How to make your accounts payable team collaborate more efficiently?

Apr 05, 2024

The accounts payable team in your business shouldn’t stand alone on its own. It should be a key function in your business that is involved with other departments.

However, a lot of traditional accounts payable processes could cause problems and create a gap between the team and other departments.

To mitigate this, you want to invest in accounts payable automation to help you close this gap before it causes any issues for your business. 

Why is there a gap between the AP team and other departments?

There are many reasons why there could be a gap between the accounts payable team and other departments. Here are some big reasons why this gap exists.

1. Lack of transparency

It’s hard to ensure the credibility or accuracy of work when you are passing work from one team to the other. When it comes to accounts payable, this lack of transparency can often happen because invoices are traditionally processed.

Either manually through emails or through an IT system only the accounts payable team uses, which means that the data of your AP team’s work is not visible company-wide.

2. No defined accounts payable process

Oftentimes traditional accounts payable department functions are not streamlined. There isn’t a defined workflow that everyone in the business is aware of, which could create confusion and friction between departments.

3. Lack of motivation within the team

Another reason why there might be a gap between your accounts payable team and other departments could be because your accounts payable department is bogged down by manual administrative tasks.

There need to be more meaningful tasks, and less time spent keying in data manually so that they can collaborate with other departments.

4. No proper approval workflows

Your business should have a written company policy of approval levels so every team knows who is in charge of which approval.

However, even with company policy in place, with manual processes, there’s still the risk that approvals might not be done in order or take too much time to do.

Having to chase down one approver to the next wastes time and makes the approval workflow confusing.

5. Communication gaps or barriers

When data in the workplace is not centralized, the flow of communication between different departments could be interrupted.

There’s a chance that key information could be missed in the communication process, causing a lack of coordination between your accounts payable team and other teams involved in the work that they do.

6. Higher workload on the accounts payable team

It’s likely that a gap will be created between the accounts payable team and other departments when the AP team is swamped with work and struggling to keep up with the pace.

With many duties such as invoice processing, maintaining records, and reconciling payments, having to do manual work on these tasks hinders them from having the time to build good relationships with other departments.

Which are these other departments that depend on AP team?

Accounts payable is central to your business functions. Accounting, finance, and procurement, for example, are heavily involved with and dependent on your accounts payable team.

However, other teams like HR and legal could also be involved with the accounts payable team. Processes like payroll can rely on accounts payable data, whereas both internal & external payments have to be in compliance with the regulations.

How do other departments function around accounts payable?

Accounts payable is central to your business functions. Accounting, finance, and procurement, for example, are heavily involved with and dependent on your accounts payable team.

However, other teams like HR and legal could also be involved with the accounts payable team. Processes like payroll can rely on accounts payable data, whereas both internal & external payments have to be in compliance with the regulations.

1. Human resource team

The human resource team must work with the accounts payable team to ensure that any internal payments are made accurately and in a timely manner.

The accounts payable department also works together with HR to organize payroll, with the AP team taking care of interim payroll and withstanding benefits like insurance and retirement.

2. Finance team

If your purchasing team is under finance, then your finance team will want data from the accounts payable team to negotiate the best prices with vendors.

Your finance team also will benefit from having an overview of your spending provided by the AP team, which will help with better budgeting.

3. Accounting team

Accounts payable is part of the accounting system, so it’s important for your accounting team to sync all transactions and accounts payable data with your business’ books.

The data will be needed by your accounting team for month-end reports.

4. Procurement team

Accounts payable and procurement teams need to work together to ensure that the payments you make match the goods and services you receive from your vendors.

The accounts payable team depends on the procurement team not making rogue purchasing requests, while the procurement team relies on the AP team to not make late payments.

5. Legal team

Your accounts payable team will have to work with your legal team to ensure that everything they do is in compliance with government and industry regulations. Errors in payment could cause various legal issues.

What can this lead to if it is not taken care of?

