There are numerous products that attempt to automate core Accounts Payable processes in NetSuite. These products usually look to streamline receipt and entry of vendor bills as well as processing of vendor payments while at the same time improving controls and providing better oversight over payments and cash. When it comes to NetSuite, you have a variety of options, including external integrations and NetSuite-native solutions.
Choosing the right AP Automation solution depends on multiple variables such as specific requirements, budget, your company’s priorities and/or timeline. Before you know which solution is the right choice for your organization, it is important to understand what AP Automation is, and what NetSuite-Native means.
What is AP Automation?
AP Automation is a broad term referring to automation of core procure to pay process such as receipt and entry of vendor bills (often involving OCR, or optical character recognition), matching of those bills to Purchase Orders, routing of those bills for approval, and processing of associated payments.
Often, when thinking of AP Automation, we consider only the most straightforward scenarios. For example, we imagine that an invoice comes in with a perfect layout easily readable by our OCR technology, that the invoice includes the correct PO number, that the PO exists in our system and is open for billing, that the approval routing for the invoice is straightforward and contains no exceptions, and that (of course) our vendor ships us the correct items which our warehouse then receives correctly.
But there is a catch. Many (if not most) invoices come in with problems. Incorrect quantities, rates that do not match the PO, no PO number, a single invoice for multiple Purchase Orders, missing approval-related details, etc. Imperfection is part of our daily business lives and the AP process is no exception. AP Automation solutions are useful only insofar as they can accommodate both “blue sky” scenarios and the more common imperfect and one-off situations.
In the simplest terms, the efficacy and ROI of AP Automation solutions should be measured by how well they handle real-world scenarios rather than by a list of features shown in their marketing materials.
What is a NetSuite-Native Solution?
Before we explain the benefits of NetSuite-native solutions, it is important to define what a NetSuite-native solution is. The definition is quite simple: a NetSuite-native solution is one that was built entirely within the NetSuite platform. For many years, NetSuite has offered companies like SquareWorks Consulting the ability to develop solutions (think of them as “apps”) entirely within NetSuite. This is different from when software companies offer a stand-alone product and then build a “connector” or “integration” that has NetSuite-native components. In such a scenario, the NetSuite-native components use a pre-built integration to send data back and forth between NetSuite and the company’s external platform. We call these solutions “integrated”.
On the other hand, when we refer to a solution as “NetSuite-native,” we mean that it is built and exists entirely within NetSuite, that there is no integration involved, and that data is not transmitted back and forth between any external platform and NetSuite.
Five Advantages of NetSuite-native AP Automation Solutions
The following are a few key advantages of NetSuite-Native AP Automation Solutions, when compared to an external integration:
#1 – Less ongoing maintenance
You may be asking yourself at this point – “Why should I care if the solution is NetSuite-native or integrated? Shouldn’t integrations/connectors just deal with the “data syncing” and take care of this for me?” Unfortunately, the answer is a little more complicated than that. Even for perfectly built integrations, there are ongoing maintenance considerations for which we need to account. On the other hand, NetSuite-native solutions are built in NetSuite, and thus do not entail an integration/connector and the associated maintenance. In the case of such solutions, data always only resides in NetSuite, and is never exchanged with an external platform.
#2 – Better user adoption
Implementing a new system outside of NetSuite comes with a learning curve, and it can be steep. Many AP Automation companies utilize user-friendly and intuitive interfaces, which is certainly a plus, but that does not eliminate the work that comes with understanding and learning a completely new system. NetSuite-native solutions bring consistency to the entire AP process.
#3 – More use cases supported
Earlier in the article we referenced the idea that when evaluating AP Automation solutions, we tend to focus on “perfect cases” rather than considering more common imperfect scenarios. In our experience, talking through imperfect scenarios (which occur all the time), really puts the “connectors” or “integrations” from AP Automation software providers to the test as we see how many scenarios can be supported without issues or workarounds.
#4 – Better Data integrity
The definition of Data Integrity is “the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of data throughout its lifecycle”. When data and the associated transactions are split across multiple systems, data integrity is more difficult to maintain.
#5 – Easier Reporting
Better data integrity also leads to easier and more accurate reporting. Because using a NetSuite-native solution allows all AP data to reside in NetSuite only, reporting is more accurate, more complete, and more extensible than if such data were spread across multiple systems.
All AP Automation solutions – whether they are NetSuite native or not – bring a significant amount of value to the AP process for organizations. However, it is important to understand the benefits of using a native solution versus an integrated solution when considering which product to implement. Companies should look to implement the product that does the most to streamline their processes while supporting the broadest number of use cases and minimizing user adoption headaches and operational burdens. Companies should also ensure that any solution chosen maximizes data integrity and allows for accurate and complete reporting.
As a result, NetSuite-native solutions often provide a higher ROI at a lower cost and with less ongoing maintenance than integrated solutions. We would encourage you to consider both when looking to streamline your AP processes in order to determine which is best suited to your business needs and use of NetSuite.
This is an abbreviated piece pulled from our in-depth whitepaper, 5 Advantages of NetSuite-Native AP Automation Solutions. To read more, download our complimentary whitepaper here: https://squareworks.com/whitepapers/