15 Accounts Payable Trends for 2024

Ira Brooker   March 1st, 2024

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Has it already been a year since we last checked in on the trends shaping the accounts payable (AP) industry? Time flies when you’re tracking trends! Some of last year’s most closely watched developments are still unfolding, and we’re also keeping our eyes on a whole new slate of accounts payable trends for 2024. Let’s take a closer look at 15 of the biggest trends that will define AP for the coming months.

1. Wider Use of AP Automation

The number one accounts payable trend for 2024 should come as no surprise. AP automation has been playing an increasingly important role for organizations of all sizes for some time. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, automation is the surest way to future-proof your organization’s accounts payable processes and keep your methods up to date. An automated software solution simplifies and streamlines your management of invoices, payments, AP tax and compliance documents, and supply chain documents. A system with a cloud storage option boosts security, centralizes data, and frees up space used for storing physical documents.

For businesses processing invoices from multiple vendors, automation prevents many of the human errors, payment delays, and exceptions that are common with manual processes. Features such as automated invoice capture, pre-built AP workflows, role-based dashboards, easy-to-use web forms, and dynamic image retrieval reduce turnaround time drastically while also reducing errors and compliance concerns.

Essentially, the more automation, the better the speed and accuracy of your invoice processing. Other key benefits of AP automation include:

  • Less time spent on manual invoice processes
  • Less time spent handling exceptions
  • Fewer journal entry adjustments and other rework
  • At-a-glance insights into AP processes and outstanding payables
  • Easy consolidation of invoices into single ACH payments or checks

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High-Volume Document Generation_Mary Schaeffer“Although not everybody’s using AP automation today, its use will soon be a no-brainer. It’s cost-effective — it costs an amount of money that every organization can afford. And the models have gotten much more user-friendly. It doesn’t take six weeks to install. You don’t need to get advanced training. I believe that everybody will eventually be using this, just like everybody uses Excel today.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

2. AI on the AP Forefront

In nearly every area of the workplace, including accounts payable, discussing trends for 2024 has to include artificial intelligence. AI is everywhere and plenty of people are panicking about what it does and doesn’t mean for work as we know it. While it may seem like this change came on suddenly, Mary Schaeffer notes that we’ve all been using it for quite a while — chatbots and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa are forms of what’s currently called AI, after all.

That’s a big part of why Schaeffer says AI is poised to change accounts payable rather than eliminate it. As AI technologies become more refined, AP teams can expect artificial intelligence to become just another tool in their day-to-day functions, similar to what email or an Excel spreadsheet is to us today. There’s no question that AI is going to be a big part of the future of AP, but there’s no reason it has to be a scary part.

High-Volume Document Generation_Mary Schaeffer“As businesses embrace this technology, they are not just addressing queries but creating meaningful connections, elevating customer satisfaction, and setting new standards for service excellence in the digital era.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

3. AI Regulations and Policies

As AI incorporates itself into more and more areas of our daily lives, we’re also seeing some serious pushback and a battle for control of the ways in which artificial intelligence will be used. The business community has been active in trying to set standards for AI-assisted content. Companies like Amazon and YouTube have established rules and employed technology designed to filter out AI-generated material, while organizations like the Author’s Guild have started bringing plagiarism lawsuits against AI providers.

The Biden administration has already issued an executive order addressing management of AI, and we can expect more governmental regulations in the coming year. For accounts payable teams, this means that it will be extra important to stay aware of regulatory developments surrounding AI. It also means that businesses and departments should develop their own internal policies about how AI should and should not be used.

High-Volume Document Generation_Mary Schaeffer“It remains to be seen how successful any of these initiatives will be. I suspect it will be kind of like the driverless car: it’s not going to take over the world as quickly as we’d hope.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

4. Investing in Security

Your accounts payable department is one of the most valuable targets in your organization, which makes investing in AP security extra important. Your AP team is not only the gatekeeper of your organization’s finances, but also the caretaker of a huge amount of valuable personal data belonging to your suppliers and employees. Leaving that data unsecured puts your business at risk of severe reputational damage and compliance concerns.

