Topics: Accounts Payable Process, Finance & Accounting Outsourcing

AP Outsourcing: Understanding the Cost Implications

Posted on February 15, 2024
Written By Miyani Lourembam

AP Outsourcing Understanding the Cost Implications

A survey by Deloitte reveals that 83% of businesses outsource to cut costs. While today’s decision-makers look beyond mere cost reduction, aiming for strategic advantages, it’s undeniable that cost plays a significant role. However, it is undeniable that strategies to streamline processes and bolster their bottom lines remain a top to-do in most decision-makers lists. 

Talking about cost saving, one important function that allows high-cost savings if outsourced is the accounts payable process. Outsourcing Accounts Payable (AP) can significantly reduce costs for a business by improving cash flow management through the utilisation of early payment discounts and avoidance of late payment penalties, increasing efficiency and lowering processing costs via automation, and enhancing supplier relationships, potentially leading to more favourable terms. Furthermore, it minimises the risk of fraud and errors, which protects financial resources and offers better visibility for strategic financial planning. Outsourcing AP processes enables staff to allocate their time to more value-adding activities, thereby not only saving costs but also potentially generating revenue. Accounts payable outsourcing solutions provide a strategic approach to managing financial operations, ensuring that businesses can focus on their core competencies while benefiting from cost reductions and improved efficiency. 

Entrusting your AP operations to an external partner is not just an operational shift but a strategic move to leverage expertise, technology, and efficiency, all while aiming for cost reduction. An efficient accounts payable services company is equipped with the latest technologies and expertise to manage AP processes efficiently, offering businesses the opportunity to optimise their financial operations. But what does this entail financially? 

Deep Dive into AP Outsourcing Costs 

Delving deeper into the financial intricacies of AP outsourcing is essential for businesses considering this strategic move. A meticulous cost analysis provides the clarity needed to make an informed decision. Let’s explore the key cost components associated with AP outsourcing in greater detail: 

  1. Initial Setup Costs
    The journey into AP outsourcing begins with initial setup costs. These are one-time expenses incurred to integrate the outsourcing partner’s systems and processes with your business operations. Key elements include:

    • Technology Integration: Implementing software solutions that ensure seamless data exchange between your company and the outsourcing partner. This might involve customising existing systems or adopting new ones suggested by the outsourcing firm. 
    • Process Standardisation: Aligning your business processes with those of the outsourcing partner to ensure efficiency and compatibility. This could require modifying your current AP procedures. 
    • Training and Transition: Educating your staff about the new processes and ensuring they are comfortable with the changes. This also covers the cost of transferring knowledge and responsibilities to the outsourcing partner. 
    • Legal and Compliance Setup: Ensuring that the partnership adheres to relevant laws and regulations, including data protection and privacy standards. This might involve legal consultancy fees and the cost of drafting agreements.
  2. Recurring Operational Expenses
    Once the initial setup is complete, the business incurs recurring operational expenses, which are ongoing costs associated with the accounts payable business process outsourcing services. These typically include:

    • Service Fees: Regular payments for the processing of accounts payable transactions. These fees can be structured as per-transaction costs, monthly retainers, or based on the volume of invoices processed. 
    • Technology Fees: If the outsourcing partner provides a proprietary platform or software or third-party software for AP management, there may be ongoing licensing fees or subscriptions. 
    • Management and Reporting Fees: Additional charges for management oversight, custom reporting, and analysis services provided by the outsourcing firm. 
  3. Hidden Costs
    Identifying and understanding hidden costs is crucial in evaluating the true cost of AP outsourcing. These costs are not always apparent in the initial contract and can significantly impact the overall financial picture: 

    • Additional Service Fees: Charges for services not covered in the base agreement, such as rush processing of invoices, handling of exceptions, or custom report generation. 
    • Non-Compliance Penalties: Fines or penalties imposed for failing to meet the agreed service levels, such as accuracy rates or processing times. 
    • Change Management Costs: Expenses associated with making changes to the outsourcing arrangement, including transitioning to a different service level or altering the scope of services. 
    • Communication and Coordination Costs: The overheads of managing the relationship with the outsourcing partner, including meetings, calls, and the use of collaboration tools. 

Understanding these cost components requires thorough research and negotiation to ensure that the benefits of AP outsourcing outweigh the expenses. It’s advisable to request detailed breakdowns of all potential costs from prospective outsourcing partners and to consider these in the context of the efficiency, expertise, and technological advantages they offer.


