How to Evaluate a Potential AP Automation Solution Provider – Part 1

Let’s start from the beginning and review the sales process, then walk through the evaluation process, then on to project scope creation and then to final decision making.

  • Sales Demonstrations – Beware!
    • Sales demonstrations are, of course, meant to show the sizzle of the product and to provide you with a very high-level understanding of what “is possible”. Good sales people can make anything look good and it is impossible to know how many days, weeks or even months it took to set up a demonstration.  Demonstrations can also be simulated to represent something completely different in real life so do not feel uncomfortable asking how things really work, especially in your environment.
  • Integration – How?
    • When it comes to integrations, it is important to really understand what type of integration you are getting
      • Real-time integration
      • Batch integration
    • It is extremely important to know if the vendor has actually done the integration before or if this is the first time for this specific application.  For example, if you are integrating payables transactions, what is the method used to create those transactions, what tool is used and have they done it before.  And even if the vendor has done the integration before, is it just for basic payables or for more complex transactions such as inter-company transactions or multi-currency or more unique integrations such as Multi-dimensional analysis or Analytical Accounting (for Dynamics GP customers).
  • How many Options to Evaluate?
    • It is OK to start out with a longer list of potential solutions but have a pre-determined list of criteria that will help you narrow the list down quickly to 3 or 4 at most. From there you should be able to reduce that to your top 2 and go from there.  Your criteria for determining who is right for you may be completely different than for someone else, but here are some common reasons to keep or cut someone from your list:
      • Integration to your business application (if it applies) – this should not be taken lightly as it will only create issues later if it your workflows require integrations.
      • Experience in the workflows you desire. You will rely on the vendor to help guide you through the entire process and to share best practices with you.  This is too important for you to be a learning experience for the vendor.
      • Administration of the workflows once your project is live. Again, things might look pretty easy during a demonstration but understanding what you can do and what is considered a technical change only done by the vendor.
      • Cost is absolutely important but consistent with everything else, you get what you pay for.  Understand what is included, not included, is it an estimate or a fixed price for professional services.  Ongoing fees and upfront one-time purchases.  This is important if it is on the “cloud” or hosted or on your network.
      • Features critical to your project. Keep this list of required features to a minimum of only those that make a real difference in your environment.  You can go crazy trying to compare solutions by going through every feature and function of every application.

In Part 2, We will look at the discovery process to ensure that the potential solution providers understand your business and your objectives.

 

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