If the work of your accounts payable team is not in sync with other departments, this could lead to problems for your AP team. Some of these problems include:

1. Duplicate payments

An error in PO number data entry could end up in duplicate payments. There’s also a chance that suppliers might send a second invoice if the first is not paid soon enough, which could cause confusion between the teams.

Duplicate payments are a hassle as getting refunds from your vendors might take a long time, and if these duplicates aren’t taken care of, they will create a bleed in your cash flow.

Related read: How can businesses avoid duplicate invoice payments?

2. Slow payment processing

Processing paper-based invoices mean that invoices have to cross many desks before they can be approved for payment. Not only is it a confusing process, but it is also incredibly time-consuming.

When there is a gap between the accounts payable team and other departments, approvers may not all be on the same page. This can lead to late payments, making maintaining good relationships with your vendors difficult. 

3. Invoice matching errors

Different departments may not set aside enough time to come together and match errors. This lack of checking will result in discrepancies not being looked at.

If there are any missed invoices in the process, the corresponding payments won’t be made, which may result in bad relationships with vendors.

Conversely, if there are duplicate payments that have been made and not reconciled, you will end up having unnecessary costs that could have been avoided.

4. Sending payment before delivery

A lack of communication between the accounts payable department and other departments could lead to payments for goods and services being made before the products are received by the respective teams.

When this happens, trying to get a refund from vendors becomes much more difficult.

5. Unauthorized purchases

On the other hand, if accounts payable department duties are performed slowly, some employees might circumvent the whole process and make purchases without any proper reviewing.

This is especially true when urgent purchases need to be made. However, when unauthorized purchases happen, it will lead to a bleed in your cash flow.

Ways to make the accounts payable team collaborate more efficiently

The good news is that this gap between the accounts payable team and other departments can be closed with the help of automation. Here are some ways accounts payable automation software can help close the gap.

1. Bring data together on one platform

When you have one centralized platform for all your expense data, it’s easier to have everyone on the same page.

Not only does this make the data easy to access for anyone who needs it, but it also makes maintaining data consistency straightforward. This way, you can build common goals amongst different departments.

2. Go paperless

Oftentimes mismatched information between departments is caused by a lack of visibility. Having paper invoices makes it difficult for your staff to access information on these invoices.

When you go paperless, your staff both from the accounts payable team and other departments will have to spend less time and effort just to track down invoices

3. Keep digital records

Keeping all your records digitally in one place for the corresponding teams to access also means that any discrepancies can be viewed and checked on your accounts payable platform.

You no longer have to worry about mistakes in the matching and reconciling processes, or missing errors that would’ve been costly.

4. Build defined workflows

You can easily build streamlined and defined workflows for your AP processes with the help of AP automation software.

When you do this, you are making other departments aware of what the accounts payable department duties look like, ceasing confusion and closing the gap. It also holds everyone involved in the process accountable.

5. Use AI for touchless invoice processing

Less manual touch points in your accounts payable processes also mean fewer errors. Automate your invoice processing and data extraction with three-way matching for shorter invoice processing time with higher accuracy.

This will prevent any unauthorized payments from happening, as well as allow your accounts payable team to use their time to communicate with other departments.

6. Utilize cloud-based software

Having cloud-based accounts payable software allows your staff to access data from anywhere. In an era where hybrid and remote work models are becoming increasingly popular

This is essential to close the gap between your accounts payable team and other departments. Your staff won’t have to be in the same physical location to work together. 

How does Volopay help in bridging the gap between AP & other teams?

Volopay allows you to manage all your expenses on a single platform. You can add all your staff who are involved in your accounts payable processes to the system, allowing them to view data that you want them to view from anywhere.

Your accounts payable team can also work through otherwise manual tasks faster and have more time to collaborate on data with other departments.

Empower your team by freeing them up from their workload and allowing them to build more meaningful relationships between departments.

Collaborate more efficiently with other teams through AP automation