The Main Factors That Disrupt Accounts Payable Departments And The Data Collection Necessary To Address Them



There are many factors that could disrupt the AP process, and automation is often given as a solution to the challenges raised by human error, remote work, and staff shortages.

However, sometimes the approach taken to implementation itself becomes the issue, especially when automation is incomplete or is implemented incorrectly. In many UK businesses, AP departments have been under significant pressure to rethink their systems and operations, in order to strengthen the company’s cash position and contribute to its overall resilience.


In this article, we look at some of the challenges AP departments currently face and how efficient data collection can help overcome them and become more agile when faced with disruption.

The Switch To Remote Work

Many AP departments struggled to adapt to the sudden implementation of remote work in 2020, since their roles and core tasks were largely dependent on on-site solutions. Having to work off-
premises makes it harder for AP staff to access the information they need to process and pay invoices on time, unless the appropriate cloud-based systems and collaboration processes are in
place. Although most large businesses have now returned to the office, flexible working patterns are more commonplace than they were pre-pandemic, and still have the potential to cause disruption to deadline-sensitive schedules.

These changes to working practices have highlighted how inefficient manual AP processes can be when the team are put under pressure, leading to:
– Lower productivity, as it takes longer for teams to manage their workload.
– Higher risk or errors or duplicate payments due to redundant or inconsistent processes.
– A longer invoice-to-pay cycle.

Issues With AP Automation

Most businesses now use some form of software-based automation in their AP processes, but low-level or incomplete automation can actually increase disruption in the form of inconsistencies,
duplicate work, or gaps between manual and automated processing.

How Efficient Data Collection Can Help Overcome Disruption

Whatever the direct trigger, most disruptive factors have inefficient data collection and management practices as their root cause.

To address this problem, the first step involves defining and measuring key AP metrics using tools that enhance end-to-end AP visibility and help you get a pulse on the health of your department, in real-time. Usually, this means transitioning to digital data monitoring and analytics solutions that save time without compromising on accuracy.

The second step involves implementing a solid supplier management programme, which can ensure supplier relationships are better aligned with your AP budgets and goals. To that end, it’s vital to consolidate all supplier data into an accessible format and centralised source to identify areas where

disruption is more likely to occur. This allows targeted risk mitigation strategies to overcome the challenges facing your department.

Equally important is having robust governance practices related to data collection. Among other things, this means establishing a chain of accountability for each AP process, defining best practices to manage change, appointing process owners, and ensuring communication lines are always open between colleagues and departments.

The fourth thing that can help reduce disruption is strengthening AP processes through better automation. Systematic AP automation can gradually but significantly improve efficiencies by
reducing the risk of manual errors, facilitating accurate and consistent data collection, and saving time and money.

Find Out More

Cogent Consulting offer tailored AP automation services and consultancy for busy AP teams in a range of sectors. We invite you to book a live demo to see how our automated invoice processing
and management platforms can strengthen your AP processes and prevent disruption.

SAP Invoice Automation Guide - Cogent Consulting