Accounts payable

What is 2-way matching in accounts payable?

Apr 05, 2024

In the intricate world of financial management, precision and compliance are paramount.


One such crucial process that plays a pivotal role in maintaining financial accuracy is two-way matching in accounts payable. This process ensures that invoices align with purchase orders, safeguarding against errors and discrepancies.


It is a method of verification used by finance professionals in organizations to check and authorize payments for an invoice.

What is 2-way matching?


2-way match in accounts payable is a meticulous process that revolves around comparing two essential components: invoices and purchase orders. Its primary purpose is to confirm that the billed amount on an invoice matches the agreed-upon terms and conditions in the corresponding purchase order.


A 2-way match in AP is a relatively common method nowadays through which companies ensure that the invoices they are receiving are not fraudulent or duplicate. 

What are the components involved in 2-way matching?

Invoice

An invoice is a formal document issued by a supplier to a buyer, detailing the products or services provided, their quantities, prices, and the agreed-upon terms of payment.


It serves as a request for payment and is a critical part of the accounts payable process.


An invoice can be sent with the goods being delivered or separately on a later date as mutually decided between the buyer and the seller. 

Purchase order

A purchase order (PO) is a contractual document generated by a buyer to initiate a transaction with a supplier.


It outlines the specifics of the goods or services required, their quantities, prices, and other relevant terms and conditions.


A PO essentially acts as a blueprint for the procurement process, ensuring that both parties are on the same page regarding the transaction. The seller must generate an invoice as per the PO.

What is the purpose of 2-way matching?


The purpose of 2-way matching in accounts payable extends beyond the surface-level comparison of invoices and purchase orders. It serves as the bedrock for financial integrity and efficiency in business transactions.


It is a process that also helps prevent a lot of problems from occurring later on.




1. For validation of quantity and price


One of the primary goals of the 2-way matching process is to validate the accuracy of quantities and prices.


By cross-referencing the invoice with the purchase order, discrepancies in the quantity of goods received and the agreed-upon prices can be promptly identified and rectified. This helps in avoiding the mistake of paying an invoice with false details. 


2. To ensure accuracy and compliance


Be it a small or a large company, accuracy and compliance are non-negotiable in finance. A 2-way match in AP ensures that every AP payment transaction adheres to your company policies and regulatory standards, reducing the risk of costly errors or non-compliance issues. 


3. To prevent overpayment


Overpaying for goods or services can erode profit margins. 2-way matching acts as a vigilant gatekeeper, preventing overpayments by confirming that invoices accurately reflect the agreed-upon terms in the purchase order.


If an overpayment is made, it can be very difficult and often time-consuming to retrieve the funds. 


4. To improve supplier relationships


Maintaining healthy supplier relationships is vital for the smooth operation of any business.


By promptly resolving discrepancies and paying accurately, 2-way matching fosters trust and goodwill between companies and their suppliers.


Suppliers will also appreciate a robust AP invoice processing and management system that helps them get paid early and accurately. 


5. For better financial controls


Effective financial controls are the backbone of a well-managed organization. 2-way matching bolsters these controls by providing real-time insight into financial transactions, reducing the risk of unauthorized or erroneous payments.


Once you are aware of a problem before it is too late to rectify it, then you have a financial system with good controls. 


6. To streamline processes


Efficiency is the hallmark of a successful business. 2-way matching streamlines the accounts payable process by automating the comparison of invoices and purchase orders, reducing manual effort, and saving time and resources.


An accountant or finance professional from your team can manually go through each document to verify them or simply use a software tool to automate this process. 

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Step-by-step process of 2-way matching


An efficient 2-way match in accounts payable involves a structured sequence of steps that ensures accuracy, compliance, and seamless financial transactions.


The process might seem simple at first glance, but there are many crucial steps involved in it. Here's a detailed breakdown of each step:

Process of 2-way matching

1. Receipt of invoice


The process starts when the Accounts Payable (AP) department in your company receives an invoice from a supplier, either electronically or in physical paper form.


You can use either the electronic or physical document for the matching process. 


