Improving Accounts Payable with Technology: An Interview with Linda Keene

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The onePAY Product Team

What does it mean to run an operationally efficient accounts payable function in today’s environment? We recently had the opportunity to interview Linda Keene, senior accounting manager at Wendy’s of Bowling Green and customer of OneDataSource. Linda oversees financial responsibility areas while reporting to the CFO as well as partners with owners to make sure they have financial statements in a timely and efficient manner.

Linda knows that the only way to make strong decisions for the company is by using solid data that’s more real-time. She shared her perspective on operational efficiency in today’s environment and what it means to use technology like onePAY to up-level the AP function. Below are highlights from the conversation.

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Linda, with 98 restaurants across four different states, you have a unique perspective on operational efficiency. At a high level, can you share your thoughts on how a well-run accounts payable (AP) function adds value to your business?

Linda: Absolutely. I think that if you’ve established a well-run AP function it allows you to form and maintain good vendor relationships. That’s important, more so in today’s environment than ever before with COVID disrupting availability of materials. So, you can imagine any vendor that’s short on inventory would much rather do business with a client that pays them on time and accurately.

That’s a great point. I’d like to dive deeper on the point of what it means to have an operationally excellent AP function. What are some things you see as being foundational?

Linda: I think it’s efficiency, accuracy, and timeliness. With the old paper file method, you can’t pull something up quickly and easily. Even if it’s electronic filing, it’s dependent on the system and dependent on following methodology.

onePAY has provided us visibility at our fingertips. For example, if we have a vendor or restaurant on the phone with a question about their invoice, onePAY allows us to look at the same document very quickly.

Plus, in today’s environment businesses are monitoring headcount very closely. Labor is usually the number two cost factor on your P&L as a business. So, the more efficient we can be, the better off we are when it comes to the business.

“[onePAY] helped us address efficiency, accuracy, and visibility. In addition to that, it’s helped us with communication and turnaround speed.”

You mentioned onePAY. I’m wondering if you could talk generally about how you see technology improving the AP function. And then more specifically how it’s helped you continue operating during a time when some have been forced to work remotely.

Linda: Well, part of it is that manpower simply can’t compete with the power of technology when it comes to handling volume. It’s more efficient and more accurate.

When it comes to operating under remote work conditions, there’s also an efficiency factor. Prior to using onePAY, we were filing electronically. Older electronic filing systems were initially set up to be more like a database. So, if we had people operating that were not familiar with the hierarchy set up within the database, then it was more of a struggle and a delay in being able to find something. Now with onePAY, I can access files quickly. But I can also remotely access my desktop when working from home and access onePAY that way. It’s another efficiency factor.

Are there specific ways you’ve leveraged onePAY to successfully execute any organizational initiatives?

Linda: It’s helped us address efficiency, accuracy, and visibility. In addition to that, it’s helped us with communication and turnaround speed.

In our case, we have so many locations that are part of the P&L picture. Those locations are the ones placing the orders and are also responsible for answering the questions. So, an owner may look at a P&L statement and wonder why costs don’t seem relevant to sales for the month. In that case, we’re able to generate a report using onePAY so they can see what’s charged to their P&L during a given period. For example, we pull everything from 3:00 pm on one Friday to 3:00 pm the next Friday. They then have from 3:00 pm Friday to Monday morning at 10:00 am to look at it and communicate with us if they feel there’s been a mistake or if they have a question. Then, when our AP manager comes in on Monday, it’s just a very short time after the beginning of her day before she can grab that information electronically and move on with it into our accounts payable system and accounting program.

That’s a great anecdote. So, let’s talk a bit more about visibility. Do the managers in the field have access to onePAY or is it solely reports being sent out so they have eyes on it? And what are some of the reports you’re looking at consistently via onePAY?

Linda: They get the report, but they can also access onePAY in a view only mode and see any invoice that’s in their queue. That includes each general manager who has lead responsibility at each restaurant as well as district managers. It’s incredibly helpful for them to be able to review and communicate and then for us to capture any changes that need to be made and do it quickly. The functionality that we have with this reporting and the ability to access invoices by those folks helps us produce a P&L that’s complete with the proper three-day turnaround.

Typically, I’m looking at our integration report, a download of all the invoices, and monitoring what’s going into the accounting program. Additionally, one of my personal responsibilities for the company is record keeping of fixed assets. With 98-plus restaurants, there’s a lot of fixed assets. So, I have a report to track the materiality associated with the bottom-line dollar value on that.

“Things can go on and function like they’re supposed to without limitations on what we can do and when we can do it.”

You’ve mentioned before that you only have one AP manager. With nearly 100 stores, there’s likely a significant volume of data coming through your system at that scale. Can you talk about how the functionality of onePAY has helped you?

Linda: For sure. In general, when it comes to the day-to-day functionality in onePAY, what I like best is that it’s not difficult. In our function, you must keep moving and keep the data flowing. A lot of people try to complicate that, but you don’t have to complicate it to be able to be to keep a tight AP. The simpler we can keep it, the better. We’re maintaining a lean staff so when someone is out another person must cover for them. It’s a system that is very easy to train other individuals on.

Also, we’ve been able to layer in automation. For example, with automatic invoice approvals, we’ve set up specific things to be routed to specific people for approval. Our IT manager or development manager can be on the road with their laptop. They don’t have to be physically there to approve. Things can go on and function like they’re supposed to without limitations on what we can do and when we can do it.

Lastly, if you could point to one aspect of our partnership, what do you find most valuable?

Linda: I like so many things about it. But I would say the biggest value of all is the customer service. The customer service with OneDataSource and onePAY is outstanding. They’re highly responsive and quick. You can depend on them. I find every time we reach out, it’s taken care of. And if there’s any question, it’s answered immediately.

Plus, they’re always thinking about service. If they’ve seen or heard something they think might be beneficial to us, they let us know. And being in a business that’s highly dependent on customer service, we know how important that is.

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