The 12 Days of X-emplification: Day 12 – e-Payment

Sooner or later you have to pay the piper, and that’s why I saved this topic for last. Although e-Payment falls under the e-Procurement umbrella, that we covered back on Day 5, most e-Procurement solutions don’t handle e-Payments, and most e-Payment solutions are actually stand alone solutions. Thus, it’s important that this topic be covered on its own.

Since the underlying concept of e-Payment is relatively simple, like the post on e-Procurement, this post is going to be a little shorter than the other posts in the series, although it actually has twice as many questions. e-Payment, in principle, is not that complex and it just boils down to whether or not the system does what you need it to do (without costing you a king’s ransom).

1. Does it integrate with your ERP and/or e-Procurement Platform?

If it doesn’t integrate, there should be an easy, well-defined methodology for getting invoice data out of your ERP and/or e-Procurement platform and the e-Payment data back in. Furthermore, if it doesn’t integrate directly, make sure to ask for a demo of the integration capability, with a test system that mimics your systems (and preferably a test system that you control), before signing on the dotted line. Remember, e-Payment, like e-Procurement is supposed to make things easier – if you have to re-key data, then it’s likely not any easier than whatever process you are using today.

2. Does it integrate with your AP system?

Your accounts payable system not only needs to track what needs to be paid, but when it was paid, how, and whether or not it was paid in full. Again, since you don’t want to re-key data, you want a clear, easy integration path. In this case, batch export and batch import using XML files is sufficient, since AP doesn’t necessarily need real time status, but you need a mechanism that is as seamless and easy as the mechanism that integrates the system with the ERP and/or e-Procurement system used by procurement on a day-to-day basis.

3. What level of volume can the system support?

If you make a lot of transactions over the course of a day, you don’t want a system that craps out if you try to put more than one transaction through a second. In particular, since you will have peaks and troughs, and since your goal is to grow your business, you want a system that can reasonably support five to ten times your peak activity today. Ask for benchmark results conducted or certified by a third party – you want to know the system is up to snuff.

4. Does it detect duplicates?

You don’t want to be paying the same invoice twice – because if it’s a less-than-reputable supplier, you might have trouble getting the payment back or getting a credit towards future purchases – and this is assuming you can even identify the duplicate payment at all! If it’s less than a certain percentage of spend, your accountants might think it less costly to write it off as a loss than try to hunt the error down. Since this will negatively affect your implemented savings metrics, you want to be sure this doesn’t happen.

5. What is the true cost of the system?

Since many e-Payment systems are priced per transaction, either a fixed rate for each transaction or a percentage of each transaction, you want to be sure you have a good handle on what a system is going to cost you before making a decision. Ask them for complete purchase, installation, operation, and maintenance quotes and a sample calculation based upon your expected throughput. Then do your own calculations.

6. How are rejected transactions managed?

Not paying the piper is generally not an option, especially since you never know what rats he might lead your way if you don’t, so you want to make sure that all rejected transactions are appropriately caught, flagged, and managed. If it was a system error, it should be retried after a small period of time has elapsed. If it was an account error, it needs to be flagged and brought to the attention of a human being to correct the information. If it was a lack of funds error, all payments in the queue need to be put on hold until the issue is resolved.

7. What types of payment are supported?

Electronic check / ACH, wire, P-card, credit card? If you’re locked into only one or two methods, and the methods aren’t right for you, it doesn’t matter how good the system is technically – it’s not the system for you.