In the past few years, the industry has exploded with automated electronic accounts payable (EAP) solutions. While it’s good to have options, sometimes sifting through all of those providers can be daunting. How do you know which provider offers the accounts payable solution that’s best for your organization? Where do you start? What questions do you ask? Here’s a checklist to help you get started.

1. Ask a few questions internally before looking for an electronic accounts payable provider

First you must understand what’s working well in your organization … and where you need improvement:

      • What’s good about your current accounts payable processes?
      • What isn’t working well?
      • What is an electronic accounts payable solution anyway?
      • What do you already know about the EAP products available in the market today?
      • What would an EAP solution do for your organization?

2. Research and ask questions about each provider’s history and customer base

With so many companies offering EAP platforms, it’s important to both do your own research and ask the provider these questions directly:

      • How long have they been in business?
      • How long have they offered this EAP solution?
      • Do they own and develop their own technology? Or do they rely on third parties to provide capabilities?
      • Where are their operational and development facilities? Do they offshore or outsource key elements of their technologies?
      • How many customers currently use their EAP solution? More importantly, how many customers like you (in your industry) use their EAP solution?
      • How many of their customers use the same ERP or accounting system that you use?
      • Do they have a blog or case studies that you can read?
      • Can they share contact information for a couple of their customers you can speak with for feedback on the EAP solution?

Also, remember that just because a company has been in business for many years, it doesn’t mean that they have been providing electronic accounts payable solutions for many years as well. Ask specific questions about when, how and why their EAP platform was developed.

3. Explore technical factors and security aspects

Now here’s the nitty-gritty tech stuff. What changes (if any) will your organization have to make internally when implementing the new automated AP solution? And you definitely want to understand whether your organization’s IT department will need to be involved and to what extent:

      • Will you have to switch banks or modify your existing banking relationships to use this provider’s EAP solution?
      • Is the EAP a single solution with a single sign-on? Or will they require multiple logins to more than one solution to conduct daily operations of your payables?
      • How easily can this EAP solution integrate with your organization’s existing ERP or accounting system?
      • Does the provider have experience integrating with major ERP systems, such as SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, etc.?
      • Is any involvement needed from your organization’s IT staff?
      • How secure is the data housed in this EAP solution? Is it PCI compliant?
      • Who owns and maintains the vendor master file?

4. Ask about costs and implementation 

Pricing structures can vary widely. Some providers may not charge anything upfront, but be sure to check for ongoing fees (such as a monthly or annual subscription fee) or costs associated with additional tech support. And the timeline for implementation is critical. Will it take two weeks? Two months? Or longer? These timelines are often vastly different from provider to provider, so make sure you read case studies and talk to their other existing customers to get an accurate idea of timelines.

      • How much will it cost to implement this EAP solution?
      • Is there a one-time implementation cost as well as ongoing fees (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.)?
      • Does the cost include 24/7 technical support? For how long?
      • How quickly can the EAP solution be implemented?
      • Who handles vendor outreach and enrollment?
      • What is the provider’s commitment to produce enhancements? And how often is the EAP platform updated?

Based on how each provider responds to these questions, you can then make an organized list of pros and cons for each. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for electronic accounts payable. Educate yourself, and then talk to others who’ve been through this process. Join a LinkedIn group, such as Accounts Payable Professionals or IOFM, and ask if other AP professionals in the group have ever worked with the provider you’re considering. It’s worth doing your homework.

At Central Avenue Advisors we’re not just experts on virtual card payments – we can help connect you with the right solutions for all your payments needs. If you’re interested in learning more about how electronic AP can help your organization grow and thrive, drop us a line.