Before you write off integrated payables as something that is out of reach for your organization, I encourage you to learn more. It could be the solution you need to streamline accounts payable processes. Following are some of the advantages, potential challenges, and recommendations. First, though, what is it? People often have differing definitions. Integrated payables allow an organization to submit to their designated provider a single electronic payments file that encompasses multiple payment methods—check, ACH, and card. The provider facilitates the payments to the specified suppliers, as directed by the end-user organization via that file. It is sometimes called consolidated payables as well.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the CPI Middle Market Summit and integrated payables was one of the discussed topics. Providers/banks are increasingly offering these solutions—often through a partnership with a fintech company—to give corporate/business clients another option in relation to their payment strategies.
As indicated above, for an end-user organization, integrated payables (IP) can mean simplicity and process ease from payment initiation through reconciliation. The single file approach eliminates the need for AP to send a check file to the printer, an ACH file to the designated bank, and an electronic accounts payable (EAP) file (for Virtual Card and/or buyer-initiated payments) to the designated provider.
In addition to process ease, your organization may reap greater financial benefits by consolidating your payments with one provider/bank instead of using multiple banks. Further, you would have fewer providers to manage.
Following are potential challenges only. Do not make any assumptions without researching first.
Getting internal buy-in from stakeholders could be difficult. Everyone is used to their current processes. Some employees will resist any option that means losing the relationship they have built with the existing banking/payment partner.
Traditionally, organizations do a “card program” request for proposal (RFP) process that excludes other payment methods. Doing an integrated payables RFP would be a change that involves more departments/employees.
Older ERP systems may not be able to accommodate an IP process.
Implementing an integrated payables solution may require more IT resources than what you have available.
If you start talking with a bank or provider about IP, be sure to define it up front, so everyone is talking about the same thing. Accounts payable expert Mary Schaeffer of AP Now agrees. She observes, “Integrated payables is an area where the banking community needs to educate clients. There is often a lot of confusion about what it is.”
If your organization decides to pursue integrated payables, shop around first. Find out how each provider’s solution works, any fintechs behind the scenes, the related security controls utilized by each entity, who would be responsible for what, and so on.
In today’s world, it’s all about devising a payment strategy that takes all payment methods into consideration. Integrated payables is something you will likely hear more about going forward. I even suggested to the NAPCP that they do a future poll on this topic. It is beneficial to keep learning more, as the solution will continue to evolve.
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About the Author
Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more…