Skip to main content

When Aldous Huxley said that “Most Human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted”,  he did not have accounts payable in mind but…

As a backroom function, mostly out of the limelight, perhaps the role of accounts payable fits the bill as it is often misunderstood, taken for granted and is the subject of many derogatory myths.

In this blog, we debunk some of these myths.

Myth #1 – Accounts payable doesn’t need investment

Reality – While it is understandable that most businesses will prioritise investment in front office functions, funding back office operations should not be ignored. Business requires that accounts payable is part of the team that delivers customer satisfaction, primarily by helping maintain a healthy supply chain. Failure to invest can result in the function being off pace and unable to support the business, with slow payments and supplier disputes, disrupting the supply chain.

Myth #2 – Accounts payable can fund your business

Reality – Funding your business by delaying payments to suppliers can damage your brand and normally ends with a fall. We saw this with Carillion, where the only cash generation was from delayed payments to suppliers who eventually could not take anymore. The late payment of suppliers by large companies has recently been subject to regulatory overview with the introduction of Reporting on Payment Practices and Performance

Myth #3 – The accounts payable department knows everything going on in the business – even if you don’t tell them

Reality – The consequences of keeping the accounts payable department in the dark by failing to provide the information required to resolve issues can be harmful both to supplier relationships and management accounts due to delayed processing of transactions. Accounts payable and those responsible for the approval of invoices require transactional visibility and an audit trail to ensure effective processing.

Myth #4 – Accounts payable is the department of “no”

Reality – The perception of accounts payable as a department staffed by variations of the Little Britain character Carol Beer – “computer says no” – misstates the role, which is to support budget holders in the delivery of outcomes and maintain a positive relationship with suppliers.

Myth #5 – Accounts payable just happens and requires no skill

Reality – There’s an expectation that accounts payable will be seen and not heard, be error-free, and always be on time. When this is not the case there is often an assignment of blame rather than an appreciation that this is an exception to the normal success rate.

The brave new world of accounts payable software requires systems that automate data entry, provide approval workflows and requires skilled staff who can deal with exceptions, helping provide efficiency, visibility, and control over the payables process.