With AP fraud on the rise, investing in solid security systems for accounts payable is a trend that will hold steady in 2024. For nearly every organization, that increased security should involve more reliance on automated systems. Automating your AP processes sharply reduces the risk of human errors that make it much easier for criminals to perpetrate fraud, while also establishing cloud-based security for all of the private data that passes through your AP department.

Lynn Larson“74% of all data breaches involve a human element. I think we all know that’s where a lot of weaknesses happen, just through people who are trying to be helpful, who want to make a good impression.” 
Lynn Larson, Principal, Recharged Education

Dan Ward Headshot“Security isn’t just a safeguard; it’s the bedrock on which trust is built and retained. Prioritizing security in every interaction not only protects sensitive information but fosters a sense of reliability and confidence, forming the cornerstone of enduring customer relationships.”  Dan Ward, CTO of MHC

5. Paperless Accounts Payable

The move to a paperless workplace will continue to advance in 2024, even in a normally paper-heavy area like accounts payable. Trends in automation and technology have already allowed a major shift away from paper: Mary Schaeffer notes that more than 70% of invoices are currently emailed or delivered by a portal or other automation solution.

Schaeffer also cites research finding that more than 50% of business payments in the U.S. are not made using paper. As more businesses embrace alternatives to paper checks such as automated clearing house (ACH) payments and P-card payments, those electronic methods will represent an increasingly large portion of accounts payable activity.

Find out more about how to make Accounts Payable paperless >

High-Volume Document Generation_Mary Schaeffer“We are all heading toward a paperless accounts payable department. I like to say the dream is within our grasp. We’ve done a really good job getting rid of those paper invoices.” 
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

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6. Traditional AP Functions Meet New Responsibilities

While a lot of workers are understandably concerned about the trend of accounts payable automation playing a larger role, the fact is that more automation does not mean the end of AP as we know it. Many of the day-to-day functions of an AP team will remain unchanged even with more software solutions available. Processes such as resolving discrepancies in invoices, responding to individual supplier inquiries, dealing with rush payments and other exceptions, and recording and managing sensitive documents like 1099s and tax forms will all continue to require human intervention.

At the same time, AP teams can expect to be kept busy with a slate of new responsibilities. Data analytics will play a larger role in AP functions such as data analytics. As analytics play an ever-larger role in business decision-making, AP teams will be called upon to make deeper and more frequent dives into the data they generate. Increased regulatory compliance responsibilities will also be on the AP radar as state and federal regulators become more efficient in identifying mistakes and new requirements such as state 1099 reporting take effect.

Mary Schaeffer“I want to make clear that automation does not mean the elimination of accounts payable. There are some things that are just not going away. For example, even if you get invoices electronically and they go into an automated system that does three-way matching, there are still going to be discrepancies that need to be resolved right away. There’s still going to be a need for human intervention.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

7. Less Transactional Work

As fraud and international cybercrime groups continue to plague accounts payable, business trends will move farther away from transactional work that has traditionally been a big part of AP functions. Expect to see far less manual data entry as those roles are increasingly filled by automation. AP teams will also need to pay closer attention to data analytics in order to make those processes more streamlined and efficient, and also to catch potentially costly errors such as duplicate invoices.

Keep in mind that manual data entry isn’t likely to be completely eliminated anytime soon. If you deal with suppliers who still submit paper invoices, some of those transactions will still need to be managed by hand, although a system with optical character recognition (OCR) will be able to automatically pull key data from those documents. As that technology improves and expands, accounts payable teams can expect transactional work to become less and less of a factor in their day-to-day operations.

Discover 10 transactional communications best practices >

Mary Schaeffer“People who are trying to defraud your company of money continually come up with new ways to do it. You have to stay on top of it, because one mistake in this area can be a million or more dollars to the wrong party. We’re going to have less data entry without a doubt.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

8. Individual Upskilling Is Critical

Today’s workplaces are never static. The skills and training required for your AP team to do its job efficiently are constantly evolving as technology advances, attitudes change, and the economy fluctuates. Individual upskilling is just as important as team-based training. No matter where you are in your career, developing new skills is necessary for surviving and thriving in your role.

