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How to pick the worst accounts payable software?

28th Dec 2022
Brought to you by
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Aurelia are the automation and software experts for accountants and finance leads. We want to to...
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Looking for the “best accounts payable software” is so popular that there’s dozens of websites detailing and ranking tools against each other. What stands out though, is how boring all those comparisons are.

We’re here today to bring you a list of common pain points — a recipe and if you follow it you will certainly end up with the worst possible software for your needs. Just do the opposite of this list and you'll be in a good place!

Accounts Payable Software | Aurelia on AccountingWeb
Karolina Grabowska // Pexels

We won’t be covering expenses (so paying with a card and snapping a photo of the receipt for example) but really focusing on accounts payable. While we’re doing this, we’re going to drop the fancy curtain of “accounts payable” and look at things from a simple, grounded perspective. How do you and your clients keep track of who is owed money and how do you work through that.. For example, if you’re already dealing with POs regularly, it’s likely you’ve had to worry about a level of complexity above what we’ll be covering here.

How annoying is it to enter all the bills?

Almost all Accounts Payable (AP) processes start with this step. How fast can you go from the bills you received from the vendors to having them all coded in the accounting software is a good thing to keep track of.

So, if you want to make your life as miserable as possible, go for the tool that has the most fields and hoops to jump through. Preferably, you want something that has 0 integrations with other tools, you want to make sure you have to type everything more than once, no useful features like pre-filling of vendor details based on a VAT registration code for example. Oh, and make sure that it has no support for e-invoices and very limited to no data extraction capabilities.

That way, when you eventually receive a paper invoice and start to wonder what century you’re living in, you can have a second round of questions when you still have to type everything by hand after scanning your invoice. 

We have to give a special mention to tools that "help” digitise invoices and somehow always get fields wrong or can’t even map line items correctly. It’s a good way to stay on your toes even more in case you need that.

We’re not going to point any fingers here but come chat to us in case you’re already struggling with any of these issues and are looking for better ways!

Does it have approval features?

For some types of clients, approvals may be a critical part of their workflow. It’s likely you’ve seen them too- with scenarios like having a limit that says anything over £500 needs to be approved by the finance director.

Our recommendation is, if you want to find the worst possible accounts payable tool, look for the most rigid, preferably non-existent approval feature set.

If you want to quickly adapt to your client needs and stay nimble, you may want to pay attention to features like approvals and how powerful they are.

Not to point any fingers towards other tools again, but if you believe a basic bookkeeping software package is going to help you as your customers grow, you may want to start looking for alternatives now.

Does it support modern payment flows?

Nowadays, a respectable amount of bookkeeping packages are integrating some kind of payment capabilities. However,  if you really wanted to go for the worst possible too and also close yourself off to future opportunities, we would prescribe something that brings none of these benefits. Why not spend time double-checking your vendor details or keep a drawer full of bank tokens? Just  stick with old-school typing details in a bank portal.

On a more serious note, a common headache is pricing — it’s just not transparent. Either a percentage fee for payments or additional fees are added to the exchange rate for those rare invoices that have to be paid in other currencies.

If you’re looking to actually stand head and shoulder above the competition and offer payments as part of your services - we’d recommend asking your clients what they’re comfortable giving you access to and then pick a solid solution that combines solid approval capabilities and the ability to initiate payments for your clients.

We can’t shut up about how much of a relief business owners feel when they have one place to check on all invoices that still need to be paid and when. Having payment instructions ready to go and only needing their authorization when the money is due is a very efficient workflow. We have seen a large majority of business owners thrilled with a similar setup.

Does it make it difficult to reconcile accounts?

When all is said and done, at the end of the month or at the end of your accounting period, it will be down to you to match up the cash movements and the state of your AP accounts.

Now, in an ideal world, every line would match perfectly, you’d be done before you need a second cup of tea but really, business owners pay for things all the time without telling you. And that means you’re stuck matching up what has been paid already with what needs to be paid and make sure things don’t slip through the cracks.

So, if you want to make your life as difficult as possible, pick a tool that can’t identify which bills have already been paid or worse, that don’t automatically mark invoices as paid once you or your client pay them.

We would like to also highlight here the quite common, yet sad  scenario where you don’t have all the bills and you need to close the books. If you want to make your life difficult make sure your AP tool has no way of filtering or displaying the transactions that are missing the invoices and, as the cherry on top, no way for you to quickly communicate with your clients what their to-do list is!

Quick recap

We believe that there’s a lot of value in having a trusted accounts payable software in your toolkit and that’s why we want to shine some light on the potential rough edges and things to look out for. 

Here’s a quick list of gotchas we covered and things to look out for:

  • Does your software turn data entry into a time sink? Does it make things slower than they need to be?
  • Does it have any way of creating flexible approval chains?
  • Does it support modern payment flows?
  • Does it make it difficult to do reconciliation?

There’s a lot more that accountants and bookkeepers can do to become valuable in this space for business owners and we believe that it’s fair to push on software providers to incorporate the feedback on where existing solutions are falling short of their promises. 
If you want to speak to us more about this or have stories you’d be willing to share, reach out to us at [email protected]!

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