For businesses of all sizes, duplicate payments pose a threat on many levels. Most obviously, they undermine the financial position of a business. Secondly, they precipitate difficult questions for AP departments about why the duplicate invoices upon which payments are made are not detected. 

Finally, they create a mistrust of the financial credentials of an organization, not only for employees of the business itself but for supply-side partners, accounting firms, auditors and regulators, and perhaps even tax authorities. 

Taking control may not seem to be a difficult objective. However, at an enterprise scale, where large volumes of invoices are involved and many factors may lead to duplicate payments, it is far from straightforward. Here we’ll discuss seven ways to prevent duplicate payments within an enterprise AP environment.

1. Establish strong invoice approval workflows

The first line of defence against duplicate payments is the construction of invoice approval workflows. Such workflows enshrine efficient invoice processing while ensuring every step is performed with high standards of accuracy and accountability.

Clarity is one of the cornerstones of a good workflow. Precise roles and responsibilities are assigned for invoice verification, ensuring each document receives the appropriate attention from a nominated AP team member.

For high-value or complex invoices, a multi-level approval system is preferable, where each level provides an additional layer of scrutiny, minimizing the risk of errors or discrepancies slipping through.

With rigorous invoice approval workflows, AP departments create a barrier against duplicate payments. The combination of clear roles, multi-level approvals, and crystal-clear transparency, ensures every invoice is properly checked, safeguarding financial resources.

2. Maximize the benefit of purchase order matching

The prospect of duplicate payments is a threat to any enterprise. To combat this, purchase order matching is an essential practice that provides a strong defense.

Essentially, purchase order matching is a self-contained verification system. With all purchasing activity pre-approved by those with appropriate authority,  purchase orders are a vital part of the mechanism that prevents errors, misuse, and fraud.

From arrival, invoices are subjected to a verification process which compares them against their corresponding purchase orders. Any discrepancies or inconsistencies trigger alerts, preventing unauthorized payments from slipping through the cracks.

To further improve the integrity of purchase order to invoice matching, consider cross-checking invoices and purchase orders against goods receipt documentation. This three-step verification ensures that every payment aligns perfectly with the intended transaction, leaving no room for fraudulent duplicates to be detected or erroneous payments to be made.

3. Standardize invoice data presentation for processing

Data is the lifeblood of financial operations in today’s enterprises. However, errors and inconsistencies may be present within the invoice processing data stream, undermining accuracy and harboring the potential for duplicate payments to slip through. 

A good way to combat this is through data validation, ensuring the accuracy of data at source. The first line of defense lies in standardization. Invoices arrive in a myriad of formats and layouts. Parsing invoice data so that it is accurately captured and mapped to the correct, standardized fields ensures that the data that is presented for processing is consistent and of high quality. 

With the potential for human error minimized, and greater confidence that the data is free from inconsistencies, electronic processing and payment can be more highly trusted.

4. Adopt vendor Master Data Management (MDM)

Enterprise scale AP is likely to process annual invoice volumes measured in six or seven figures. This may be across thousands of suppliers. This creates the potential for inconsistencies in the vendor database, such as duplicate entries, out-of-date addresses, and inconsistent identifiers. 

This creates an inherent vulnerability to duplicate payments. To tackle this challenge, progressive enterprises embrace vendor master data management (MDM). This is a systematic approach, ensuring the accuracy and consistency of important supplier information. 

The cornerstone of MDM lies in the establishment of a single, centralized, repository that is continually maintained. This digital vault houses all vendor data, from basic contact details to payment terms and historical purchase records. 

Think of MDM as CRM for vendors… VRM! Once again, this approach guarantees high-quality data, which strongly supports trust in invoice and payment processes.

5. Streamline invoice processing with automation

Many enterprises use a hybrid approach to invoice processing that involves a mix of digitization of invoice information from compliant formats (such as PDFs or scanned paper invoices) and manual activity. For example, invoice data might be keyed manually into a digital tool such as a database or an Excel sheet. From there, the info might be manually matched against PO from an ERP or purchasing system.

In addition to these automation strategies, integrating eInvoicing network capabilities plays a crucial role in preventing duplicate payments. By connecting directly to eInvoicing networks, enterprises can ensure real-time validation of invoices against purchase orders and contracts within the network. This not only streamlines the process but also significantly reduces the chances of processing duplicate invoices, as the system can automatically flag and prevent duplicates that are detected across the network.

Invoice automation is capable of making AP processing no-touch, where invoices are received, processed, and paid without the need for human intervention. Of course, this level of automation needs a robust, no-compromise approach to accuracy interwoven throughout to support trust.

With strong safeguards that accurately capture invoice data, rigorously check invoice data against POs, use trusted vendor data and a workflow that incorporates approval, and alerts to invoices that do not meet the rules, invoice automation transforms enterprise AP into a high-efficiency department.

6. Cultivate a culture that supports payment accuracy

While technology may provide a robust infrastructure that supports the accuracy of payments, there is a need to promote a culture of vigilance within the accounts payable team. At the heart of this lies paying attention to detail.

Instead of a mindset where an AP  team perceives that it is simply wading through mountains of invoices, it’s about motivating the individuals to understand the value of what they do. As a collaborative team, they should communicate and function effectively together to eliminate payment errors.

It might be inconsistencies in vendor information, mismatches in quantities of PO line items, or discrepancies in purchase order references. Through continual training and refreshers on best practices, AP team members are drilled into the need for accuracy and diligence. 

As part of the philosophy, payment accuracy is not merely a set of protocols; it’s a collective commitment among the AP team to safeguard financial integrity at every step of the process.

7. Automate duplicate invoice matching

The principle of comparing invoice data to purchase order information is pivotal to ensuring that payments for goods and services are accurate. However, it’s a principle that can be applied in other ways. For duplicate payment prevention, the method can be used to compare the data of all invoices, enabling replication to be detected.

At the core of this safeguard lie sophisticated algorithms that are used to meticulously review every invoice. Vendor names, purchase order references, transaction amounts, and product descriptions are meticulously compared.

When trained on historical patterns and anomalies, they can detect subtle nuances that may be allowing duplicate invoices to go undetected by other means.

Once invoices with the potential to be duplicates are identified, the duplicate matching system automatically flags them, alerting the appropriate AP team members that manual intervention is required to further investigate.

Automated duplicate payment prevention with APMatching

APMatching Duplicate-Matching prevents duplicate payments from being made. Duplicate-Matching uses automation to help enterprise AP departments to:

  • Identify duplicate invoices quickly and easily
  • Prevent duplicate payments from being made
  • Resolve overpayments that may have already been made

Duplicate-Matching provides assurance that duplicate invoices are identified and resolved at the earliest opportunity to prevent an invoice from being paid more than once.

Alongside Duplicate-Matching, implementing automated accounts payable with APMatching’s complementary solutions lets enterprises close the loop in AP:

Take a personalised demo with one of our representatives, and we’ll show you how the software eliminates tedious, time-consuming manual invoice processing and automates duplicate invoice detection.

If you like what you see, we’ll give you full support so that you can more fully evaluate APMatching with a Proof of Concept (PoC), demonstrating how effective it is using your own data.