When you run a business, no matter what scale it is at, you may be required to purchase goods on credit. Paying your vendors in bulk can help with cash flow management and also make it easier to settle accounts at the end of the month. Purchasing goods on credit leads to creation of accounts payable and having a clear accounts payable process streamlines your business payables and cash flow.
The accounts payable process involves processing invoices from vendors and suppliers and making payments on time. It may sound simple, but when you have a business that receives thousands of invoices, a manual process is not just time consuming, but it can also lead to errors.
In today’s digital age, you may think that a lot of companies have shifted their accounts payable process to software-based systems. However, research from PYMNTS.com shows that 80% of companies still use paper checks. In this article, we will explore what is the accounts payable process, what is accounts payable automation and why you should consider switching to a paperless processing system to improve your efficiency.
Accounts payable is a business function that keeps track of all the short-term payments that you as a business owe to your vendors, suppliers and other creditors. When you purchase goods or services on credit, the vendor will have a timeline within which you have to repay the amount. This could be 30, 60, or 90 days. The amount of time you get to clear your dues depends on the vendor’s guidelines and what kind of relationship you have with the vendor.
When you receive an invoice or a bill against the goods and services you have purchased, the accounts payable process involves debiting the company’s balance sheet under assets and crediting the expense that becomes a liability.
When a company buys goods or services from a vendor or supplier with an agreement to pay later, it qualifies as accounts payable until the payment is made.
You will generally receive an invoice for the purchase, and the accounts payable process requires you to make an entry to your books of accounts for the same amount.
It is important to note that accounts payable relates to the goods and services purchased for the regular functioning of a business. Some examples of accounts payable items are raw materials, office maintenance and supply, transportation and logistics, equipment, office-related services, licensing and leasing, among other things.
Non-trade payables such as accrued expenses, including rent, dividends, wages payable, etc., do not qualify as accounts payable.
To have a good accounts payable process, it is important that you map out the accounts payable process flow. Below, we have outlined a simplified version of the accounts payable process flowchart that can help you manage your invoices and bills better.
A simple accounts payable process flowchart would involve placing the order for the goods or services, receiving the goods and the invoice from the vendor, verifying the invoice, making relevant entries in the books of accounts, paying the vendor on time and finally closing the accounts payable ledger.
At the end of the process, accounts payable will no longer be a liability. Following the accounts payable process flow is essential to ensure that there are no errors or frauds committed in the expenditure.
Now that you know what is the accounts payable process, let’s move on to understanding and differentiating between some common terms that are often confused with accounts payable.
Some companies tend to have different payables accounts to make their accounting more transparent and easy to understand. Some of the most common payables apart from accounts payables are trades payables and notes payables.
Trade payables refers to the amount that a company owes its vendors for inventory-related goods. This includes business supplies or raw materials that make up the inventory of the business.
Notes payables refers to the amount that a company owes in terms of debt, loans or other borrowings that a company has. It has nothing to do with goods or services.
Accounts payable is an umbrella term that encompasses all of a company’s short-term payment obligations. It may or may not include trades payables. Notes payables is a separate liability that does not come under the accounts payable category.
To optimize your accounts payable process, follow these accounts payable process best practices:
A complicated accounts payable process flow is bound to attract errors. Instead, keep it as simple as possible. Define the workflow so that everyone knows what they are in charge of. Run monthly checks to see if the process that you have put in place is working.
Have a standardized invoicing system that comes into a central location. This will ensure that whether you are entering your vendor payment details manually or through a software, there is no duplication.
One of the best things you can do for your accounts payable process is to use technology to improve it. You can eliminate routine and mundane tasks for your employees and allow them to focus on more important tasks in the accounts payable process such as dispute management.
The accounts payable process leaves room for fraud. Employees could easily create fake vendor accounts and issue invoices to have them processed to themselves. To avoid this, ensure that the responsibility for creating vendor accounts is allocated to the right people and there are checks and balances in place to verify every vendor entered into the system.