2. Retrieval of the purchase order


After receiving the invoice from the supplier or vendor, the accounts payable department retrieves the corresponding purchase order (PO) related to the received invoice. The purchase order serves as a reference for the transaction. 


3. Verification of details


Invoice details


The AP team verifies key invoice details such as the vendor's name, invoice number, invoice date, payment due date, and other relevant information to ensure that the invoice that has been received is accurate and correct or not.



Purchase order details


PO details, including the purchase order number, items ordered, quantities, and pricing, are carefully examined to confirm whether they align with the details on the invoice or not.


4. Matching process


Quantity matching


The matching process begins with comparing the quantities of items or services listed on the invoice with those specified in the purchase order. Any discrepancies are identified and flagged for resolution so that they can be taken up with the supplier and rectified as soon as possible.



Price matching


The unit prices on the invoice are compared to the prices listed in the purchase order. Deviations are highlighted for further investigation so that they can be checked and rectified later on. 



Total amount matching


The total amount on the invoice is matched with the calculated total based on the quantities and prices. This step ensures the accuracy of the amount billed by the supplier to you.


5. Discrepancy resolution


If discrepancies are detected during the matching process, the AP team collaborates with the supplier to resolve them. This may involve communication to clarify errors or discrepancies in the invoice or the purchase order. This step may take a while as it requires the supplier's availability to communicate and resolve the issues.


6. Approval


Once the matching process is complete, and any discrepancies are resolved, the invoice is submitted for approval within the organization.


An approval workflow may involve multiple stakeholders, such as department heads or managers, to ensure compliance.


7. Payment processing


After receiving the necessary approvals, the accounts payable department initiates the vendor payment process to schedule the payment or pay it immediately, ensuring that the supplier is paid accurately and on time. 


8. Recording and documentation


The final step involves recording the transaction in the financial records and maintaining thorough documentation of the entire 2-way matching process. This documentation is crucial for auditing, compliance, and historical reference. 

What are the benefits of 2-way matching?


The benefits of 2-way matching in accounts payable extend far beyond the initial verification process, positively impacting various facets of financial management. 


1. Accurate invoice verification


If payments to suppliers are made without verification of the details on an invoice, it can lead to a loss of money in case there are inconsistencies in it. 2-way matching ensures that invoices are thoroughly verified against purchase orders, reducing the likelihood of erroneous payments and enhancing financial accuracy. 


2. Reduced errors


By automating the reconciliation process, 2-way matching significantly reduces the chance of human errors, which can lead to costly financial discrepancies. 2-way matching in accounts payable done through a software tool is much more efficient and accurate than if an individual team member had to do it manually. 


3. Improved supplier relationships


Prompt resolution of discrepancies and accurate payments foster stronger and more cooperative relationships with suppliers, promoting long-term partnerships.


Having a 2-way matching system in place will show your vendors that you have good systems in place to conduct and manage business with them. 


4. Process transparency


Usually, companies maintain a record of the matching process. This documentation provides transparency in financial transactions, making it easier to trace the history of invoices, purchase orders, and payments, which is vital for auditing and compliance. 


5. Data accuracy


With the elimination of manual data entry and the automation of verification, 2-way matching through a software tool enhances data accuracy, reducing the risk of inaccuracies in financial records. This has a direct impact when creating financial statements. 


6. Streamlined auditing


The meticulous record-keeping and transparency offered by 2-way matching simplifies the auditing process for both the auditor and your company, reducing the time and effort required for audits. 


7. Improved operational efficiency


Efficiency gains are a hallmark of 2-way matching. By automating the verification process, two-way matching in accounts payable saves a finance professional’s time and resources, allowing staff to focus on more strategic tasks such as forecasting and budgeting for future activities. 

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What are the challenges in implementing 2-way matching?


While 2-way matching offers significant benefits, its successful implementation is not without its share of challenges. These hurdles must be navigated to maximize the effectiveness of this crucial financial process.


Data discrepancies


Data discrepancies between invoices and purchase orders can hinder the matching process, requiring careful analysis to resolve.


There may also be problems if the particulars that need to be matched between the invoice and the purchase order are not present on either one of the document's formatting for some reason. 