Look for areas where you have an interest or your organization has a need and look for ways to expand your knowledge. That might mean doing independent study, signing up for training programs, or attending expert-led webinars. MHC offers a full gallery of free webinars on topics such as “Performing Anti-Fraud Audits,” “Taking AP One Step Beyond Best Practices,” “Ways Treasury and AP Should Collaborate,” and other key accounts payable trends for 2024.

Mary Schaeffer“Too often I hear people say, ‘Well, our company’s backward. We’ll never do any of that stuff. We’re always last in line for the new practices.’ Well, that line is getting shorter and shorter, so don’t stick your head in the sand.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

9. Fraud Will Continue

We’re living in what might be remembered as the golden age of cybercrime. AP processes being a tempting target for fraudsters is, unfortunately, one accounts payable trend that shows no sign of ending soon. Mary Schaeffer notes that 75% of fraud targets are in the AP or treasury departments of their business. Criminals know that your accounts payable team has access to your organization’s money, and they’re always coming up with new and more clever ways to get at it.

One of the most reliable (and easiest) ways to prevent fraud is by sharing information as soon as you learn it and with as many people as you can. For example, one common fraud tactic is to send out emails that appear to be from a C-level executive asking employees to purchase gift cards on behalf of the company and send the card info to the scammers. If one employee becomes aware of a gift card scam email that’s making the rounds, they can do a lot to prevent fraud by informing as many of their colleagues as possible. Simple awareness can be one of your most valuable tools against fraud, although it’s even better when paired with the fraud-prevention tools of an automated AP system.

Find out more about how to prevent accounts payable fraud schemes >

Mary Schaeffer“Criminals are not going away, and they’re smart. Don’t underestimate them. AP will continue to be a prime target, because criminals have figured out that accounts payable is the gatekeeper of the company’s money.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

Gina Armada Headshot“Businesses know there are all kinds of threats out there, but they don’t always know what can be done to prevent them. Avoiding and preventing fraud is a key day-to-day challenge for most organizations. The peace of mind our customers get when they entrust more of their fraud prevention efforts to MHC is one of our biggest points of pride.”
Gina Armada, CEO of MHC

10. AP Data Analytics Help Other Departments

The accounts payable process generates a lot of data, and that data is valuable across your entire organization. Along with its usefulness in identifying potential issues and opportunities within your own department, AP data should be accessible to other teams. Your AP team touches so many parts of your business that the data it creates can play a huge part in streamlining processes, identifying inefficiencies, and improving budget and finance decisions.

For example, your purchasing department might use AP data to determine the lowest-priced supplier or negotiate quantity discounts. The finance department can put AP data to use for tracking interest paid on loans. The budget team relies on AP data to compare budgets against actual spend. As an accounts payable trend, AP teams providing broader access to their data analytics looks poised to keep on expanding in 2024.

Mary Schaeffer“You may be able to work with other departments, but before you do that, it’s even more important that you look at your own shop. Take the data that you have and see what process improvements you can make. Do it before someone else does it, is what I like to say.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

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11. Efficient Use of Best Practices

While it’s true that very few AP teams follow every single best practice — that’s why they’re called “best practices” rather than “essential practices” — an increasingly competitive business landscape makes it all the more important to follow as many of them as you reasonably can. Abiding by industry-standard best practices gives your team the consistency and guidance needed to stay at the top of the game.

In accounts payable, trends related to best practices are frequently focused on three key areas. Those include strong internal controls, a clear separation of duties and access, and proactive measures to prevent fraud (both internal and external) and duplicate payments. By establishing clear guidelines for your team to follow, you make it easier for them to avoid confusion and the avoidable errors that come with it.

Mary Schaeffer“Use of best practices is now the norm, not the exception. When we don’t use them, our accounts payable functions get more expensive, our controls get weakened, and we end up either making duplicate payments or worse, falling for fraud.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

12. Regulatory Pressures Continue to Grow

No assessment of trends in accounts payable would be complete without a look at regulatory compliance. The rules and regulations that apply to AP compliance are changing all the time, and keeping on top of the latest requirements is crucial for organizations of all sizes.

