When you decide to automate your accounts payable (AP) process and begin the process of selecting a solution provider, it won’t take long before you become dizzy from all the various options at your disposal. If you lack knowledge in exactly what to look for and how to discern the subtle yet valuable differences, you could make a huge mistake.

Taken directly from Chapter 2 our new AP automation eBook, It’s Time You Automated Accounts Payable – Here’s How, which is available for free here, we present a list of criteria you should follow to help minimize the risk of your organization selecting the wrong AP automation vendor:

1.  Seek a complete solution provider – The best provider will offer services and software integrated with best practices so that you can address ALL of the various aspects of purchase to pay (P2P). Choosing a solution that addresses your entire payables stream will greatly simplify your process, your rollout, and the lives of your users and vendors while providing the greatest “bang for the buck” from your automation investment. However, beware of the “enterprise-wide” trap! The strategy of buying and rolling out a massive solution in one fell swoop for your entire process is very likely to fail under the weight of change. Determine if you have to utilize all of the components at one time, or if you can pay for just those modules you need when you need them.

2. Be sure the solution handles ALL transaction types – Whether it’s paper mail, email, fax, EDI, XML, etc., your chosen partner must be able to handle it. Eliminating paper and manual data entry by converting paper/documents to data is a key benefit of AP automation, but do not overlook the value of translating EDI data into electronic documents that can “ride along” in your approval workflow. As one of our clients commented to us, “Going from nothing to something clean, simple and easy to read is like using the first microwave oven – it’s pretty awesome.” Eliminating manual data entry AND providing a more intuitive, “human-readable” EDI stream is a double dip you don’t want to miss.

3. Choose a vendor invested in your ongoing success – This is an area easily overlooked during vendor reviews, which tend to focus on technical analysis and review. Some additional areas to check out include:

  • Initial user training – Who is responsible for developing, scheduling and delivering the training? Are there options for on-site and webinars? Is there an additional cost for training?
  • Support/help desk – Who is responsible for handling user calls and support (both Tier 1 and Tier 2)? Is support included in the pricing or is there an extra fee?
  • System and process upgrades – Who is responsible for upgrading and maintaining the system? Is there a separate, additional fee to make changes to your automated processes?

Ask before you purchase a solution! Unfortunately, many accounting departments find that these activities become their responsibility. 

4. Require flexible startup options – How easy is it for you to start small or test a portion of the solution? For example: Do you have the option of piloting an individual location or process? Being able to start small and evolve speeds startup, lessens risk, and lets you fine-tune your approach.

5. Understand what change management tools and advice is available from the partner – It’s not enough to buy a product or even launch a project. Your vendors and users must be able to effectively use the new technology and adopt the business process improvements if you are going to be successful. Many times this involves getting them to do things differently as well as stopping what they were doing previously. The partner you choose should be able to help your organization make this transition smoothly because they have done it before even when you may not have.

If you have more questions on selecting the proper AP automation solution provider, send a message to

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