In today’s fast-paced business environment, companies are constantly seeking ways to optimize their operations and reduce costs. One strategy that has gained popularity in recent years is accounts payable outsourcing. Accounts payable (AP) outsourcing involves delegating the management and processing of a company’s payables to a third-party service provider. While outsourcing AP functions can offer numerous benefits, it also comes with potential drawbacks. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of accounts payable outsourcing solutions to help businesses make informed decisions regarding this critical aspect of their financial operations.
Accounts Payable Overview
Before delving into the comparison, let’s briefly review accounts payable. This process encompasses tasks such as invoice processing, purchase orders (POs), data entry, and payment management. Effectively managing accounts payable is vital for maintaining financial stability, optimizing cash flow, and fostering strong supplier relationships.
Challenges of In-House Accounts Payable
Handling accounts payable in-house can be overwhelming, especially for small businesses dealing with a high volume of daily invoices. Common challenges faced by in-house AP departments include exceptions, lengthy invoice approval times, excessive paper usage, and significant time spent on supplier inquiries. Failure to address these tactical and manual-based issues can hinder AP departments from adding value to the business and achieving cost reductions, workflow improvements, and informed decision-making.
What Is Accounts Payable Outsourcing?
Accounts payable outsourcing is a business strategy in which a company delegates the management and processing of its accounts payable (AP) functions to an external service provider. Accounts payable refers to the money a company owes to its suppliers or vendors for goods and services received but not yet paid for. These transactions involve the processing of invoices, recording expenses, and ensuring timely and accurate payments to vendors.
When a company outsources its accounts payable processes, it transfers these responsibilities to a third-party organization that specializes in AP management. The outsourcing provider takes over tasks such as invoice processing, data entry, invoice validation, payment processing, vendor management, and reporting related to accounts payable.
The outsourcing company employs a team of professionals who are skilled in managing payables efficiently. They utilize advanced technologies and software to automate and streamline the AP workflow, resulting in improved accuracy, faster processing times, and enhanced efficiency.
Accounts Payable Outsourcing Process
The process of accounts payable outsourcing typically involves the following steps:
- Onboarding: The client company and the outsourcing provider go through a detailed onboarding process. During this stage, they discuss the client’s specific requirements, expectations, and existing AP processes.
- Data Migration: The outsourcing provider gathers the necessary data and information related to the client’s payables, which may include supplier details, open invoices, and payment schedules. This data is migrated to the outsourcing provider’s systems for further processing.
- Invoice Processing: The outsourcing team processes incoming invoices, verifying the accuracy of details, matching them with purchase orders and receipts, and coding them appropriately for payment.
- Approval Workflow: Invoices go through an approval workflow, where they are reviewed and approved by designated personnel within the client’s organization.
- Payment Processing: Once invoices are approved, the accounts payable outsourcing provider initiates the payment process based on the agreed-upon payment terms with the vendors. Payments can be made via various methods, such as checks, electronic transfers, or ACH payments.
- Vendor Management: The outsourcing provider maintains regular communication with vendors, addressing inquiries, handling payment-related issues, and ensuring smooth vendor relations.
- Reporting: The outsourcing company provides the client with regular reports on accounts payable activities, including outstanding liabilities, payment status, and other relevant financial data.
Advantages of Outsourcing Accounts Payable
Outsourcing accounts payable offers a multitude of benefits that can significantly impact a company’s financial efficiency and overall well-being. Embracing this strategic approach opens up unique opportunities for a complete overhaul of the AP process while concurrently liberating valuable time and resources. While handing over the reigns of your accounts payable may seem a bit nerve wracking, outsourcing accounts payable to a trusted partner has the potential to offer tons of advantages like:
One of the most notable advantages of outsourcing accounts payable is the substantial cost savings it brings. By entrusting the AP process to a third-party provider, companies can avoid large overhead expenses associated with hiring and training in-house staff. The outsourcing partner already possesses a skilled workforce equipped with the necessary tools to streamline the AP process. As a result, the company can redirect the saved resources towards other critical areas of the business, ultimately contributing to improved cash flow and overall financial health.
Utilization of Resources and Automation
When opting for outsourced accounts payable services, businesses benefit from the wealth of resources and automation tools readily available at the disposal of service providers. These comprehensive solutions encompass software, document management, and robust reporting tools. Notably, AP automation is seamlessly integrated into this package, unlocking significant value across various accounts payable processes, such as invoice processing, ERP integration, and payment and remittance management.
Ensuring Secure Invoice Processing
In an increasingly interconnected world, the complexities of sending payments to vendors have grown, leading to heightened security concerns for companies, particularly small to medium-sized ones lacking dedicated security teams. The ever-present risk of security issues necessitates a robust solution. Here, an AP outsourcing provider serves as a bridge, offering sophisticated security measures and cutting-edge technology for accounts payable processes. By doing so, the outsourcing partner effectively reduces the likelihood of a company falling victim to payment fraud or other security breaches.
Accelerated Turnaround Times
Time is a valuable resource, often in short supply for businesses. However, partnering with a accounts payable outsourcing service equipped with cutting-edge technology and time-saving tools can help reclaim lost time. This collaboration results in a fast and accurate accounting system, leading to a streamlined workflow that optimizes operational efficiency.
Eliminate the Risk of Errors
Errors in accounts audits can lead to significant costs and compliance issues for businesses. Many of these errors stem from manual data entry and a lack of control over Purchase Order requisitions, approvals, and deliveries in the accounts payable process.
By partnering with professional outsourced companies, businesses can benefit from the integration of advanced technologies, systems, and processes. These solutions are designed to identify, eliminate, and mitigate errors before they escalate into problems, ensuring a seamless and error-free accounts payable process.
