A Hitchhiker’s Guide to e-Procurement: Payments

Mostly Harmless, Part XIV

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Reconciliation challenges and best practices.

A payment is the transfer of wealth from one party to another. The payment is usually cash or cash equivalent, such as cheque, money order, or electronic funds transfer. The payment must be recorded, tracked, reported and assigned to an invoice. Despite all of the focus on e-Payment (P2P, EIPP, etc.), it’s actually the simplest part of the e-Procurement process. The AP clerk simply sends a cheque or instructs a payment to be made, and then records the debit. All of the complexity comes before (which should now be apparent after reading this far in this series) and after (which will become clear). Nevertheless, there are still some challenges to be addressed, some best practices to streamline processes, and some benefits to getting it right.

Common Challenges

  • Paying on Time

    For even a moderately sized company with hundreds of payments to process every week, it can be hard to keep track of which payments are due and which payments are approved. While the organization might choose to make some payments late, others may need to be made on time to avoid penalties.

  • Automating Payments

    If a contract specifies a regular, recurring payment, if a payment can be automatically approved, or if the organization has chosen to pay off a debt in an instalment plan, the payments should be automated.

Best Practices

  • Rules-Based Automation

    The system should allow one time, limited-time recurring, and regular (repeating) payments to be automatically queued according to whatever rules the organization has in place.

  • e-Payment / Accounting System Integration

    e-Payments generally need to be made through bank systems, or through accounting systems that are integrated with, and authorized to use, bank systems. As a result, the system should be capable of being integrated with these systems. This integration can be as easy as exporting a (differential/update) XML file at an hourly interval (with information to be propagated to the accounting system) and importing a (differential/update) XML file at an hourly interval (with information to be propagated [back] to the e-Procurement system).

Potential Benefits

  • Cost Reduction

    Without good system support, payment processing is a very time consuming, and somewhat error prone, task. A good system that automates payment processing saves time (and processing costs), prevents late payments (that generate penalties), and reduces the chance of human error (that can lead to more penalties or costly recovery initiatives).

  • Increased Savings

    Automating payments not only reduces costs, which contributes to savings, but allows payments to be scheduled in a manner that allows for early payment discounts, which increases the savings available to the organization.

Once the payments are made, it is time to try and recover the tax payments that can be refunded to the organization, which is the subject of the next post.

Next Post: Tax Reclamation, Part I

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