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5 accounts payable nightmares that keep you up at night

This article on common accounts payable challenges was originally published in October 2018. All relevant statistics and copy have been updated as of October 2021. 

It’s scary enough to think that the average accounts payable department receives 56%  of invoices by paper. The mountains of paperwork are sure to be piling up, creating a tangled web of invoices you’re left to manage. 

Paper invoices are messy, time-consuming, and stressful. If the majority of your processes are manual, chances are you’re spending your Halloween season combing through the paperwork. This is a psychological nightmare in and of itself. If this sounds like you., even the most common Accounts Payable pain points can make you feel like you’re working in a waking nightmare:

Nightmare #1: the night of endless invoices

Picture this: Endless paper invoices. A white room. Fluorescent lights. A stack of full banker boxes next to a table and chair. There you are, stuck sitting in the chair, separating white, yellow, and pink carbon paper into neat stacks. The only company you have? The existential despair of not having a digital process. 

Nightmare #2: who’s there to approve?

You’re looking for someone to approve your invoices. You’re in a white hallway with white doors. Linoleum floor. 90-degree hallways branch off every ten feet. 

As you walk down the hall, you notice that each turn you take just takes you back to where you began. Every door you try to open just opens up into the same white hallway. Each room you walk by is filled to the brim with empty desks, cubicles covered in cobwebs, and abandoned offices. Then reality sets in, and your stomach churns. All your approving managers are on PTO.

Bonus Material: See how DHL embraced AP automation with the help of Tradeshift’s business commerce platform.

Nightmare #3: the tale of the missing payments

You get up from your desk, an invoice in hand, headed to the mailroom to send a payment to your supplier. You make it to the door to the mailroom, open it up, turn on the lights and step inside.

As you look down into the mailbag, you see a dark, empty nothingness with no bottom. Your invoice disappears inside. 

Shrugging it off, you turn around and walk back to your desk. As you pull out your chair and sit down, something catches your eye. It’s the same invoice, sitting right there in the middle of your desk. Suddenly, your phone rings out, breaking through the deafening silence, sending a shiver down your back. You begrudgingly pick up the receiver and say, “Hello?” 

On the other end of the line is your supplier. And they’re angry. They want to know why they haven’t gotten their payment yet. 

Nightmare #4: errors galore

You’re sitting at your desk, working diligently on a stack of invoices. A row of fluorescent lights floods the room, with one of them flickering every few seconds. On your desk: a string of wrong account code numbers. 

On one invoice, a 9 needs to be changed to a 6. A separate invoice has a 5 that should instead be a 2. Working fast, you fix the mistakes, then look up at the flickering lights and wipe the sweat from your forehead. Then, you glance back down at the invoices you were just working on. Suddenly, you can’t remember the numbers that you changed. You blink, and a 3 transforms into an 8. Frantically, you try to fix this, but it’s too late. The payments were processed to opposite accounts.

Nightmare #5: the disappearing invoice

It’s 12:50, and you’ve got an important strategic meeting with your CFO at 1 PM. In your hand, you’re clutching a stack of invoices that you need to deliver before your meeting. 

You’re in a new building, so you aren’t too confident in where you’re heading, but you start walking down the hall. As you’re walking, you glance down at your hand. The invoices are gone. You start to panic because these invoices need to be sent out, but you cannot miss the meeting. You look at your watch to check the time. It’s 1:50. You missed the meeting, and your suppliers are angry because the invoices weren’t sent out on time. 


You look up from your lunch and see your desk from the breakroom. It’s full of papers. The floor is stacked with banker boxes. Your inbox and voicemail are full of queries from suppliers looking for missing payments. You have to find the right people to approve all the invoices waiting for a yes or no. Your CFO scheduled a meeting for 2 PM to talk about strategy. The nightmare isn’t over. 

With Tradeshift, you can wake up from the nightmare of manual invoices. Our digital-first approach helps streamline your invoice approval process, screen for and address errors, and centralize communication with your suppliers. To learn more about how Tradeshift’s solutions can help you shift your business, reach out to our team of experts

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