Benchmarking Report Reveals How AP Can Become Higher-Performing

In case you missed it, this summer APEX Analytix published its annual Financial Leaders’
Benchmarking Report. Now in its 15th year, this report tracks developments in accounts payable, procure-to-pay and financial shared services in multinational companies.  This is a US-based firm (and our US site covers the report more fully) but the survey collects data from 81 key elements in the areas of infrastructure, key operating metrics, payables controls, cash management and risk management across Global 1000 companies. So this is a tool that any organisation, anywhere, can use to gain a better understanding of what other companies are doing and where the opportunities might lie - because in today's world, develop you must.

So, in our opinion, having a view of how some of the largest businesses are evolving their AP, P2P and financial shared services functions is good insight to help you with your own development. Top-level metrics on how AP organisations compare with others is the kind of information that tells CEOs how their own AP can better support the firm's strategic goals. So what does it uncover that can be a useful benchmark?

It explains what percentage of AP departments work closely with their business’s procurement functions, how many partner with the internal audit function, and how many with the regulatory compliance function. It reports on the levels of compliance with accepted relevant best practice; it captures on-time payment performance; it looks at how many carry out critical supplier risk mitigation practices. It then gets into the core operating practices, such as how many invoices are processed electronically or touchlessly, the proportion that are then paid electronically—and the overall cost of processing invoices.

All interesting stuff - but what's probably more useful is the analysis of best practice in just how the AP department functions and what makes it excellent or average. We get to see how well payables' controls are adhered to and just what is in place. For example it finds that while "95% have an
internal controls and compliance function; 78% enforce invoice coding standards in order to maintain consistent entry of invoice numbers; 68% have a system in place to try and flag duplicate payments prior to payment release," but only 46% require a second signature on high-value checks (cheques); 48% operate some kind of internal payables scorecard and 49% have a system in place for tracking refund checks.

While it is the more challenging payables controls that flag the areas where gains are to be made, even fewer have invested in this type of control: "86% don’t reconcile contract price variances monthly, and 60% don’t track or prevent ‘after the event’ purchase orders." Clearly there are missed opportunities here for enhancing AP performance and alignment with overarching goals.

It's a well rounded, broad-depth report that covers a birds' eye view of all the areas AP cares about, from analyses of payment terms, to cash flow management and how to do supplier integration well. It identifies what the high-performing organisations are doing well and outlines the key opportunity areas for others.

There's more about APEX Analytix here and the report can be downloaded here.


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