How to fix slow invoice approvals

Handling Slow Internal Invoice Approvals

It would be nice if everyone did what they were supposed to do, especially when it comes to something as simple as approving invoices for payment in a timely manner. In the recent AP Now survey, the issue of slow internal approvals was on the Top 5 Invoice Problems list with 66% of the respondents reporting that this was a problem in their organization. In fact, it tied for second place on that list.

Adding insult to injury, certain technologies seems to have made the problem worse. The problem lies with a technology just about every organization uses. There have been numerous reports of employees using Outlook’s programing features to automatically delete, move to the spam folder or a special file, all invoice reminders from accounts payable looking for approvals. While in theory moving all reminders to a folder might not be a bad idea, it would only be a good idea if that folder were looked at regularly. We know from experience; this is often not the case.

Let’s take a look at some strategies you can use to reduce the exasperating problem of approver dawdling in your organization.
  1. If you are using invoice automation, make sure and include automatic escalations for several levels. So, if the immediate supervisor ignores the notice to approve, it goes to his/her boss and so on. While this feature is set up to handle vacations and unexpected absences it helps with the laggard approver issue as well.
  2. If you are not using automation, escalate the invoice for approval in a similar manner manually, in cases of extreme tardiness.
  3. If you can get a high-level executive to agree, have them send a note to all tardy approvers reminding them of their responsibility in this arena.
  4. Keep track of all early payment discounts that were lost due to tardy approvals. Then tally the amounts per approver and publish the list regularly. This might not make you popular, but it will help eliminate the problem. You can warn offenders this will happen, if you are feeling kindly.
  5. If you get charged late fees, keep track of them by tardy approver and publish the list regularly.

Let everyone see what this is costing the organization. Note: This tactic will not make you popular.

While most approvers don’t mean to cause problems, their inattention to details and the approval process does just that for those processing invoices.

Mary S. Schaeffer, a nationally recognized accounts payable expert, is the founder of AP Now, a company that creates business intelligence on all issues impacting the accounts payable and payment function. She is the host of the AP Now Podcast.

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