Last fall, NFP Partners decided to include in our newsletter a series of articles on Accounts Payable automation. As we wrap up the series, here is a summary review of what was discussed. Hopefully, this information will be helpful in your organization’s AP automation decision-making.
How to Evaluate Your Company’s AP Automation Objectives – Discussed in Article No. 2
- Examine the current overall accounts payable process
- Understand your organization’s pain points
- Clearly identify issues that are really costing you time and money
Questions to Consider When Meeting with Potential Providers – Discussed in Article No. 3
Sales representatives offer a wealth of knowledge but remember, when talking with potential AP automation providers, the “squeaky wheel gets the grease.” By asking questions upfront you may be able to avoid a “show stopper” issue down the road. Below is a list of suggested questions:
- What is required to continue maintaining the AP system once up and running?
- What is the method of communication with my accounting system?
- How many of your customers use our accounting system (e.g., Abila MIP or QuickBooks)? It is often good to request contact information for other companies that have and have not chosen that system. Take the time to speak to those companies.
- What are the expected training costs for accounting staff and others using the system? How often would training be needed? Would each new hire need training? Can that training be provided in-house or would outside training be needed?
- Where will the data and documents be stored? Who is responsible for the security of the data?
- How often are updates made to the software? How many versions of the software are supported? Who makes the update/upgrade decision? Are these updates part of the maintenance agreement?
- What support options exist? Chat, access to a knowledge-base, or toll-free contacts?
- Are costs and timelines clearly defined to the extent practicable?
One immediate way to understand the differences between providers is in the way each describes itself. Microix’s brochure description is “the Microix Requisition Module enables accountants and non-accounting staff to create purchase requests from their desktop computer. Administrators can enforce specific requirements to reduce errors and ensure that information is accurately provided to properly process a request. Once the request is submitted and approved through a multi-level approval process, it is automatically converted to a purchase order and seamlessly transferred to Abila MIP Fund Accounting™ as an unposted encumbrance or accounts payable transaction.”
An interesting contrast is Bill.com’s dedication to small and medium-size businesses with “an effective cloud-based outsourcing system.” While ACOM Solutions and AvidXchange websites relate “modules offering end-to-end solutions” and “automation for purchasing, invoicing and payments,” respectively.
While these descriptions vary, the overall goal remains to find ways to help the customer function more efficiently. Each product reviewed has similarities and differences. Terminology is a large issue in evaluating the options. Through our research, we have attempted to take the terminology and clarify those items that are the same and those that are different. Although imperfect, this chart this chart provides at least a starting point.
For more information on our Accounts Payable Automation series, and to find articles to each provider reviewed, click here.
Nonprofit Accounting Consultant