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“Time flies,” as the old expression goes.

This can be true for accounts payable operations… if the workflows are automated. For those that rely on manual processes to approve invoices and resolve exceptions, time tends to stand still. 

How much time do organizations lose to manual workflow handling?  It depends on the organization, but it can amount to weeks of time.

Consider an organization with remote offices and a centralized payables operation.

Invoices arrive at a remote office via the mail, or are received by purchasers in the field. The invoices are reviewed and forwarded to the organization’s centralized accounts payable operation.


Determining the approvals required for an invoice, or the purchaser, can take up to two days.


Forwarding invoices from remote offices to a centralized accounts payable operation can take up to five business days, depending on whether the invoice is sent via U.S. mail or overnight delivery.

Once the invoice is received at a centralized accounts payable operation, it is physically routed, typically via inter-office mail, to multiple individuals for approval.


Institute of Financial Management benchmarking data finds that invoice approval typically takes between five days and 10 days in a manual accounts payable operation. It can take much longer if the invoice is identified as an exception or becomes “stuck” on an approver’s desk or ages while an approver is out of the office.


Resolving invoice exceptions in a manual accounts payable operation typically requires back-and-forth e-mails and phone calls between stakeholders and suppliers — a process that can take days.

Approved invoices are then returned to the accounts payable department for posting in the organization’s general ledger (GL) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform.


In a manual accounts payable environment, operators must input information on approved invoices into the organization’s GL or ERP platform, which can take up to three business days.

The bottom line: manual invoice approval processes can take more than 20 business days.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Accounts payable workflow automation enables organizations to approve invoices and resolve exceptions in a fraction of the time required in a manual environment.  Invoices are digitized at the point of receipt, eliminating the need to physically route invoices for approval. The accounts payable department has real-time visibility into the approval status of each invoice, eliminating the chance of invoices becoming lost, misplaced, or “stuck” on an approver’s desk.  Automated alerts remind approvers of invoices awaiting their decision.  Internal stakeholders and suppliers can collaborate online to resolve invoice exceptions.  And tight integration between the accounts payable solution and legacy GL or ERP platforms facilitates the seamless upload of information on approved invoices.

Want help identifying opportunities to accelerate your organization’s invoice approval and exceptions handling workflows? Contact us today to schedule a demo.