Reducing Paper Invoices and Manual Data Entry
With the technology offered by an accounts payable outsourcing provider, businesses can seize the opportunity to eliminate paper-based processes and significantly reduce manual tasks, such as data entry. Embracing this technology means bidding farewell to the days of drowning in paper invoices and wasting valuable resources on labor-intensive tasks. Instead, these resources can be redirected towards more strategic and value-adding activities within the company.
Disadvantages of Outsourcing Accounts Payable
While outsourcing accounts payable offers numerous benefits, there are also valid reasons why some companies may choose to avoid this option. Transitioning the in-house AP department to a third-party provider requires careful consideration and should not be taken lightly.
Privacy and Third-Party Concerns
One primary concern with outsourcing accounts payable is the need to share sensitive historical data and in-house documents with the external provider. This aspect may raise privacy and security apprehensions for some companies. To address this concern, it is essential to conduct thorough research on the outsourcing provider’s privacy policies and security measures before initiating any engagement. Ensuring that the provider aligns with the company’s privacy requirements will help alleviate such concerns.
Loss of Control in Accounts Payable Outsourcing
Outsourcing accounts payable entails relinquishing control over the entire AP process, including the ability to oversee the AP department’s day-to-day bookkeeping. The traditional practice of ‘popping in’ to check on operations becomes obsolete. While remote work and cloud-based solutions are becoming more prevalent and accepted, the lack of control remains a significant concern for some companies.
To address this concern, it is essential to communicate clearly with the potential outsourcing provider. Emphasize the importance of open communication and transparency throughout the partnership. Seeking a provider that prioritizes regular updates, real-time reporting, and maintains clear lines of communication can help mitigate the apprehensions surrounding the loss of control in the outsourced AP process.
Initial Challenges in Outsourcing Accounts Payable
As with any organizational change, teething issues may arise when a company decides to outsource its AP process. Transitioning from an in-house AP department to an external provider can potentially lead to duplicated entries and other early challenges. To preempt these issues, it is advisable to conduct an internal meeting with staff before implementing any changes. This meeting should focus on discussing the chosen outsourcing partner, its impact on workflow, and proactive measures that employees can take to ensure a smooth and seamless transition.
Accounts Payable Outsourcing vs. Accounts Payable Automation
When faced with inefficiencies in your Accounts Payable operations, you may wonder whether to opt for automation or outsourcing and what sets these approaches apart.
AP automation is geared towards streamlining the entire invoice processing workflow, from receipt to approval routing, matching with purchase orders and receipts, managing exceptions, and finally, obtaining the approval for payment. In essence, it simplifies each invoice, making them easily accessible, traceable, and paid promptly. When automating accounts payable, a company relies on third-party software to handle the automation while retaining all AP processes in-house, requiring staff training within the AP department.
On the other hand, outsourcing AP involves engaging a third-party provider to manage all AP operations. By doing so, the company avoids the expenses associated with adopting accounts payable software and the allocation of internal resources to oversee the AP process. Moreover, outsourcing grants access to a diverse range of technology and tools, often including AP automation offerings that confer a competitive advantage.
Tips for Transitioning from In-House to Outsourcing Accounts Payable
When shifting from in-house accounts payable (AP) to outsourcing, careful consideration and research are crucial to ensure a seamless transition. Here are some essential tips to help you choose the right AP outsourcing firm for your company:
- Research: Conduct thorough research on potential AP outsourcing firms. Look for testimonials and case studies from other businesses to gain insights into their experiences with the provider. Understand what worked well for those companies and what challenges they faced. Additionally, review the outsourcing provider’s security policies to ensure they align with your company’s security requirements.
- Prepare: Ensure all stakeholders are informed and on board with the decision to outsource AP tasks. Communicate clearly about the changes in roles and responsibilities, as well as the specific tasks the outsourced company will take over. Address any process changes, such as data entry modifications, to avoid duplication or errors.
- Monitor: If you have concerns about monitoring the productivity of the outsourcing firm, consider using a performance monitoring tool. This tool can provide timesheet reports, track inactivity, and generate detailed project reports, enabling you to keep track of the outsourced tasks effectively.
By following these tips and conducting thorough due diligence, your company can make a well-informed decision when choosing an AP outsourcing firm. This will help ensure a smooth transition and maximize the benefits of outsourcing for your accounts payable department.
Anticipated Challenges if Not Outsourced Accounts Payable
As companies increasingly recognize the benefits of outsourcing accounts payable (AP) functions, those who choose not to embrace this strategic approach may encounter future challenges. Missing out on the opportunity to outsource AP can lead to several issues, including increased costs, inefficient cash flow and workflows, strained vendor relationships, and reliance on outdated technology and tools.
Relying on manual and time-consuming AP operations may result in errors and limited visibility, hindering the company’s potential for growth. These challenges can accumulate over time, creating more significant problems for the organization in the future. In contrast, outsourcing accounts payable presents a solution to address these challenges and positions the company to remain competitive and thrive in the dynamic business environment.
How Bestarion Facilitates Accounts Payable Outsourcing
Outsourcing accounts payable with Bestarion goes beyond a simple delegation of tasks. As a leading accounting outsourcing provider, Bestarion elevates the entire AP process through a powerful combination of industry experts and state-of-the-art technology.
With a wide array of product solutions, including accounts payable outsourcing, invoice processing, and accounts receivable management, Bestarion plays a vital role in driving the success of any company. Placing an unwavering focus on customer satisfaction, Bestarion collaborates closely with businesses to enhance their cash flow and achieve optimal operational efficiency. Choosing Bestarion as an accounts payable outsourcing partner empowers companies to navigate the complexities of accounts payable effectively and drive sustainable growth. Get in touch with us for expert consulting and to learn more about our services!