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Last updated Jan 16, 2024

Rise up accounts payable teams! 8 ways to save time and make money.

Written by Darcie Lamond
4 minute read
Rise up accounts payable teams!

Let’s face it, in spite of shouldering serious responsibilities, accounts payable teams are possibly the most under-appreciated resource in finance. Sure, nobody likes paying bills, and seeing money go out the door feels less gratifying than bringing it in (AR gets all the good juju). But smart companies understand the value of AP to optimize working capital and improve their bottom line.

The important contribution that an AP team can make is often lost in a barrage of disjointed processes and manual workarounds. Time is spent on low-value work, instead of the important things that can make a real difference to a company. Frankly, AP teams deserve a medal of honor for the heroics they pull off every day and the stress they endure at the month-end close.

Here is what you probably do now: Here is what you would be focused on instead with the right tools
Track down receipts. Increase revenue.
Work to put invoices into context and match them to bills. Improve the accuracy of forecasts.
Piece together threads of communication to build an audit trail of authorizations. Improve terms with vendors.
Match behavior to policies to verify compliance. Eliminate wasted spend.
Move from one system to another to pay bills by check, ACH, international payments, or vendor credits. Improve cash management.
Reconcile and book corporate card spending to the GL. Offset funding gaps.
Reimburse employees after manually verifying expense reporting. Strengthen your company's negotiating position.
Manual or semi-automatic coding to the GL, or fixing errors and restating. Improve vendor performance.

AP teams of the future will look back on today’s processes and wonder why their past selves were willing and able to put up with such a broken world. They’ll be reminded that “back then” the tools didn’t exist to fully automate the whole process and liberate them for the important value-added work of improving forecasts, freeing up working capital, and eliminating wasted spend.

But, a solution does finally exist! And an increasing number of companies have moved into the future by adopting innovative spend management software to automate the process and replace the myriad disjointed point solutions.

The innovation that is spend management consolidates and automates the whole process — bill payments, corporate cards, and employee reimbursements — instead of having separate systems for different types of company spend. The implications of this consolidation are significant. Spend management platforms:

  • Free up key resources’ time with automation.
  • Speed up time-to-close the books and move toward continuous accounting.
  • Provide real-time information for better decision-making.
  • Provide better tools to surface opportunities for better vendor terms.
  • Include corporate cards to truly track all spend in one place.
  • Support distributed teams aka remote workforces.

An often-overlooked yet crucial and sweeping by-product of adopting a spend management system is the contribution that a modern AP process makes to the creation of a strong company-wide spend culture. When AP processes are consistent and transparent, employee ownership of spending is clear and supported. Confusion around approvals and other policies is eliminated, and everyone can be responsible for the spending they do. This in turn helps employees comply with company policies, and ultimately protects the budget.

Diana Ngo, Senior Director of Finance at YourMechanic, noticed this dynamic after her company transitioned their legacy accounts payable software to a spend management platform. “I overhear conversations about spend all the time now. It’s not just that people are more responsible with money, it’s that they’re more independent.”

Accept nothing less than modern accounts payable best practices.

With spend management technology, there really is no more excuse for an AP team to struggle with antiquated processes. Make sure you get the following.

  • Automation: Reduce the risk of errors and the tedium of manual work by using automated tools that can perform routine tasks across all payment types.
  • Robust purchase orders system: Automate tasks like invoice matching to safeguard against invalid invoices or duplicate payments.
  • Vendor portals: When vendors can input their payment information and track payment status, errors are reduced and there are fewer information requests for a finance team to field.
  • Flexible, streamlined workflows: Bottlenecks and uncertainty disappear when purchasing, and payments flow through predetermined workflows.
  • Rule-based policies: Let the system be the enforcer, and remove the uncertainty and confusion often found in expense policies.
  • Software-enabled virtual cards: Cards with built-in controls regarding spend amount and time frame help to control spend before purchasing takes place, without the need for awkward conversions afterward.
  • Payment-agnostic workflows (checks, ACH, cards, international wires, vendor credits): When all payment methods are accessible from one command and control center, AP teams save time. They can also optimize payment methods. For example, paying bills by virtual card can generate cash back, effectively monetizing AP.
  • An automated audit trail: The ability to generate associated documents as transactions take place saves time and stress when it’s time for an audit.
  • A flexible scalable solution: Your company is dynamic with changing needs, so make sure that any system you select can grow with you to avoid having to constantly upgrade to new solutions.

With the right system, you’ll free up the cash trapped on your balance sheet and deliver real value to your company including:

  • Added liquidity to fund growth.
  • Streamlined processes.
  • Reduced costs.
  • Enhanced service levels.
  • The ability to seize new investment opportunities as they arise.

Now doesn’t that sound like the type of superhero contribution you would like your AP team to make?

Find out how Airbase can help you optimize your accounts payable processes — schedule a demo with us.

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