From XU Magazine, 
Issue 21

During times of uncertainty, having trust in your accounts payable process is key

We are in uncertain times. If you follow the news as diligently as I do, you’ll be aware of the stories dominating the headlines. Whether it’s socioeconomic, environmental or geopolitical, a general sense of uncertainty has been a consistent feeling this past year. Recently, in the UK, we’ve come to feel this all too starkly – although I hope by the time UK readers are absorbing this article, things are beginning to look a bit clearer!
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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But the UK’s own problems aside, uncertainty is a universal problem that can be felt on an individual level. The factors that breed uncertainty are usually elements that are out of our individual control and this can add to the anxiety and stress of the situation. For accountants and finance professionals, this is no different and perhaps exacerbated, given the responsibilities of financial stewardship.

Earlier this year, Accountex conducted a survey amongst UK accounting and finance professionals on their views of the political and economic landscape at the time. Of those surveyed, a staggering 96% of respondents revealed that they favoured various alternatives to the government’s then leading stance on Brexit at the time. This high response rate showing a common universal reaction is testament to how uncertainty is a significant concern amongst finance and accounting professionals.

Despite this, accountancy is still one profession that can (and has) taken steps to gain and maintain control during uncertain times. Through management and monitoring of cash, customer satisfaction, project progress, supplier performance and more, accountants can make necessary preparations for challenges, introduce efficiencies ahead of time, and get relevant information to people quicker; allowing you to feel more in control.

So, how can certainty be achieved?

The good news is that there are key areas that accountants and finance professionals already manage that can help achieve certainty. All it takes a bit of awareness of these areas and how they can contribute to gaining more control.  Many have already begun the transformation of key processes to leverage the power of digital automation and technology.

For example, let’s take the accounts payable process.

Within the AP team the first area to review is to assess how you are paying your suppliers. More suppliers are turning to digital sales invoicing software, like Xero, to help their customers pay them faster.  So, suppliers are already aware that technology can be leveraged to help them manage cash. However, there are some customers who intentionally withhold payment to their suppliers to control cash flow.  In fact, CTMfile reports that 27% of invoices are intentionally paid late in the UK. This may seem like a traditional cash flow solution in the short term, but the reality is that this practice will be detrimental to your supplier relationships. Better relationships with suppliers can ensure better prices, service levels leading to a higher level of support when needed most by your operational teams. Ensuring that you never “miss” a supplier invoice for payment again has many benefits in the long term. New legislation is slowly coming into play to force certain, currently larger, organisations to report their supplier payment performance statistics. In effect, a public league table on who is a risk to trade with, regarding cash exposure.

Looking closer to home. One of the biggest concerns for finance teams is ensuring that they have a degree of control over their company’s spending. A lack of spend visibility is a problem that grows as businesses do. Without visibility of spend, businesses are exposed to a higher risk of maverick spending, using unapproved suppliers, breaching delegated budgets and even suffering from fraud – from both external and internal sources. Having an accounts payable process, that gives real-time end-to-end visibility capturing spend requirements in advance, formalising these in purchase orders and leading to supplier invoice capture, matching and online approval delivers control to all participants within your organisation. Spend control means you can know the exact status of your company’s spending leaving little doubt about your company’s financial health, and you’ll be able to tackle the nasty surprises that our uncertain world may throw at you.

Looking ahead through uncertainty

So, now you see that although life can be uncertain at the best of times, accountants and finance professionals can ensure that their accounts payable process isn’t an area for concern. You just need the right tools to help maintain control of some of the areas that could leave your business or clients exposed to the risks uncertainty brings. Digital transformation is key to helping this.

Empowering your finance function with automation and AI is now fundamental to ensuring your accounts payable process is in fighting form.

With real-time supplier invoice management, purchase order, contract management, and purchase to pay solutions available, you can keep your suppliers happy and on-side so when uncertainty creates impact, you know you have a support network in place that you can trust. Not only will this enhance your supplier relationships, but it protects you from the risks of external and internal fraud.

Beyond this, simply being equipped with an accounts payable system that you can trust is transformative for your business, clients and suppliers. This is something that cannot be stressed enough and the beauty of it is, software solutions are readily available to help you achieve this.

Two things are certain: (1) we are in uncertain times and (2) digital transformation is here to help. Ultimately, the latter is key in helping your business and clients through and making the uncertain times, certain.

Why leave it there?

Find out how Compleat can help streamline invoice processing, speed up approvals, get visibility of spend and control budgets

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