Controllers are recognizing that Outlook and Gmail aren’t designed to streamline AR or AP workflows. Email software simply doesn’t provide needed automation, controls, or visibility. When controllers look around their companies for other options, they find solutions such as customers support software (e.g., Zendesk), developer ticketing system (e.g., JIRA), or project management (e.g., Trello).

 

 

Of the various options, customer support software seems to be a good fit at first, because it:

  • Captures emails for the central accounting email address
  • Provides ticketing and conversation management to work with vendors and customers
  • Archives conversations
  • Supports contact management
  • Provides search across conversations
  • Reports on resolutions and SLAs

But that pretty good fit turns out to be a square peg in a round hole.  Customer support software has big gaps when it comes to AR and AP.  It’s designed for helping customers use a product.  It’s not designed to help vendors and customers in the accounting cycle. 

 What are the gaps?!  Integration, workflow and implementation. 

 Customer support software has no integration with accounting software.  No integration means no self-service.  Letting your vendors and customers view their own statement or get critical transactional detail without having to contact you, makes them happier and your work easier.  But the integration gap means the needed information is unavailable via self-service (a.k.a., more work for you).

Sending timely emails throughout the accounting cycle can facilitate payment, collection, and closing.  The integration gap means that the customer support software cannot send statements, payment reminders, vendor onboarding emails or customer onboarding emails.  The missing integration translates into running reports and manually composing emails for both AR and AP.

Then there is the workflow gap.  Approvals or verifications workflows are critical within AR and AP workflows.  But these are internal workflows, and customer support software is designed for workflow with external contacts.  It doesn’t support internal workflow.  Consequently, you need an additional solution for your internal workflows.  The additional solution creates more work for your team as they have more tools to use and more data to cut and paste.

Task management is another workflow gap.  Not all AR and AP workflow is a conversation with a customer or vendor.  There are month-end closing tasks, research tasks, training tasks, and more.  Customer support software doesn’t allow tasks to be created and assigned to team members.  And without the management, you’re missing the reporting and performance management that goes along with it.

Finally, there is the implementation gap.  Implementation is the effort to go live.  You want to get up and going fast.  That’s not the case with customer support software.  Why?  Because it doesn’t have any configurations for AR and AP.   All the accounting definitions have to be custom created by the implementation team – who are generally not accounting experts.  This can take weeks or even months to get correct.  And it costs a lot to maintain.

If you’re looking for a better answer than email to manage your AR, AP, or even payroll workflows, you’re already on your way to a more efficient accounting cycle.  Just be careful of the customer support software approach.  It has gaps.  Getting the right solution in upfront can save you a lot of time and money.  Look for a solution designed for accounting departments rather than pushing a square peg into a round hole.

At Lockstep, we’re building modern software to optimize the accounting cycle.  The Lockstep solution is designed specifically for accounting departments.  Learn more about Lockstep here and signup for a demo.