SUBMITTED BY Jeff Haller

Seems like every AP automation solution provider wants to solve all your problems. That’s why they exist. But what happens when a software company decides to solve those problems by “bolting on” another company’s software product rather than developing the necessary capabilities as part of their core product?

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Usually this is done by purchasing another company or products developed by other companies. So how does it then mesh up with the years spent building their own product to provide certain functions and solve certain problems? They’ve made a lot of decisions during those years about platform, methodology, interface, and so much more. Now they’ve added another product. It has different functions and solves different problems. Together they solve such a wide range of interrelated problems that it seems like marrying them together should create the perfect software, right?

Unfortunately, that is not usually how the story goes. They may “integrate” other software into their user interface, but most often you will find some of the functionality you were promised, and maybe even saw during the demo, is actually performed by another piece of software altogether. Depending on how the products are integrated you may not initially be aware the solutions you are paying for were not originally part of the same architecture, but it is worth asking before you buy because there are a few problems inherent to the standard approach of “bolting on” third party applications.

  1. The first problem, although you may not notice it, is the increased cost in both time and money for the customization and initialization phase as you might actually be customizing and launching two, three, or even more different products.
  2. You will also notice the way these products are forced to work together limits the configurations available to you or requires you to log in to multiple products in order to manage all of your documents. For many organizations, this means you will have spent millions of dollars and still will not have a single process that handles all documents regardless of format.
  3. Another cost factor, higher maintenance fees. You will most likely be paying for upgrades on multiple products. Even if the fees are rolled into one maintenance fee, the costs are still passed on to you. Upgrades are simply a cost of doing business and not ROI generating investments, which is one of the reasons a SaaS application is so cost-effective – there is no software for you to upgrade.
  4. But the real pain point comes down the road. Technology changes and turnover happens. Usually, vendors will find it is not cost-effective to keep all the employees of the company whose product they have just purchased. They may retain one or two developers and/or support team members who are experts on that product. So immediately you have attrition of knowledge base. New developers might know the platform, but they will not know the specific software application and they are not likely to know accounting or AP best practices.

Regardless of which vendor you are considering partnering with for AP Automation software, part of your due diligence as you navigate the decision-making process is to learn the genesis of all the capabilities you are seeing in the demo. Is the solution you are considering a cohesive architecture or something that has been “Frankensteined” together to meet an immediate market need? Will it allow you to manage all your documents in a single system? Will it give you truly touchless invoice processing? You are investing far too much to risk any part of the solution you are paying for to be ineffective or unavailable now or at any time in the future.

If you have any questions, contact us.
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