NEW EXECUTIVE BRIEFING: Optimising Working Capital Using Technology

How to solve systemic problems in your P2P and AP processes through reporting

Create a high level of AP efficiency and productivity and address issues within your P2P and AP processes by using a simple but powerful tool: reporting.
A person holding a tablet, with graphs and charts on it, to signify solving problems in AP processes with reports

So, it’s your job to run your finance team and their workload as effectively as possible. You want accuracy, efficiency and to lower costs to the business. To do that, you’re looking at your P2P or AP processes and asking what could improve, and how? In our experience, you’ll find where to start through studying your facts and figures.

P2P and AP processes can be really complicated.

For many, the P2P process can be a difficult beast to tame, and reporting on it has become more complex and time-consuming.

More precautions are being taken to guard against supply chain collapse and to protect working capital. More suppliers are being onboarded, which means there are more invoices to pay. There’s so much data to sort through that it’s difficult to find the information you need. It can get especially complicated when others ask for specific reports. This often involves manipulating data on a spreadsheet to figure out percentages or ratios.

How can we make complex reporting simple?

To get to grips with your AP processes, you need a solution that allows you to gather all your data and give the drill downs necessary to understand it in depth. You can then make informed decisions on changes to process, or actions to take, such as removing a supplier from your master file.

So, we urge you to consider your reporting carefully. Is it giving you the information you need to make data-driven decisions? Using customisable reports can help you fine tune your reporting to give you that vital information.

How to look for P2P process inefficiencies and productivity gains.

Define key performance indicators (KPIs)

The first step is to establish clear KPIs that align with your AP and P2P objectives. Perhaps those are time savings, improved vendor relationships, or cost savings. To truly understand your processes, dig deep into these reports and look for common trends. The trend may be a person, a supplier that consistently has invoice issues, or a figure that is way out of the norm.

Review reports and invoice data

Once you’ve outlined those KPIs, gather your reports. If possible, visualise these reports using graphs and charts, as it will be far easier to identify outliers. Look at anomalies, trends and patterns that could indicate recurring problems.

Process mapping

Physically map out your P2P and AP processes to identify potential bottlenecks or areas of inefficiency. You can use your reports to assign timings to this. This visual representation can help pinpoint where systemic problems occur. Don’t forget to include assignees to each area and cross reference against where they spend the most time. Some issues stem from a lack of resource.

Benchmarking

Benchmarking is particularly useful to see how well your team performs against similar organisations and identify where your processes could improve. In terms of process mapping, your days payable outstanding is a good place to start. When process mapping, assign benchmarking time frames and numbers to each part of your process, and then compare against your own. Remember to allow for the workload and number of your team. A smaller team may have more on their plate and therefore could have a longer DPO.

Technology assessment

Evaluate the effectiveness of your AP and P2P technology solutions. Ensure that your systems are up-to-date and consider whether enhancements or new tools are needed. For example, if you have a high number of errors or duplicate payments, it can be well worth the time and cost to apply risk management software like our own, which also can help pinpoint the root cause of these.

Continuous monitoring

Implement continuous monitoring of your P2P and AP processes. Set up alerts for key metrics to quickly identify and address issues as they arise.

Talk to your employees

It’s always important to speak to your employees. One team member with a longer invoice processing time than others may be putting more time into speaking to a supplier who calls constantly. You need to ask the question, why is that? Is it a recurring issue that you could rectify?

Vendor relationship and satisfaction

It’s a no brainer. Gather feedback from vendors about their experience with your team and processes. Identify any recurring concerns or dissatisfaction.

If you have a recurring issues with a supplier, and you’ve checked that it’s not your system that’s the problem, it could well be their process. By making them aware of the issue, you may increase efficiency in your team and theirs.

Performance report example from FISCAL Technologies show key accounts payable KPIs, made to help improve AP processes and effectiveness
FISCAL's custom reporting functionality makes it simple to make sense of complex data.

Key reports to look at to solve systemic AP process problems.

Invoice data

Your invoice data will show discrepancies and inaccuracies, and a common KPI to measure is invoice error rate. If cross-referenced against suppliers or employees, you may be able to identify issues. For example, if you see a supplier with a higher number of invoice errors or a slower processing time, there could be a problem with their system, or yours. Our own software also looks at the risk level we associate with each transaction, so you can prioritise your efforts. If an employee has a slower processing time than average, check to see if there is a factor affecting this that you are unaware of.

Payment analysis

We know you look at days to pay to ensure your team are within payment terms, but your payment data can be useful for far more. Evaluate the timeliness of payments and take note of any late payments. Identify reasons for delays and assess whether they are isolated incidents or indicate broader issues. Consistent late payments may well be your focus, but don’t neglect exceedingly late payments. Getting to the crux of these outliers could save a great deal of time should it happen again.

Error analysis

Examine the types and frequency of errors in the P2P and AP processes. Common errors may include incorrect data entry, matching errors, or approval delays. Look beyond immediate symptoms to understand the underlying causes of problems. The source of those errors could be the supplier, automation or an internal error. Looking into that detail helps you identify systemic issues in your processes, to work towards fixing them.

Purchase orders (POs)

To keep track of POs, and to aid in reducing the number of POs created after invoices arrive in the system, we recommend keeping track of the percentage of PO coverage to invoices, and the number or percentage of POs submitted after the invoice. Ensure this information can be segmented by users and you will be able to pinpoint those who regularly create retrospective POs.

Dormant and duplicate suppliers

The master supplier file, or master vendor file, is often a root cause of other issues downstream. The help you manage your supplier file, ensure you measure the number of dormant vendors. We recommend going back two or three years to ensure you don’t miss any subscription-style suppliers. We also recommend you monitor for duplicate suppliers. Measuring this number along with who is inputting them may help find where process is not being followed. 

Conclusion

By following these steps, you can systematically identify and address issues within your AP and P2P processes, leading to improved efficiency and effectiveness.

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