Accounts Payable Job Description for AP Managers Today: Emerging From the Back Office

  • 28 Jun 2021
  • AP Automation
Accounts Payable Job Description for AP Managers Today: Emerging From the Back Office Image

Over the past decade, the accounts payable job description for managers and specialists has evolved, especially post-pandemic. In addition, the need to work remotely during quarantine compelled companies to invest in cloud AP automation to remain productive and profitable.

As a result of automated workflows, changes in accounts payable include more streamlined invoice to payment, invoice approval software, and invoice approval workflow. In addition, management and the AP team have a finger on the pulse of all AP activity in real-time with automated workflows.

With the introduction of time-saving AP automation that improves efficiency and the bottom line, the accounts payable job description continues to evolve. Today AP managers are finally emerging from the back office to provide essential financial information to increase savings opportunities and boost the bottom line.

What Is the Role of a Modern AP Manager?

A modern AP manager is responsible for a myriad of financial duties, much like in the past, including: 

  • Management of AP, including customer-vendor relations, check disbursements, and tax-related matters
  • Control of accounting functions such as maintaining the general ledger accounts payable and accounts receivable per a schedule and applicable regulations
  • Development and maintenance of systems, policies, and procedures for AP
  • Management of month-end closing of financial records
  • Management of status changes within AP software to ensure all team members are updated
  • Accounting assistance to staff, hiring and training employees, and financial updates to management
  • Work with management, external accountants, and government entities to maintain accurate and proper records
  • Prepares personnel and operating budgets for approval and monitors spending to adhere to the budget
  • Pulls forecasting and financial reporting to support upper management and business decisions

Tedious manual processes meant simple projects, such as invoice approvals, could take days or weeks to complete. Invoices would stack up on an approver’s desk while the AP team waited to get them back. AP automation makes it possible to get invoice approvals in seconds or minutes rather than days or weeks.

Another example is vendor relations. AP automation helps AP managers stay on top of competitive pricing and incentives, such as discounts for early payment. Making timely or early payments strengthens supplier relationships and helps companies score money-saving discounts. And with payment automation, across all rails of payment types, AP managers can successfully implement a supplier payment program that provides guaranteed dividends back to the company. Plus, AP managers have now emerged from the back office to perform more meaningful projects to support the C-suite, rather than focusing on tedious manual tasks.

AP automation helps management save time and money. Previously stressful and labor-intensive projects, such as month-end financial reports, are painless and easy to accomplish. With everything updated in real-time and cloud collaboration, AP managers have instant access to the overall economic picture to make essential changes before minor issues become significant bottlenecks.

What Is the Function of an AP Specialist?

An AP specialist assists management and takes care of thoughtful work that is now supported by automation, such as:

  • Communicate with suppliers and internal management about the AP process ranging from invoicing to sales tax, loans, and bank reconciliation
  • Verify invoices and make sure to use the proper general ledger account codes
  • Research for suppliers and clients to provide accurate information, manage supplier information within business systems
  • Pay vendors on time and establish payment schedules with management
  • Review paid and unpaid invoices to clear up payment inquiries and verify voiding to maintain accurate records
  • Check automatic payments for authorization, coding, and contracts
  • Maintain files for financial records, documents, and information
  • Keep track of account balances and expenses to create an analysis of financial activities and generate monthly reports

AP automation makes it easy for AP specialists to play a more integral role in financial operations and management. For example, instead of acting as a liaison between management and clerks, specialists have more time to focus on analyzing department functions and improving them.

Instead of processing stacks of invoices, AP specialists analyze the latest data to make meaningful recommendations. From reducing bottlenecks to realizing discounts for early payment, AP specialists today are focused on strategic tasks rather than manual ones.

What Are the Responsibilities of an AP Clerk?

A busy accounts payable department requires attention to detail, which is provided by AP clerks performing duties such as:

  • Receive, process, verify and reconcile invoices for payment
  • Verify and compare system reports to reconcile balances
  • Analyze invoices and expense reports to charge expenses to accounts
  • Pay vendors and check for discount opportunities, as well as verify vendor information
  • Issue stop-payments and PO amendments as well as issue credits
  • Payment to employees and verify expense reports
  • Post account transactions to maintain accurate accounting ledgers
  • Maintain files and historical records
  • Petty cash disbursements and recording
  • Sales tax reports on paid invoices

AP clerks who recognize the value of confidentiality, continuing education, and providing ongoing support to the financial team have a bright future. In addition, the intelligent use of AP automation ensures AP clerks perform their work with accuracy and integrity.

Today’s AP clerks handle more than just paperwork and labor-intensive manual tasks. Instead, a modern AP clerk performs data work and strategic functions that bring them out of the back office. As a result, AP clerks who help impact the bottom line have opportunities to move up the ladder.

How Does Automation Change AP Jobs and Processes?

Up until the past decade, AP was viewed as a back-office function. As a result, the AP team spent most of its time processing manual transactions based on paper rather than performing strategic tasks. However, AP automation changed the quality and nature of work in the accounts payable department.

As more companies shifted to a digital, remote-work model, the need for automation increased to support a secure, collaborative work environment in the cloud. During COVID-19, companies that failed to automate quickly discovered this technology was necessary rather than a luxury to remain productive and profitable.

Manual work was time-consuming and dependent on paper records, which meant employees needed to work at the office. AP automation reduces the risk of fraud with transparent updates made in real-time, helping everyone from AP clerks to the C-suite stay on top of the overall financial picture. The C-suite relies now, more than ever, on visibility, and AP handles the reports and data to help the CFO stay ahead of the curve.

What Are the Benefits of Automated Workflows?

As AP automation becomes an integral part of operations, management questions the benefits of automated workflows to determine the ROI. However, the advantages, including attracting a talented remote workforce, are evident once companies implement AP automation.

Improved Communication

Streamlined communication in real-time eliminates the need for ongoing follow-up between team members. In addition, automated reminders keep the AP team on-task to make timely payments, take advantage of money-saving discounts, and ensure accuracy every step of the way. 

Transparency and Accountability

With automation, every part of the AP process is assigned to a team member to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. As a result, the team knows who is responsible for various duties and improvements.

Reduced Costs

Streamlined processes help eliminate costly mistakes associated with the multi-step manual processes of the past, especially with challenging projects such as month-end and year-end reports. Repetitive work is done automatically, so companies save on costs for administrative labor. Automatic assignments ensure each team member knows the work they are responsible for completing.

Increased Efficiency

From assigning tasks to invoice approval, workflow automation makes it simple to organize AP processes. As a result, minimal management intervention is required to keep the AP team productive, enabling managers to focus on more thoughtful projects, such as strengthening vendor relationships.

Productivity and Quality

With automated workflows, employees have more time for high-value assignments that impact overall operations. As a result, the AP team is focused on more quality work, emerging from the back office to play a more crucial role in the organization's financial success. 

As the accounts payable job description evolves due to AP automation, accounts payable managers enjoy the advantages of a progressive and exciting career. Automation is also helping other AP team members climb up the ladder to success while helping the company improve overall operations.

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