Complex purchase orders


Elaborate purchase orders with numerous line items and intricate terms can complicate the matching process, demanding meticulous attention to detail.


If the 2-way match in AP is being done manually by an individual in the accounts payable department, then there are also chances of errors occurring due to the complexity of the documents. 


Volume of transactions


High transaction volumes can overwhelm manual matching processes, necessitating efficient automation solutions to maintain accuracy.


Human error is common when dealing with large volumes of data. If your company deals with multiple invoices for multiple vendors, it is better to take the help of AP management software


Lack of automation


In the absence of automation, manual matching can be time-consuming and error-prone, particularly in organizations with large transaction volumes.


A lack of automation will mean that it takes a long time for the invoices to be verified, authorized, and finally processed for payments. 


Manual matching errors


Human errors during manual matching can lead to inaccurate results, emphasizing the need for automation to reduce the risk of mistakes.


Even the slightest error in digits that goes unnoticed can cause a huge loss to your company. So it is always important to have automation software that can scan and cross-check documents. 


Resource constraints


Resource limitations, such as a shortage of skilled staff or time constraints, can impede the efficient execution of 2-way matching.


While the process itself is important and needs to be done to ensure that no payments are being made incorrectly, it is also a resource-intensive process that requires time, effort, and a lot of attention to detail. 


Training and adaptation


Introducing new technology or processes requires training and adaptation, which can face resistance or a learning curve within an organization.


While it is a common practice now, when 2-way matching in accounts payable was first introduced, one can see how staff may see it as an added burden or task on their to-do list. 


Exception handling bottlenecks


Dealing with exceptions, such as non-standard invoices or purchase order changes, can create bottlenecks in the matching process if not adequately addressed.


Invoices or purchase orders that are not in the traditional format or have some information missing on them can cause delays in payments as they need manual intervention to figure out the exact specifics. 

How is 2-way matching different from 3-way matching?


In the realm of accounts payable, 2-way and 3-way matching are two distinctive approaches to ensuring the accuracy of financial transactions.


Each method serves a specific purpose and involves varying components and matching factors. Here's a closer look at the key differences:


2-way invoice matching


Components


2-way matching involves comparing two essential components: the purchase order (PO) and the invoice.



Matching factors


The matching factors include checking the specific items, the quantity of goods ordered, the date they were ordered, and their price. These particular details are used to match the documents and verify an invoice.


 

Purpose


The primary purpose is to confirm that the billed amount in an invoice aligns with the terms in the PO.



Discrepancies


In case of discrepancies, resolution typically involves communication between the AP department and the supplier to rectify errors.


3-way invoice matching


Components


3-way matching expands upon the 2-way process by adding a third component, the receiving report. In addition to the PO and the invoice, the receiving report details the actual receipt of goods or services. 



Matching factors


The matching factors encompass verifying the item names, the quantity of goods ordered, the date they were ordered, the price, and the date of receipt of items. 



Purpose


The purpose of 3-way matching is to ensure that not only the invoiced amount but also the receipt of goods matches the terms in the PO. 



Discrepancies


In the event of discrepancies, resolution may involve reconciling differences between the invoice, the receiving report, and the PO.

Best practices for effective 2-way matching


To harness the full potential of 2-way matching in accounts payable, adopting best practices is crucial. These strategies and tactics will ensure a streamlined and error-free process, enhancing financial accuracy and efficiency. 


1. Accurate purchase order


Begin with a well-drafted purchase order (PO) that precisely outlines terms, quantities, and pricing, minimizing discrepancies during matching.


Remember to mention all the important aspects that will need to be matched with the invoice later on. This will ensure that the AP department member or the software being used to match the documents can do it without any problems.


2. Automate the process


Leverage automation software to expedite the matching process, reducing manual effort and enhancing accuracy. If you rely on a human to do it, it will take a lot of time depending on the amount of invoices that need to be processed.


On top of that, there are more chances of errors with a human doing the matching process as compared to automation software. 


3. Match by exception


Even if your company has an automation system in place for 2-way matching, you will need human intervention to communicate with people and fix the issues that were spotted in the matching process.


