Advice for New Controllers in Managing Accounts Payable
Congratulations! You’ve just accepted a new role as controller of an amazing company. It’s a fantastic opportunity and you cannot wait to sink your teeth into the role. Whether this is an internal promotion, or a move from a different company, you no doubt have many great ideas on how to improve the company.
Coming in with a fresh perspective gives you a huge advantage in fixing some of the challenges that your reports may be facing right now. The company may already have a specific set of processes in place for the various financial processes such as Accounts Payable, but that does not mean that there is not room for improvement.
Here’s what you can do in your new role to not just manage, but improve Accounts Payable.
Understand where their true challenge lies.
Unless you came straight from an AP background, you may not have true insight into the real pain point that AP faces. From your perspective it may seem that tedious data entry might be the worst part of the job, but the fact is, the communication breakdown during the approvals process, can often take up far more of Accounts Payable’s time and energy.
When your AP team sends invoices for approval via paper or email, they become “chasers”, nagging approvers for their signature, or requesting further information from vendors to clarify issues. This lack of communication and control over the approvals process can results in late payments and frustration on the part of everyone involved in the process.
Improve visibility for AP and yourself.
The lack of visibility into the approvals process goes hand in hand with the lack of communication. Once an invoice is sent out for approval, AP loses visibility. They don’t see the side conversation(s) that takes place. The person they sent it to often needs to forward it to another colleague to clarify that the terms of service were met. Occasionally, the vendor is contacted to clear up issues, then a final approval must be given. Meanwhile, AP is sending follow up emails to the original approver, and getting nervous over looking deadlines. Bringing all these conversations together in one place will improve visibility and streamline the entire process.
Bonus: Increased visibility will impact not only the finance team but approvers in different departments, their colleagues, and your vendors. When everyone can see every part of the approvals conversation, the entire process will move as much as 80% faster.
Help them improve their current processes.
Rather than taking a “rip and replace” mentality to AP, take time to understand exactly why and how the current processes work, then seek out ways to improve them. This reduces disruption and allows for quicker adoption of new solutions.
Evaluate new solutions that will empower your team.
New solutions in Accounts Payable, which leverage the latest in AI & machine learning technology, can make a world of difference to your AP team by learning their work patterns and reducing time spent keying data. Stay up-to-date on emerging vendors and industry trends to make sure your AP team is properly equipped to do their work well. There are a few ways you can find potential solutions:
- Ask your peers for their recommendations.
- Review the Sage Intacct Marketplace for good AP solutions.
- Attend industry events such as Sage Intacct Advantage to see what vendors have to offer.
Avoid an unnecessary implementation project.
Well-meaning managers often do not realize the additional burden that the implementation of a new AP solution places upon their team in terms of time and effort. Building the process flow, exceptions, user list, and integrating it with the existing financial system often takes months. Consider AP solutions that do not require an implementation project. This will remove a huge barrier to adoption, saving your company both time and money.
Stampli is a cloud-based interactive invoice management solution for Accounts Payable that helps get invoices approved up to 5 times faster. Until today, Accounts Payable’s greatest challenge was the communication breakdown that occurs in the approvals process. Stampli solves this problem by creating each invoice as its own digital landing page which centers the conversation about the invoice on top of the invoice itself. This flexible, easy-to-use approvals work flow can reduce the time spent chasing invoice approvals by as much as 80% - and make the process enjoyable for everyone involved! Featuring an intuitive and collaborative user interface, Stampli integrates seamlessly with leading Enterprise Resource Planning systems.