute electronic invoices into digital text.
- Alignment: Automate the matching of vendor invoices to corresponding purchase orders and receiving documents.
- Approval: Direct bills to the appropriate personnel for review and approval, complemented by automated reminders.
- Payment: Execute payments through virtual credit cards, ACH, or check using embedded banking services courtesy of HSBC.
- Reconciliation: Monitor the status of payments and reconcile transactions with comprehensive audit control.