Accounts payable assistants will spend a significant amount of their day inputting invoices on to the companies accounting system, but nobody no matter how careful, will never make a data entry mistake, but what are the reoccuring data entry mistakes?
Here is a list of common data entry mistakes:
Reading invoice data incorrectly
There are many numbers and characters in the English language which look similar and cause them to be misread, certain fonts can make this problem even worse. Similar looking letters and numbers include:
- The number 1 (one), the upper case letter I (eye) and the lower case letter l (elle)
- The letter W (doubleyou) and two of the letter V (vee) which is VV or vv
- The letter lower case letter d (dee) and lowercase letters cl (see and elle)
- The lower case letter g (gee) and the number 9
- The lower case letter b (bee) and the number 6
- The number 0 (zero) and the letter O (oh)
- The number 5 and the letter S (ess)
- The letter V (vee) and the letter U (you)
- The number 2 and the letter Z (zed)
- The letter m (em) and the letters rn (are and en)
Leading zeroes if read wrong can also be an issue, it is best practice to key leading zeroes on an invoice number exactly as it appears on the invoice, however when the number of leading zeroes is high it can be more of a blur.
To the right shows 7, 5 and then 6 leading zeroes on a number 00000001, 000002, 0000003 as you can see the readability suffers.
Invoice numbers and purchase order numbers can be long but the average person can only remember 7 digits at a time which means that the higher the number of characters copied the more likely a mistake will be made.
Keying an incorrect field from the invoice
With suppliers all placing fields in different areas of the invoice, and having many different suppliers’ invoices on a given day, it can be easy to key the wrong data because you were expecting the information to be there.
For example, supplier A always puts the invoice number at the top of the right most column, but then supplier B reserves this area for a similar looking number such as a sales order number and has the invoice number elsewhere. This type of error can easily occur because accounts payable assistants eyes are trained over time to look in a certain place for certain information.
Sometimes invoices with multiple pages can be processed incorrectly, if for example the supplier puts a running total for each page at the bottom right hand corner the AP assistant can see this and just assume this is the total.
Selecting the wrong supplier
This can be especially common in industries where suppliers have similar names. Consider the following supplier names:
- Sky High Hire
- Sky High Access Hire
- Sky Hire
If you are entering an invoice and you start typing in a supplier name, all 3 of these supplier names could look correct and you end up choosing the first one you see but you could easily select the wrong one. This could made even more confusing if the suppliers logo shows a shortened version of the suppliers name as this will visually jump out at the AP assistant before any other information.
Date format errors
Different countries format dates differently for example, in England, United Kingdom, the date format is usually DD/MM/YYYY eg. 25/12/2000. However other countries such as the US may use the format MM/DD/YYYY eg. 12/25/2019. In these examples its obvious which is the day month and year as the month must be 12 or less.
However with the example of an invoice being issued and received on the date 1stFebruary 2000, depending on where the supplier is situated some suppliers will use 01/02/2000 others will use 02/01/2000.
If you are in the US and you key the date as 01/02/2000 (as a UK company would write it), your system will think that the invoice date was January 2nd, almost a month ago, and will end up picking the invoice for payment and paying it early, and having a negative effect on your cashflow.
If you are in the UK and you key the invoice as 02/01/2000 (as as US company would write it), your system would also think that the invoice date was January 2nd.
There are a many ways that data can be input correctly and it is important that AP assistants are aware of the types of errors possible, which is the first step to noticing and entering data correctly before a mistake is can be made.