What Is the End-to-end Accounts Payable Process?
 Finance & Accounting

What Is the End-to-end Accounts Payable Process?

Rick Johnson
Rick Johnson
August 28, 2023
Last updated on:

August 28, 2023


Read time: 5 mins

The end-to-end accounts payable process encompasses the complete lifecycle of financial transactions related to vendor invoices and payments. It begins with the receipt and verification of invoices, followed by coding, matching with purchase orders and receiving reports, approval workflows, payment authorization, and execution, and concludes with reconciliation and reporting.

This holistic process ensures accurate invoice handling, proper approvals, timely payments, and comprehensive record-keeping, contributing to effective financial management, vendor relationships, and organizational efficiency.

Hence, an end-to-end accounts payable process plays a pivotal role in financial management by ensuring accurate tracking and management of expenses. It enables organizations to maintain transparency, adhere to budgets, and make informed financial decisions.

Here we will discuss what is an end-to-end accounts payable process and its crucial stages.

According to a report by the Institute of Financial Operations and Leadership, only 9% of AP departments are fully automated today.

Understanding End-to-End Accounts Payable Process

Imagine a manufacturing company that sources raw materials from various suppliers. This company's end-to-end accounts payable workflow begins when they receive invoices from their suppliers for the delivered materials. The invoices are first verified to ensure they match the agreed-upon quantities and prices. The company's accounting team then codes the invoices appropriately, allocating costs to the correct expense accounts. 

Once coded, the invoices are approved by department heads and managers. After receiving the necessary approvals, the invoices are entered into the accounting system, where they are matched with the corresponding purchase orders and receiving reports. Any discrepancies are resolved through communication with the vendors. 

Finally, the approved and matched invoices are scheduled for payment according to agreed-upon terms using methods like electronic funds transfer. This end-to-end process ensures accurate financial records, efficient payment processing, and a smooth relationship with suppliers.

What is an accounts payable process cycle?
The accounts payable process cycle involves receiving invoices from vendors, verifying their accuracy against purchase orders, coding them for proper allocation, obtaining approvals, scheduling payments, and reconciling transactions to ensure accurate financial records and efficient vendor relationships identifying and eliminating fraudulent activities. Read our blog to know 10 ways to identify accounts payable fraud.

Stages of the End-to-End Accounts Payable Process

Here are the important stages of the end-to-end accounts payable process: 

1. Invoice Receipt and Verification

The initial stage of the accounts payable process involves receiving invoices from vendors. Vendors send invoices detailing the products or services provided and the corresponding costs when a company purchases goods or services. Invoices can be received in various formats, including paper, email, or electronic data interchange (EDI). 

The accounts payable department verifies the accuracy of the invoices, matches them with purchase orders and receiving documents, and ensures that the prices, quantities, and terms align. This verification process is crucial to prevent errors and discrepancies before moving forward with payment processing.

Accurate verification and validation of invoices against purchase orders and contracts is vital to ensure financial accuracy and prevent errors. Organizations follow comprehensive invoice processing steps to avoid overpayment, underpayment, and disputes with vendors. 

2. Invoice Approval and Coding

The process of routing invoices for approval based on organizational hierarchy involves sending invoices to relevant stakeholders for review and authorization. Invoices are routed to appropriate individuals or departments based on predetermined approval workflows. 

Each level of approval follows the organizational hierarchy, with higher-level personnel reviewing and approving invoices after lower-level approvals. This process ensures that invoices receive proper scrutiny, align with budgetary guidelines, and adhere to internal controls before proceeding to payment.

On the other hand, coding invoices involves assigning specific account codes to expenses, ensuring accurate allocation to the appropriate financial categories. This step ensures that expenses are tracked and reported accurately in financial statements. 

Benefits of End-to-End Accounts Payable Process
Image 1 - Benefits of End-to-End Accounts Payable Process

3. Review and Exception Handling

The Review and Exception Handling process in the accounts payable end-to-end workflow is a critical phase. It ensures compliance and addresses anomalies and discrepancies in invoices and payment transactions.

During this stage, skilled personnel meticulously review invoices and supporting documents. They verify that all documentation is accurate and complies with company policies and regulatory requirements. In cases where discrepancies or irregularities are identified, an exception handling process is initiated. This involves communication with vendors or internal departments to resolve issues, such as incorrect pricing, quantity mismatches, or incomplete documentation.

4. Approval Workflow

The Approval Workflow process in accounts payable involves a series of steps where invoices are reviewed, authorized, and tracked for payment. Typically, invoices are routed electronically through predefined approval hierarchies based on factors like invoice amount, department, or vendor. 