Focus on exceptions rather than routine matches. Automated systems can handle straightforward matches, allowing staff to concentrate on resolving discrepancies.


4. Real-time monitoring


Implement real-time monitoring to catch errors as they occur, enabling swift resolution and reducing the likelihood of financial discrepancies.


Create workflows wherein an invoice is matched on the day it is received. This will help resolve issues quicker and not delay payments. 


5. Regular communication with the supplier


Maintain open lines of communication with suppliers to address issues promptly and collaboratively, fostering trust and cooperation.


Getting back to your supplier or vendor in case there are any errors on the same day as they sent the invoice shows proactiveness in the business relationship. 


6. Implement approval workflows


Incorporate approval workflows to ensure that invoices are reviewed and approved by the appropriate personnel before payment.


An approval workflow is a great way to ensure that there is an added level of security before payments are made to any vendor or supplier. It helps keep things transparent between all parties. 


7. Timely reviews and continuous improvement


Regularly review and refine the 2-way matching process to adapt to changing business needs and technological advancements.


Although the 2-way matching process is a great method to ensure accuracy in payments, it is not perfect.


So you should periodically check for inefficiencies and aim to improve the processes as per your situation. 


8. Regular audits


Conduct periodic audits of the 2-way matching process to identify areas for improvement and maintain compliance with regulatory standards.


Purposely processing false invoices is a great way to check and audit whether the matching process is working properly or not. 

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Benefits of automated invoice matching


Automation has revolutionized the world of invoice matching in accounts payable, bringing forth a plethora of advantages that streamline processes and optimize financial management.


Enhanced accuracy


Automated invoice matching minimizes human error, ensuring that invoices are consistently and accurately matched with purchase orders.


This in turn improves the accuracy of accounts payable payments and ensures that no money is lost due to duplicate or fake invoices. 


Cost savings


Reduced manual labor and error-related costs translate into significant cost savings for organizations.


A harmony between automated invoice matching and rectification through human intervention will yield any organization the best results in terms of cost savings. 


Reduced manual intervention


Automation eliminates the need for manual intervention in routine matching tasks, freeing up staff for more strategic activities.


AP automation software that helps with the automated matching of invoices with their purchase orders helps to free up a finance professional’s time from repetitive tasks and gives them time to focus on more important financial activities. 


Faster payment processing


Automated systems expedite payment processing by swiftly identifying and resolving discrepancies. Due to this, you will be able to make payments to your suppliers and vendors faster and improve your business relationship.


Consistent timely payments may also lead to better negotiation terms where you get early payment discounts from your vendors. 



Suggested read: B2B payments - All you need to know


Streamlined workflow


The automation of invoice matching streamlines the entire accounts payable workflow, from receipt to payment. It reduces and in some cases eliminates many roadblocks that a finance team would face if they were to do the matching process manually.


Data analytics


Automated systems provide valuable data analytics that offers insights into spending patterns and supplier performance.


Once the finance team has all the important information, they can easily make better financial decisions. 


Real-time visibility


Real-time visibility into the matching process allows for prompt issue resolution and accurate financial decision-making.


The automation software flags and notifies the responsible team members immediately so that they can take action to rectify it. 


Error prevention


Humans are more likely to miss discrepancies in invoices and purchase orders especially if they are dealing with a large volume of data.


Automation drastically reduces the risk of errors, minimizing the potential for financial discrepancies. 


Risk mitigation


By consistently enforcing compliance and accuracy, automated matching mitigates the risk of regulatory violations and financial losses. It safeguards you from any legal issues in the future. 


Process consistency


Automated systems ensure that the matching process is consistently applied, regardless of transaction volume or complexity.


You can always rely on it as it is working 24x7. This also ensures that your finance team members are notified as soon as the automation software detects any discrepancies. 

Use Volopay to automate your invoice management


Volopay is a financial solution provider with a robust platform for making payments and managing accounts payables to streamline financial operations, helping businesses save time and money while elevating the role of their finance teams. 


You can use Volopay to manage vendor payments, create a vendor database on the platform, transfer money domestically & internationally, and automate invoice processing for an efficient accounts payable process. 

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