How To Ensure Your Accounts Payable Department Does Not Miss Another Deadline

Take back control of your AP

A mess of overdue invoices

Business expenses run the gamut from necessary to incidental but one frustrating area of unforeseen expenses is late fees and unnecessary interest. If you’ve ever missed paying a company bill on time, you have likely encountered one of these inevitable costs, much to your chagrin. The frustration increases tenfold when the professional bookkeeper you assigned to manage your accounts payable misses due dates, causing surprising costs you expected to avoid because you employ a dedicated person to address these issues.

However, whether you process your accounts payable (“AP”) on your own and struggle to meet deadlines or are having difficulties managing your bookkeeper and are watching fees pile up, there are several things you can do to ensure your bookkeeping processes are aligned to stick to due dates and meet deadlines.

1. Examine Your Current Accounting Processes To Uncover Pitfalls

If you are already the victim of recurring late payment fees and accrued interest, you need to start by examining every stage of your accounts payable and bill management processes. From how the incoming invoices are received to the cycles of review, approval and payment issue to the documenting of payments and filing of paid invoices; every step should be reviewed for accuracy and efficiency.

Highlight where invoices get stuck in the workflow, identify potential culprits (i.e., slow mail processing time, infrequent bill review periods, absent approvers) and adjust to address the biggest problem areas first.

If there are multiple people involved in the AP workflow, get everyone to participate in outlining the process to ensure full transparency and accountability. You may think that mail is opened the day it is received, only to find out that it is held for a week before being routed to the accounting department.

2. Establish Set Bookkeeping Procedures, Processes and Expectations

Before searching for an overhauled solution, start by created rules and expectations to guide future tasks and functions in accounts payable. Perhaps this includes maximum turnaround times, a step-by-step approval process or an expectation that all invoices are paid 3 days before the due date. The processes should be in line with your company goals and abilities and determined and agreed upon by all parties to ensure company-wide buy in.

3. Create Tasks and Reminders In Your Go-To Calendar and Task Management Program

The quickest way to include automated workflow functions in to your accounting processes is to lean on your current task and calendar management program to accommodate your tasks.  After you establish your expectations for your improved accounting processes, break them into single tasks to complete. From recording new invoices to forwarding to the approver in the review cycle, each specific task should be created as a recurring reminder in your calendar and task program. Whomever is responsible for a specific task’s execution should have them set to the appropriate frequency to ensure on time fulfillment.

Using a task-based approach to bill payment and management will help keep workflows simple and easy to execute. Tasks can easily be shared, transferred and reviewed to ensure compliance with stated processes and procedures. Every invoice will follow the same process, standardizing steps and allowing for greater control and oversight by company managers and owners. You can easily check on the tasks in a program (rather than your bookkeeper’s memory) to see which tasks are marked complete or outstanding.

4. Implement An Automated Bill Management Workflow Program

The optimal solution for avoiding late payments, fees and interest is to implement an integrated bill management program that will automate workflows, sync with accounting programs and ensure maximum visibility throughout the process. From distinct user profiles to automated email notifications and mobile approvals, integrating a bill management program into your workflow will connect all the dots to ensure tasks and accounts payable deadlines are never overlooked again.

Not sure where to begin? It can seem a little overwhelming at first. Start with the most simple step from your current processes and build slowly. You don't have to transition from post-its to a fully automated system overnight.