Elevate Accounts Payable by Prioritizing the People

It’s no secret that people, and businesses, thrive on effective communication. The rise in collaborative digital tools in recent years has clearly demonstrated that when people can communicate easily, quality increases, and the work is completed faster. Mistakes are avoided, innovative solutions are devised, and work is completed more satisfactorily. It’s in every department head’s interest to see that their employees are empowered to perform their job the best they can.

The Communication Breakdown in Accounts Payable

Organizations of every size struggle to maintain an efficient collaborative work environment. This challenge is often felt by employees in finance roles. Accounts Payable is a prime example of an area where differing methods and means of communication can result in crossed wires, mistakes, and delays. Accounts Payable must navigate complex department structures and approval hierarchies each time they need an invoice approved. Dealing with multiple locations, departments, and vendors, it becomes quickly apparent that there are many different ways that people choose to communicate. And, like it or not, it is AP’s job to sort them all out!

There are many examples that illustrate how a lack of communication can slow the invoice management process considerably:

  1. As a finance professional, you can have the right approval chain routing correctly, but what if a manager on the chain isn’t sure what an invoice was for, or wants to ask someone else on the team a question about it? Chances are she’s going to use email to get her question answered. But the problem with that is that nobody else can see it, or she might forget it, and finance doesn’t know why there’s a delay.
  2. In another case, one of your approvers realizes another approver needs to be added. Shouldn’t they be able to do that without involving AP?
  3. Finally, what happens when there’s a question about the invoice that only the vendor can answer? The conversation ends up taking place “offline” via email or phone, and finance loses visibility yet again.

A Call to … Less Phone Calls

The scenarios above all have one thing in common: inefficient communication that causes delays. Not only is this annoying for the finance team, but it can cost the company money in delays and mistakes. What can finance leadership do, right now, to help AP run faster? Here are a few ideas:

  • Find a way to easily get everyone involved in the same conversation.
  • Empower the people who really own the relationship with a supplier and who definitely knows the context of that particular invoice to participate in the approval process.
  • Increase accountability of all stakeholders with full process transparency

Improving communication between people seems like a simple concept for a solution to invoice management frustrations. However, few successfully achieve that. Finance leaders who are truly invested in taking charge of their spending should take a big picture perspective and consider how to empower every person involved in the process to be a part of the conversation. 

[ Published: December 5, 2017 ]