The Great Divide Between AP and Procurement

“Hello over there!!”  At times, I feel like we are yelling across the great divide to Accounts Payable.  “Where are my supplier’s invoices?  Why can’t you pay them on time?  Why are my payment terms wrong?”

Think about it.  If you are a Procurement professional, we have all been there one time in our careers. Feeling like there is there is something eating the suppliers’ invoices, similar to your laundry machine eating your socks, and you have no idea why.  But you do know, it is all AP’s fault.  They just can’t seem to get it right.

For that is the easy answer.  But, could not be further from the truth.  Get ready Accounts Payable professionals (enter theme music), it is almost never Accounts Payable’s fault alone.

So, what is it then?  How do we – together- close this divide?

1) Understand the scope of what AP is there to do.  AP has three to four functions.  That is it.  They are accountable to receive invoices, process invoices, pay invoices, and sometimes manage the accounting aspects of the invoices in the most effective and efficient manner possible.  That is it.  No more, no less.  If the AP function is doing more than that today, it is because there are upfront process issues in Procurement that are causing downstream impacts.

2) Get the upfront process right.  AP does not like not paying invoices on time.  They do not sit around with evil schemes hoping to get angry calls from suppliers and Procurement regarding past due invoices.  If there is a struggle with past due invoices, it is a result of the Procurement ordering processes being ineffective.  A simple example would be that AP cannot pay an invoice until the goods receipt is created.  Is that a AP role to make sure good receipts are created?  Nope.  It is part of the Procurement process.  Therefore, if you want to fix invoice and payment issues, you need to start with a hard look at the ordering processes, then the AP processes.

3) Have a common goal or goals.  Increasing on time payment and electronic invoicing are common AP goals.  Those are great goals for AP, but they cannot achieve those goals alone.  For, the ordering process greatly impacting on time payment and without Procurement building in electronic invoicing into their supplier conversations/negotiations, it makes increasing electronic invoicing very difficult.  These goals need to be shared, thus creating a large bridge across that divide.  It is the common ground to springboard from to close the divide.

4) Talk openly with each other.  This is not about blame or scapegoating.  This is about creating a process that no one thinks about.  It just happens.  That takes coordination, open communication, a bunch of humbleness, and willingness to change.

Are you ready to get after this?  If so, asking if you are doing the above is a great starting point. Getting the procure thru pay process right is the entry point for great Procurement functions.  It removes the noise, improves relationships internally and with suppliers, allowing for a shift in focus to innovative changes in Procurement.

Want to hear more?  At the APP2P Conference on Monday (Oct 24-26th) in Las Vegas, we will be discussing “AP and Procurement: Effective Partnering” from 9:20-10:20 on Wednesday! Hope to see you there! #fallapexpo APP2P.com

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