AP team working on processes to improve their account payable functions.
AP team working on processes to improve their account payable functions.
AP Automation
June 6, 2024

5 Accounts Payable Functions that Benefit Your Bottom Line

by The Ottimate Editorial Team

Is your accounts payable (AP) department stuck in neutral, processing invoices but not driving your bottom line forward? At Ottimate, we’ve seen firsthand how inefficient AP departments can cost businesses — typically due to errors and delays in their accounts payable functions and affecting as many as one in every ten invoices. 

Depending on your organization’s invoice volume, this can translate to thousands (or even millions) of dollars lost annually.

Ottimate can help you flip the script.

Picture your AP team firing on all cylinders: They have better cash flow, stronger vendor relationships, and more time to focus on strategy. With the right tools and resources that thought becomes a reality. Let’s explore into five key accounts payable functions and their impact on your business’s financial health. 

Because your bottom line is more than just a mere number — it’s a pulse on your company’s overall well-being.

Who’s Who in the AP Department

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to understand the key players in the AP department:

  • AP Managers: An AP Manager is a strategic leader, overseeing all activities within the department. AP Managers ensure smooth operations, efficient processes, and alignment with overall financial goals.
  • Approvers: An Approver plays a crucial role in the AP process by ensuring payments are accurate, compliant, and within budget.
  • Controllers: A Controller serves as a company’s chief accounting officer. They oversee financial reporting, compliance, and internal controls.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO): As the top financial executive in the organization, the CFO plays a critical role in shaping financial strategy and decision-making. CFOs are tasked with managing budgets, mitigating risks, and ensuring clear communication with stakeholders.

For a deeper dive into the key roles of the AP team, check out our article on Decoding the AP Department: Roles and Responsibilities of an A+ AP Team

1. Processing & Managing Invoices: Accuracy is Efficiency

The AP team plays a critical role in your finances, managing all accounts payable functions. They ensure the foundation is set for a smooth flow of invoice processing by handling the receiving of invoices (physically or electronically), verifying details for accuracy (including supplier, quantity, and purchase order reference information), and ultimately keeping a secure record of all the data in your company’s accounting system.

On paper, it seems simple. But, capturing invoices accurately can be complex. This is especially true for businesses that deal with a high volume of invoices every month.

Why is efficient invoice processing important?

  • Reduced Errors & Overpayments: Manual data entry can be error-prone, leading to costly overpayments. A well-organized AP team minimizes these errors. They do this by carefully checking data against purchase orders and receipts.
  • Improved Cash Flow Management: Predictable invoice processing cycles allow for accurate forecasting of upcoming payments. They empower you and your team to manage your cash flow better.
  • Early Payment Opportunities: Some vendors offer discounts for early payment. These can boost your cash flow and maximize your return on spending.

2. Paying Vendors: Building Trust Through Timely Payments

Sure, paying vendors seems straightforward — write a check, pop it in the mail. ACH? No problem! But don’t let the seemingly simple act of paying vendors fool you. Every invoice must be verified for accuracy and approved before payment, ensuring every penny is allocated towards authorized purchases only. 

This is where your AP team is instrumental — and their impact goes beyond the initial transaction.

By prioritizing timely and accurate payments, your AP team fosters trust and loyalty with vendors, unlocking a treasure trove of benefits in more ways than one, including:

  • Reduced Costs: Loyal vendors are more likely to offer better pricing and terms on future purchases. Imagine securing a five percent discount — that translates to significant savings over time.
  • Improved Efficiency: Some vendors may prioritize your orders due to a strong payment history. This leads to faster lead times and potentially reduced backlogs — translating to a smoother operation and happier customers.
  • Enhanced Cash Flow: The AP team also benefits from early payment discounts. This stretches your dollars and boosts your cash flow. Conversely, late payments incur costly fees, further eroding your profits.

3. Controlling In-House Spend: Every Penny Counts

Improved accounts payable functions can increase cost savings.

AP teams play a critical role in ensuring your company doesn’t spend money like water. They watch over your finances, using a multi-pronged approach to control in-house costs. Here’s how they achieve this and the significant impact it has on your bottom line:

  • Budget Monitoring: The AP team plays a key role in monitoring the budget. They compare actual spending to pre-allocated budgets for expenses across departments. This allows them to identify any potential overspending trends early on. Imagine a department exceeding its office supplies budget by 20 percent. Early detection allows for course correction and prevents unnecessary waste.
  • Preventing Duplicate Payments: Robust verification systems and internal controls ensure the same invoice isn’t paid twice. This ensures only authorized goods or services are paid for.
  • Enforcing Spending Policies: The AP team upholds spending policies, ensuring proper approvals and documentation for all purchases. This prevents unauthorized spending, similar to requiring a manager’s signature for large purchases. It fosters responsible financial practices and ensures everyone is on the same page.

