Advice on Evaluating AP Automation Solutions

Thinking about implementing an Accounts Payable (AP) automation solution? Ask these key questions first.

Thinking about Accounts Payable Automation? Ask these key questions first.

Many accounts payable (AP) automation solutions exist. While we have our own bias, we’ve spoken with many management companies and have learned some key considerations for evaluating AP automation solutions. This is an important strategic decision, so it’s crucial to know as much as possible prior to making a decision.

Here are four key questions to ask while evaluating AP solutions:

  1. How quickly are invoices processed?

Some platforms rely primarily on humans to interpret invoice data such as invoice number, invoice date, invoice amount, etc. Thus, it may take up to 48 hours to see an invoice following its submission. Who has time for that?!

Those platforms typically aren’t transparent about the method of invoice processing and data extraction. However, if the data extraction time exceeds five minutes, there are likely humans involved.

Questions to ask:

  • How long does processing take after an invoice is submitted?
  • How is invoice information extracted?
  • What percentage of invoices are processed by software versus humans?

  1. How are utility invoices handled?

Utility invoices (e.g. heat, power, phone/internet, waste management) often make up a high percentage of total invoice volume. They’re also usually awful to deal with!

Many utilities are moving to paperless billing, which is great for the environment, but it can increase processing time significantly for recipients, as someone may have to log into an online portal, find the bill, download the file, and then enter it into the accounting system.

For AP automation solutions that use technology, they also present a hard challenge, as the utility invoices often have unique and complex layouts that are hard for some systems to process. We know of one platform that indicates that it can’t be used for utility invoices - imagine that!?

Questions to ask:

  • How do I get utility invoices into the AP system?
  • Are you able to connect directly to online portals and download invoices?
  • Is the AP platform capable of automatically extracting invoice data from utility invoices?

  1. Can payments be approved and issued?

One of the challenges of catering software to property management companies is that regulations and common practices can differ across regions, companies, and even properties. This is especially true when it comes to payment approvals.

For example, the approval configurations across a company’s portfolio can vary significantly. One property may require one board member to approve, another may require one management company staff member and one board member, and yet another may only require one approval.

Additionally, certain jurisdictions impose restrictions or licensing requirements on approving expenses or issuing payments. This prevents some AP automation providers from even being able to issue payments, or force them to do so in a manner that doesn’t match client expectations.

Questions to ask:

  • Does the service offer a payments solution?
  • Exactly how are approvals and payments done electronically?
  • How flexible are the configurations and can different approval configurations exist?

  1. What is the onboarding and training process?

Any business software will take some time to set up and learn. AP Automation software is no different.

It’s important to not only evaluate the software and its features, but also understand its implementation, training, and support aspects. Equally crucial is to evaluate internal capacity for new technology adoption, ensuring that the time and resources exist to be able to implement the AP automation solution.

Questions to ask:

  • What is the onboarding and implementation process?
  • How long does the implementation process take, what support is offered, and what internal effort is required?
  • How much will I have to do vs. what the software provider will do?
  • Does it cost extra for implementation or training (including in future when there are new employees and clients)?

Interested in learning more about CondoWorks? Let us know here, we're happy to chat!

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