When you review data on a regular basis, you can ensure that human errors, machine errors and fraud are avoided. Establish regular checks on your data and systems to make the accounts payable process as smooth as possible.
Sometimes, during the process of recording accounts payables, there is a possibility that the same invoice is recorded twice. The chances of this happening are higher when accounts payables invoices are recorded manually. This error can increase your company’s liability and eat into your margins if it goes unnoticed.
So, how do you ensure that you avoid duplication in the accounts payable process?
Managing accounts payable process is essential because ignoring it can have negative ramifications for your company. For instance, if you don’t know how much you owe to vendors and suppliers, you will not be able to get a real picture of your company’s overall financial health. This can impact your financial projections. In turn, you could find it difficult to get credit or loans for your company when you need it.
Moreover, having a poor reputation when it comes to managing your accounts payable process flow can have a bad impact on your brand. This could deter vendors and suppliers from working with you, having a direct impact on your supply chain.
Mismanaging your accounts payable process flow can also lead to late fees and interest payments that can quickly add up to impact your bottom line negatively.
A great way to ensure that you have a strong accounts payable process flow is to enable automation of accounts payable process. Getting a good accounts payable automation software can smoothen out the process and enable better management of your payables.
Accounts payable process automation is a way of integrating accounts payable automation software into your traditional accounts payable process. It includes accounts payable invoice automation, tracking of timelines, and automatically clearing payments as and when they are due. In short, it automates the most repetitive and mundane aspects of the accounts payable process, and frees up your employees to take on more meaningful tasks.
Accounts payable automation software can do a number of tasks including converting invoices received from your suppliers into a digital format, automating invoice approval, providing notifications for payments that need to be cleared and updating the same in your accounting software. All of these culminate to enable a smooth accounts payable process flow that reduces the dependence on employees to take care of them manually.
Handing over any part of the accounts payable process to software or technology can be counted as automating your accounts payable process. The best accounts payable automation software will be able to help you with a number of tasks, including converting your invoices into a digital format, matching your invoices to the purchase order, sending the invoice for verification to different stakeholders, setting up payment reminders, making payments directly to your supplier or vendor, and much more.
Usually, accounts payable automation has machine learning and artificial intelligence at play. For instance, you could use automation software with optical character recognition (OCR) to convert paper invoices into digital invoices. Machine learning can then be employed to identify patterns and draw inferences from the data gathered. This can help you make vital decisions about your payment process and also manage cash flow better.
We have already outlined the accounts payable automation benefits. In this section, we will talk more in detail about how accounts payable process automation can benefit your business.
Accounts payable processes that are handled by humans are prone to errors. Excel sheets leave plenty of room for error. When you have the best accounts payable automation software, you can eliminate errors and put in place a streamlined accounts payable process.
When there are fewer errors, the accounts payable process becomes a lot more efficient and fast. With accounts payable invoice automation solution, you will have faster payment times and automatic settlements.
By automating the accounts payable process, not only does it become easier for you to track and manage accounts payables, your vendors and suppliers can also check the status themselves. This leads to more transparency and confidence building. Your finance department will also benefit from a clear view of outgoing payments, payment data and cash flow situation.
When you have a streamlined accounts payable process flow thanks to accounts payable process automation, your employees will be freed up for other important tasks. In the long run, you will save money on hiring costs and a more efficient accounts payable system.
Automating the accounts payable process leads to a faster, more efficient and transparent system that makes you a delight to work with. More vendors, suppliers and even lenders will be willing to work with you, making the overall business process smoother for you.
With the best accounts payable automation software, you can increase the speed and accuracy with which you make payments. When you make payments on time or early, your vendors and suppliers are likely to give you good discounts.
Aspire’s accounts payable automation software can help you automate all your accounts payable needs in a simple and easy way. You can pay invoices by forwarding an email, optimise your cashflow, and manage all your bills in one place. Our AI assistant will take care of manual data entry, allow you to schedule payments and get real-time visibility on your payments.
All you need to do is forward your bills to Aspire, turn on notifications, make any edits to payments and approve when ready. It’s really that simple.