In-House Versus Outsourced AP: A Cost Comparison 

The decision to keep AP in-house or to outsource requires a detailed cost-benefit analysis. Here are some key factors to note – 

Key Cost FactorOutsourcingIn-House
Staffing CostsYou pay for the service rather than individual salaries, which can mean variable costs that adjust with your needs. This eliminates the need for full-time AP staff, along with their associated salaries, benefits, and any potential redundancy costs.Requires paying full-time or part-time staff salaries, benefits, and possibly overtime. Staffing costs are fixed and can be high, especially when considering the need for continuous training and potential turnover.
Technology and InfrastructureThe service provider covers the cost of technology (in case they have a proprietary platform or software) and infrastructure, which is included in the service fee. This approach can offer access to the latest AP technologies without the need for direct investment. In the case of third-party software, they can suggest the best software that fits your requirements to maximise its utility for your needs. Requires significant upfront and ongoing investments in AP software, hardware, and maintenance. These costs can escalate, especially with the need for regular updates and security measures. 
Operational Efficiency and Error RatePotentially lower error rates due to specialised expertise and advanced technologies, which can translate into savings on corrections and non-compliance penalties. The cost of errors is often absorbed by the service provider, depending on the contract terms. Higher risk of errors due to potentially less specialised staff or outdated systems, leading to additional costs for correcting mistakes, late payment penalties, and missed discounts.
Scalability and Flexibility Offers high scalability and flexibility, with costs that can adjust based on transaction volumes. This makes it easier to manage cost fluctuations without the need to hire or lay off staff. Scaling up requires hiring more staff and possibly investing in additional technology, which can be costly and time-consuming. Scaling down can lead to redundancy costs and underutilised resources. 
Compliance and Risk ManagementOutsourcing firms often have robust compliance measures in place, reducing the risk of compliance-related costs. However, it's crucial to ensure that the outsourcing partner complies with all relevant regulations to avoid indirect costs. Requires a continuous investment in training and compliance updates to mitigate risks, which can be costly. The responsibility for compliance and the costs of non-compliance rest entirely with the company. 
Opportunity Costs Redirecting resources from non-core activities like AP to strategic areas can lead to better allocation of internal resources and potentially higher returns on investment. Managing AP in-house may tie up resources that could be better spent on core business activities, potentially leading to higher opportunity costs. 

If you want an overall comparison of in-house and outsourced AP, you can refer to our earlier blog, where we examined the differences between in-house and outsourced AP based on other key factors.

Overall Cost Implications

The true measure of success in outsourcing AP functions is observed over time. By forecasting cost savings, evaluating short-term gains against long-term advantages, and conducting rigorous ROI analyses, businesses can navigate towards fiscal prudence and informed decision-making. While accounts payable outsourcing solutions may initially entail higher direct costs in the form of service fees, the potential for savings lies in the reduction of indirect costs, such as minimised error rates and the elimination of technology investment and maintenance expenses. Moreover, outsourcing has the transformative power to convert fixed costs, such as salaries and operational overheads, into flexible expenses that align seamlessly with business needs, thereby offering financial adaptability. Conversely, maintaining AP processes in-house affords direct control over costs and operations. However, it demands significant investments in technology, staffing, and infrastructure, which extend beyond financial considerations to encompass time and focus that could otherwise be directed towards core business functions. As businesses stand at the crossroads of AP management options, the decision between outsourcing and in-house processing hinges on a meticulous cost analysis aligned with strategic goals, financial capacity, and operational priorities. It’s not merely a question of which option is cheaper but which provides greater value and efficiency in alignment with the company’s long-term vision.   Ready to unlock the full potential of your AP management strategy? Contact us today to explore tailored solutions that align with your business objectives, streamline operations, and drive sustainable growth.


Q. How do you effectively manage account payables?
Ans. Effective AP management hinges on timely payments, accurate data entry, and stringent financial controls. Accounts payable outsourcing solutions can refine these processes through expertise and technology.

Q. How can I improve my AP process?
Ans. Improvements can be made through process automation, regular audits, and by exploring accounts payable outsourcing solutions to leverage expertise and reduce errors.

Q. What are the primary benefits of outsourcing AP functions?
Ans. Accounts payable business process outsourcing services can lead to cost savings on salaries, infrastructure, training, and error rectification. It also allows businesses to focus on core functions by reducing administrative burdens.

Q. How can a company ensure data security with an outsourced AP provider?
Ans. Vetted providers should have robust data protection policies, encryption, and compliance with international standards to safeguard your financial data.

Q. What are the signs of a reliable and efficient AP outsourcing partner?
Ans. Look for a track record of accuracy, timely services, robust security measures and positive client testimonials of accounts payable services company.

Originally published Feb 15, 2024 06:02:27, updated Apr 16 2024

Topics: Accounts Payable Process, Finance & Accounting Outsourcing

Don't forget to share this post!

Related Topics

tech driven full cycle recruitment

The Future of Full Cycle Recruitment: 94...

14 Jun 2024

Technology is playing a significant role in transforming how companies hire new employees. Tools lik...

Read More
The Human Touch in Accounts Receivable Outsourcing: Building Better Customer Relationships

The Human Touch in Accounts Receivable O...

13 Jun 2024

Introduction The increasing integration of technology in financial services highlights the growing i...

Read More
How Offshore Recruitment Services can Improve Scalability

How Offshore Recruitment Services can Im...

13 Jun 2024

When it comes to enhancing business efficiency by increasing ROI and reducing costs, staffing compan...

Read More
A Guide to Overcoming Challenges in Credit Control

A Guide to Overcoming Challenges in Cred...

10 Jun 2024

Introduction  Effective credit control is fundamental to maintaining robust financial health and en...

Read More