Why Your Organization Needs a Current Policy and Procedures Manual

The accounts payable policy and procedures manual is more than a static document with little value. Truth be told many organizations either don’t have one or have one that hasn’t been updated in years. This is a real shame. For if the right approach is taken towards the accounts payable policy and procedures manual, it can have many uses and can help ensure best practices are used throughout the accounts payable organization.

Many problems that arise from the accounts payable process occur because there is a lack of uniformity among processors in the way they handle invoices. If the exact same process is not used by every single processor, duplicate payments and other errors are likely to creep in. The only way to ensure that the same processes are used across the board is to have them written down with detailed instructions on how each task is to be accomplished.

This is the primary goal of the accounts payable policy and procedures manual. For it to be a true guide, it must be reviewed and updated on a very regular basis. Otherwise, it will quickly be come out of date and not serve the goal it is intended. What’s more, a detailed manual can serve as a reference guide to your processors. So, when they come across an issue that does not come up every day, they won’t have to guess on the right way to handle the problem. They can simply pull out the policy and procedures manual and verify.

A good policy and procedures manual can also serve as a training guide for new employees. Each one should be given a copy when they are hired and the manual should be referenced throughout the training process.

A few managers think it is a good idea to keep the manual short. This is a terrible idea because without a detailed manual, errors will creep in. You just can’t have too much detail in the manual. Sometimes a manager will think, “oh, we don’t have to put that in. Everyone knows the right way to do the task at hand.” Unfortunately not everyone thinks the same way and this is a sure fire way to guarantee that errors will creep in.

When it comes to accounts payable policies and procedures, there is no room for creativity. This is one time when everyone has to perform tasks exactly like their colleagues. Should someone come up with a better way, they should bring their suggestion to the supervisor. If the approach is better, everyone can start using the new approach and there will be no concern for variances. Unfortunately, sometimes what looks like a good process improvement for the accounts payable department, is something that is not good for another unit within the organization. Thus, it is imperative that the employee share the new idea with the manager who can evaluate the idea and if it is workable, adjust procedures for everyone as well as updating the department’s policy and procedures manual.

This article is an excerpt from Mary S. Schaeffer’s An Effective Accounts Payable Policy & Procedures Manual.

This blog

by Sue Anderson - Based on 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently program director for online CPE provider, CPE Link. Formerly with the California CPA Education Foundation managing key operational areas including marketing, program development, and distance learning.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

42117

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

74242

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

47091

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

86474
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
19716

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

54173

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

78755

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

24391

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

62529

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

33752
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
100371
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
24949

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

51015
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
26744
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
31062

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

97621

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

32248

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

108474

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

59164

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

38385
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
65217

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

90911

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

52038