Benefits for a Stronger Financial Future:

  • Reduced Wasteful Expenditures: Efficient spending control prevents needless spending and ensures your company’s resources are allocated properly. Imagine having extra funds to invest in new equipment or initiatives — it directly means better profitability and financial health.
  • Improved Financial Visibility: Visualize spending patterns clearly. The AP team can generate reports that paint a clear picture of where your money goes. This lets you plan and budget better,  helping management make informed decisions about resource allocation and cost-saving measures.
  • Enhanced Compliance: Strong internal controls prevent violations of company spending policies.  This ensures adherence to financial regulations and protects your company from potential legal or financial repercussions.

4. Staying on Top of Reconciliations & Audits: Transparency is Key

Regular reconciliations prevent fraud by catching discrepancies before they cost your company and affect cash flow. This leads to reliable financial reports —  which are crucial for informed decisions and smooth audits. 

Imagine your CFO and department heads reviewing trustworthy reports. This builds confidence in their accuracy, allowing for better resource allocation and cost control. No more surprises or missed opportunities due to outdated information.

5. Maintaining Strong Vendor Relationships: Building Bridges, Not Walls

The AP team builds strong relationships with vendors. They foster connections, creating a bridge between your company and its suppliers. This translates directly to a smoother workflow for your internal team. 

Here’s how:

Building Trust Through Efficiency:

  • Prompt Payments: Timely payments are a cornerstone of trust. The AP team prioritizes prompt and accurate payments, fostering positive relationships with vendors. 
  • Clear Communication: Open and clear communication with vendors helps avoid misunderstandings. It also ensures everyone is on the same page. This reduces the need for internal troubleshooting and rework — minimizing frustration for your team.
  • Streamlined Processes: Efficient invoice processing with clear guidelines minimizes back-and-forth communication with vendors. Meaning no more chasing missing info or clarifying invoices! 

Benefits for More Efficient Internal Operations:

  • Reduced Time Spent on Disputes: Strong vendor relationships cut dispute time. They reduce late or wrong payment inquiries, allowing your internal team more time to focus on higher-value tasks and strategic initiatives.
  • Improved Workflow Efficiency: Automated tasks eliminate delays and bottlenecks, allowing invoices to flow through the AP process quickly.
  • Enhanced Team Morale: A smooth and efficient workflow contributes to a more positive work environment. Imagine less stress and frustration for your team!

The Role of AP Automation

AP automation is a game-changer in the world of accounts payable. It uses AI and machine learning technologies to automate and streamline the AP process. AP automation elevates all the accounts payable functions we’ve discussed above, from invoice processing to vendor payments.

Investing in AP automation is like investing in a super-efficient AP team that works 24/7 without any errors. Beyond efficiency and accuracy gains, AP automation empowers your team to become strategic partners, focusing on initiatives that drive growth and profitability. And that’s where Ottimate comes in. Ottimate’s AP automation AI is designed to streamline your processes and improve your workflows — making them more efficient and cost-effective.

AP Automation Benefits

Modern AP departments are using automation to reach new levels of efficiency and gain better financial control. Here’s how:

  • Boost Efficiency: Imagine an automated system handling repetitive work. Automate data entry, routing, and approvals, and let your AP team focus on higher-value tasks.
  • Minimize Errors: Reduce costly mistakes with intelligent data extraction and validation and eliminate errors for a smoother, more accurate AP process.
  • Optimize Costs: Reduce processing costs, improve staff productivity, and potentially capture early payment discounts. Streamlined workflows and fewer errors translate to direct cost savings. 
  • Strengthen Vendor Relationships: Ensure timely and accurate payments to build trust with vendors. This can lead to improved terms or benefits in the long run.
  • Smarter Spending with Data: Gain real-time insights into spending patterns, and identify cost-saving opportunities with this data to make informed decisions. Use it to negotiate better deals and allocate resources wisely.

Don’t Just Process Invoices, Drive Growth

We’ve explored five key accounts payable functions and how they directly impact your company’s financial well-being. From streamlined invoice processing to fostering strong vendor relationships, a well-oiled AP department is a powerful asset.

Ottimate isn’t just software; it’s your strategic partner. Our AI-powered platform automates repetitive tasks, streamlines workflows, and minimizes errors — driving growth and maximizing profitability. So why wait? Take the first step towards a more efficient AP process with Ottimate today!

Request a demo and experience the difference for yourself.

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