Some of the specific accounts payable compliance trends for 2024 include:

High-Volume Document Generation_Mary Schaeffer“We’re not the only ones using technology. The feds are using it. The states are using it. And they’re getting better at finding your mistakes, so we have to get better at not making them.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

13. The Remote/Hybrid/Return to Office Battle Rages On

Four years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses continue to figure out what a “normal” work environment looks like. News stories about companies and CEOs demanding that all workers return to the office tend to grab the headlines, but there are also many businesses going the opposite direction and embracing a workplace centered on remote work. As we assess accounts payable trends for 2024, this division continues to generate controversy in all areas of employment.

The reality for most employers lies somewhere in between. Surveys show that about half of U.S. businesses have settled into a hybrid model that allows some kind of balance between onsite and remote workers, or lets employees split their workweeks between home and the office. With technology making it easier to work from anywhere and more employees demanding greater flexibility, a company’s policy on who needs to work where will continue to be a key factor when it comes to attracting new workers and retaining existing employees.

Mary Schaeffer“If you’re having trouble attracting new workers, realize that some of them want to go to the office, some of them want to work from home, some of them want a hybrid option. It’s going to be a real challenge to meet these needs, but if you’re having trouble finding new quality workers, this can be a differentiator that allows you to get staff”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

14. Skills Enhancement Is Critical for All

As the accounts payable landscape continues to evolve, so do the skills required to keep on top of it. Think about the level of technical knowledge you need to do your job today compared to the knowledge you needed ten, or even five years ago. As new tools are introduced, outdated processes are streamlined, and new strategies become standardized, businesses need to keep up or become irrelevant.

Regular training sessions and skills audits are a must for making sure that your organization remains in step with the latest accounts payable trends. Skills enhancement should touch every level of your business, from management to entry-level.

Mary Schaeffer“Whether you’re a new person coming in or somebody with 30 years of experience, there’s going to be no coasting for anybody. The skill set that you’re going to need five years from now is going to be very different from the one you’re using today. This continual change is probably going to be true for some time to come.”
Mary Schaeffer, Founder and Publisher of AP Now

15. Supplier and Vendor Relationships Are Crucial

As always in the accounts payable field, the decisions made by your suppliers and vendors have a direct impact on how you approach your work. Working closely with suppliers to process invoices and purchase orders requires building strong relationships, a factor that became even more important during recent supply chain disruptions.

Look for vendor concerns to continue driving accounts payable trends in 2024. Suppliers want their payments and invoices processed quickly, accurately, and consistently. Adopting automated AP solutions can go a long way toward accomplishing that goal, especially if those solutions include self-service portals that make submitting, tracking, and approving invoices simpler.

Discover 10 ways to improve supplier relationships >

Gina Armada Headshot“Whether you prioritize traditional channels or emerging platforms, the key is to know your audiences’ use patterns and strengthen your connections by meeting them wherever they choose to engage.”
Gina Armada, CEO of MHC

Are You Ready To Take On the Top AP Trends of 2024?

As you can see, the coming year is poised to be a busy and change-filled one for accounts payable professionals. MHC is dedicated to providing products and resources that help future-proof your AP processes and keep your team on the cutting edge of the latest trends. Contact us today and we’ll schedule a demonstration tailored to meet your organization’s needs by our in-house accounts payable experts. Don’t forget to explore the MHC Automation website for more blogs, infographics, and webinars highlighting the latest trends in accounts payable.

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Ira Brooker

Ira Brooker is a freelance writer and editor based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He has been writing blogs and copy about software-as-a-service solutions for most of the past decade. Before exploring accounts payable and workflow solutions with MHC, he wrote about fields including cybersecurity, workforce management, online accessibility, audiology, retail sales, and much more. When he’s not doing business writing, he also indulges in writing fiction, journalism, arts criticism, and bar trivia.

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