Mary Schaeffer: “I believe, virtually every company will be able to use automation of some sort”

We recently had an interview with Mary Schaeffer (, a nationally-recognized expert on accounts payable. Mary Schaeffer is the editorial director and publisher of Accounts Payable Now & Tomorrow (, a CRYSTALLUS, Inc. publication. She is the author of 101 Best Practices for Accounts Payable, Internal Controls for Accounts Payable and many other business titles. We asked Mary to give her opinion on several invoice management and accounts payable issues.

Orienge team:
What do you consider to be the most complicated in the invoice approval process in the United States today?

Mary Schaeffer: The problems with invoice approval process are fairly simple. Either the approver doesn’t get around to it (in a paper-based environment) or they don’t bother to check the details and approve what’s ever put in front of them. The complexity comes in when they actually do check before approving… and include in their review not only what was ordered but also any problems that might have occurred to reduce the amount on the invoice.

Orienge team: What difficulties do accounts payable specialists usually face nowadays?

Mary Schaeffer: The infusion of technology and automation into the AP process means that there is almost continually new stuff to learn. It is no longer possible to go to work and do your job exactly the way you did it yesterday. If you do, you will quickly find yourself outdated and then possibly out of a job. At the same time, companies continue to be under pressure to cut costs, and this usually translates into more work for each employee. So, at the same time the process is getting more complicated, companies are looking at their specialists to be more productive. It is not an easy situation.

Orienge team: What pieces of advice can you give to accounts payable specialists for doing well in their professional life?

Mary Schaeffer: It is critical that accounts payable specialist (as well as anyone else who works in or manages accounts payable) that they stay up-to-date on the latest technologies affecting the position, changing best practices, the latest changes in regulatory compliance requirements and unfortunately, the newest frauds. Regrettably, many crooks are quite smart and they realize accounts payable is where the money is. So, some of the new electronic payment frauds are focused directly on the accounts payable function.

Orienge team: What characteristics should a modern American company possess to need accounts payable automation software?

Mary Schaeffer: Accounts payable automation has been coming down in price so ultimately, I believe, virtually every company (except perhaps the very smallest) will be able to use automation of some sort. The challenge for any company is to identify the service provider that provides the product that meets their needs at the price they can afford.

Orienge team: Which are your main requirements to accounts payable automation software? What characteristics must such software have, in our opinion, to facilitate and streamline the whole accounts payable process?

Mary Schaeffer: Accounts payable automation software should be easy to install and not require the use of expensive outside consultants. To my way of thinking, this is the main requirement for those service providers who want to penetrate the middle market. After that, it should be fairly easy to learn how to use and it should facilitate the AP process so that more invoices can be processed in the same amount of time. Since every company has unique challenges, configurable options rather than required customization is the key to success.


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