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Performance Metrics - What's the Story?

Where There's AP, there's Paper

When a never ending flurry of paperwork continues to fall on a supposedly “paper-free” Accounts Payable department and someone mentions making better use of performance metrics, AP professionals would be forgiven for dismissing them as something they simply don’t have the time for. However, with the inception of automated software, their implementation can save time, add value, increase efficiency and,  if used with outcomes in mind from the start, can raise the game of the Accounts Payable function.


For example, if your FD or Head of Finance only ever speaks to you when there is a problem with late payments, duplicate invoicing or discrepancies in balance sheets, then your department is only ever going to be regarded as a necessary evil in his mind.  However, if you can provide useful and credible information on performance metrics which save time and add value to your organisation’s bottom line, then he may have to rethink his positioning of you.


Points to Consider

There are a couple of key points to consider - credibility and choosing which metrics to monitor.  There is no point measuring 50 sets of performance criteria which then have to be measured across multiple disciplines, generating inaccuracies along the way and take so long to collate that they lose all value as management tools.  While this should be apparent, sometimes eagerness to exact the most value can have a detrimental effect.  It's easy to forget the power of simplicity It’s this poor application of performance metrics which creates the hostility towards implementing them at all, as their power as productivity enhancers becomes lost.


So Keep it Simple

It may sound obvious, but the key points to remember are who the metrics are for and what you’re hoping to gain from them.  Metrics need to tell a story.  To be useful, they also need to be easy to understand.  The organisations which use performance metrics most successfully are those which narrow them down to a few key areas such as:

  • Invoice Productivity – year on year targets, cost per invoice, processing by location, timely capture of industry discounts
  • Payment Efficiency – Cash flow by days paid, payments by method used etc
  • Supplier Management – Suppliers added by month, suppliers changed per month etc
  • Controls – sharpen AP tools with duplicate invoicing metrics, accurately monitoring DSO data

With automated data collection, key performance metrics can be delivered monthly or as needed in real-time, with the opportunity to incorporate real-time benchmarking too.  This information can be used not only as an internal performance measuring tool, but also to compare your operation to others in your industry.

So whether you're tracking three or 15 different sets of performance metrics, or whether you’re a multi national or small business, the accurate analysis of these can generate income, speed up the efficiency of Accounts Payable departments and fundamentally – add real monetary value to your organisation.