Accounts payable is an essential part of any business so being asked to research the best solution for your company can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not a ‘finance person’.
Whether you work for a large company being asked by your management team to source a better accounts payable platform, or a smaller business wondering how to find out which system is best for you – this blog will provide you with three key questions you need to ask.
What to ask your management team:
- What problem do management perceive the accounts payable software will solve?
The most basic problem with a manual, paper-based, accounts payable system is that, given the need to store six years of financial information for tax purposes, it can become very space consuming. If the objective is only to free up space, a digital solution with an element of document management should be enough.
If the problems go beyond space, and involve invoice processing directly, then accounts payable software that enables your business to automate some or all of the process will be relevant. Typical problems are one or more of, the process is too costly, late payment of supplier invoices, ineffective use of their staff (too much data entry not enough progressing and control of transactions), difficulties with the approval and coding process or clerical errors like duplicate payments, coding errors or inaccurate processing of invoice amounts and VAT.
- Are they willing to change the current accounts payables process?
It is important to know how flexible your management team is going to be when it comes to adopting a new accounts payable software solution.
Will there be things that the company does today that will remain set in stone?
For example, the authority register, who can sign for certain things to a set limit. If your company requires multiple signatories in the coding and approval process it is important to know this before engaging with vendors. Some solutions assume away the approval process, invoices are processed as though they are already approved.
There are also other complexities to consider, for example, a desire to automate processes that are performed outside accounting like raising purchase orders and the receiving of goods and services.
- Who, internally, will be responsible for implementing the solution?
People are key to the introduction of a new business process solution, which is a change project.
Finding out who will be using the system and most importantly who will be the project champion (the key person for implementation) should influence how you evaluate vendors depending on their ability to support your change project.
What to ask your AP vendor:
- How does their software address your specific problems?
Each vendor needs to be able to listen, they know about their software, they do not know about your company and its challenges. If they are unable first to understand the business issues identified by your management team and then explain clearly, jargon-free, how their software addresses those specific problems then beware. Their software may be a solution to someone’s problems but not necessarily yours.
- What is the process for implementing the solution?
Each vendor needs to be able to explain the services they will provide and other services required from either your personnel or third parties. For example, you may require additional hardware or integrations with third-party software. One way of getting a good understanding of this is to get them to walk you through an implementation timetable identifying who is responsible for what.
- How experienced are they?
Any change project is not easy and you should be wary of any vendor who tells you otherwise. You need to know if their proposed solution has been implemented before. They should be able to give you access to customers who can take you through their experience of working on a project with them. They should be able to talk about the experience of the staff who would implement your project.
Bringing in any new business processes or software – especially bringing something new into an established business – is never going to be easy and it is vital you do your research before making any recommendations.
Whether you need a platform that improves, document storage, work flow, invoicing processing or purchasing, don’t go into the process without thinking through what your business is looking to achieve, and what you need to know from your vendor.
Failing to know these things is unlikely to impress your management team and could end up with your business starting a project that doesn’t work for your business.