Last month, we looked at the steps to evaluate AP automation options. Since, I have talked with some of our clients and partners. Thank you to those who participated, especially Karen Miller and Gerry Libby. I think we are all on the same page, but some additional suggestions came out of our discussions.
First, as you go through the process of understanding your organization’s objectives and pain points, your original conception of needs may change. Don’t be surprised if you end up looking at things in a different light along the way. For example, we know AP is often painful because of the number of times paper gets touched, but does that mean you need a full AP automation system? Perhaps the better solution is a document management system. It is very important to clearly identify and solve the issues that are costing you time and money.
Another suggestion is to compile a list of questions to ask during demos’. Providers usually make a set presentation, so be prepared to ask pointed questions that relate directly to your needs and priorities. You may get an “I don’t know,” but press forward until you get an answer, even if it comes through a follow-up after the demo’. Should they fail to follow through in a reasonable time, question whether you want to pursue this provider. Some of the more common questions to ask are:
· How often are updates made to the software?
· Are these updates part of the maintenance agreement?
· How many versions of the software are supported and can they make the update decision?
· What support options exist, such as chat, access to a knowledge base or toll-free live dialogue?
Additional advice includes ensuring the costs and timelines are clearly defined to the extent practicable. Allow for some flexibility on costs, particularly consulting services, by creating a buffer in the project budget. Also, remember to look at your fiscal calendar and arrange your implementation at the time most convenient for you. The end of a fiscal year with closing, reporting and audit preparation may not be the prime time for a software implementation project.
As the last piece of advice from our discussions – it’s important to follow up on references you receive. You may be surprised at how much you might learn.
Nonprofit Accounting Consultant