Approvers evaluates invoices to ensure they comply with company policies, purchase orders, and contractual agreements. If discrepancies or issues arise, they are resolved through communication with relevant stakeholders. 

Once approved, invoices are marked for payment, and the financial system updates the data. This structured process enhances control, accuracy, and transparency in accounts payable.

5. Payment Authorization

The Payment Authorization process in the accounts payable workflow is a pivotal step in ensuring timely and accurate disbursement of funds. After invoices pass through approval workflows, authorized personnel review and validate them one final time before initiating payments. 

This verification includes confirming the accuracy of payment details, checking for duplicate payments, and ensuring compliance with internal policies and external regulations. Once validated, payment authorizations are sent to the finance department or the designated team for fund transfer, which can involve various payment methods such as checks, electronic transfers, or credit cards. 

Security Measures Implemented in AP Process
Image 2 - Security Measures Implemented in AP Process

6. Payment Execution

In the accounts payable process, the Payment Execution stage is where authorized payments are actually disbursed to vendors or suppliers. This process involves the selection of the appropriate payment method, such as checks, electronic funds transfers (EFT), or credit card payments, based on vendor preferences or agreements. 

Payment details, including amounts, payee information, payment scheduling, are carefully verified to prevent errors and unauthorized transactions. Once confirmed, the payments are executed, funds are transferred, and records are updated in the accounting system. 

7. Reconciliation

The reconciliation process in the accounts payable workflow is another step that leads to financial accuracy and integrity. It involves matching all outgoing payments made to vendors against corresponding records in the accounting system. 

This meticulous comparison verifies that payments align with approved invoices, preventing overpayments, underpayments, or discrepancies. Any discrepancies discovered during reconciliation are thoroughly investigated and resolved. Additionally, outstanding invoices or credits are identified and addressed. 

8. Reporting & Analysis 

Reporting & Analysis in the accounts payable process involves evaluating and interpreting financial data to gain insights and make informed decisions. 

This stage generates comprehensive reports on various aspects, including vendor performance, payment trends, outstanding liabilities, and operational efficiency. By analyzing this data, organizations can identify cost-saving opportunities, optimize cash flow management and negotiate better terms with vendors.

Challenges & Solutions for End-to-End Accounts Payable Process

Challenges Solutions
Invoice Errors Implement automated invoice validation tools.
Utilize Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology.
Manual Data Entry Invest in invoice automation software.
Utilize Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology.
Disorganized Documentation Implement a digital repository for document storage.
Use standardized naming conventions for files.
Approval Bottlenecks Implement digital approval workflows.
Set up automated notifications for pending approvals.
Data Security Encrypt sensitive financial data.
Use secure document management systems.
Lack of Automation Invest in end-to-end automation solutions.
Implement robotic process automation (RPA) for routine tasks
Document Discrepancies Implement three-way matching systems.
Ensure accurate input of purchase order details
Inefficient Vendor Communication Provide vendors with access to a portal for communication.
Set up automated status updates for vendors
Adhering to Regulatory Compliance Invest in compliance management software.
Conduct regular audits to ensure adherence


The impact of the end-to-end accounts payable process transforms organizations, delivering operational excellence, financial accuracy, and strategic advantage. Integrating each stage, from invoice receipt to payment execution, minimizes errors, ensures compliance, and enhances financial controls. This process optimizes vendor relationships, accelerates approval cycles, and provides real-time insights into cash flow and expenses through robust reporting. 

The impact resonates across departments, improving decision-making, mitigating risks, and enabling efficient resource allocation. A well-implemented end-to-end accounts payable process fosters vendor trust and empowers organizations to navigate dynamic business environments with confidence and agility.

At Invensis, we have assisted businesses in streamlining their invoice receipt, verification, approval, and payment execution processes over two decades with our expert account payable services. We also help them gain better visibility into every part of the account payable process for better decision-making. Contact us now if you want to gain control over your account payable process and cash flow. 

Discover Our Full Range of Services

Click Here

Explore the Industries We Serve

Click Here

Related Articles

Back OfficeTop Countries For Outsourcing in 2024

Explore the best countries for outsourcing business operations in 2024, highlighting top destinations that offer cost-effective and high-quality services.

June 7, 2024


Read time: 8 mins

Back OfficeHow is AI Used in Businesses? 7 Transformative Applications You Need to Know

AI is now revolutionizing businesses. Explore seven transformative applications and discover how is AI used in businesses for efficiency and innovation.

June 4, 2024


Read time: 8 mins

Back OfficeHow to Improve Business: Top 6 Tips to Follow

Improving your business helps drive real results and growth. Know how to improve this with key tips here.

June 4, 2024


Read time: 8 mins

Services We Provide

Industries We Serve

Finance & Accounting Related Services