We’re delighted to see that the topic of integrated receivables is receiving more attention from the industry these days, and as an early “preacher” of the benefits truly integrated platforms can deliver, we’re excited more companies are taking notice. But as the conversation continues to intensify surrounding these solutions, we can’t help but notice that there is a growing number of technology providers happy to say that they can provide integrated receivables solutions. But talking the talk is much different than actually walking the walk.
Since late 2014 when the topic of integrated receivables first started to gain some early buzz within the marketplace, FTNI has helped to shape what makes an integrated receivables solution truly integrated. No doubt, different providers have their own definition of ‘integrated receivables’, but not all solutions are created equal.
Here’s our definition of a truly integrated receivables solution: The ability to accept, process AND post any payment method, from any payment channel—all from a single, secure (and compliant) cloud-based platform.
A truly integrated receivables platform will help you save costs, reduce inefficiencies, and drive the kind of visibility and oversight within your AR operations that can give you a real competitive advantage.
But we’d also like to call out a few misconceptions we’ve seen lately about what true integrated receivables is—and what it’s not.
More Than a Dashboard
Some companies have offerings more closely resembling dashboards than actual holistic platforms that allow customers to see, action and report on all their AR activities. These dashboards take feeds of transactions from other systems, rather than actually capturing and initiating the original check, ACH or credit card transaction. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t give you any of the benefits of true integrated receivables. There are still silos hiding behind that dashboard. For example, if you accept multiple payment methods (check, ACH, credit card, debit card, cash, etc.), you’re likely left still having to use multiple technologies/platforms from different third-party vendors to feed the view you see within the dashboard.
You can scrape all that information into a dashboard, but that doesn’t mean it’s integrated. You still have multiple different solutions to manage, which more than likely also vary in security and complexity. Your staff must juggle these different systems, which makes for increased inefficiencies with separate integrations, limited reporting, too many reconciliation points, and escalating costs for maintenance, training and support.
So buying one of these dashboards masked as an integrated receivables platform means you may not be solving your problem—only adding another component or ‘silo’ that your staff must work around.
100% Cloud-based—Easy to Deploy and Maintain
Software as a Service (SaaS), or the cloud, is popular because it’s inexpensive for you to set up and support. It’s flexible enough so that you can add new payment channels and methods as they gain traction with your customers—within clicks, not code. And cloud-based services mean you never have to pay for IT again—your cloud provider should ensure that your data is protected by the latest security measures and compliance requirements. If new configurations are needed, most cloud platforms allow for easy changes that can be industry or even company specific. For instance, why would an insurance company want to use the same custom fields and data as a distribution company, bank or non-profit? If new changes are made, with cloud platforms, those can be delivered to the client immediately without waiting for the next ‘software release’.
So when you’re looking at integrated receivables platforms, make sure they’re 100% cloud-based. If they don’t mention it, it’s a good bet the platform doesn’t live up to the hype.
PCI Compliance Comes Standard—Including Full Support of ACH, CC and EBPP/EIPP
Along those lines, make sure any solution you buy comes with PCI compliance. That’s a requirement if you’re taking credit-card data—so if they don’t offer PCI compliance, that means you’ll have to include another system to get the data and meet the requirements, adding another silo (and a significant amount of cost) to your business processes. What’s more, we’re not exactly sure how any provider that claims to provide integrated receivables solutions could do so without the ability to accept credit cards.
With credit card payments continuing to rise—growing at an annual rate of 8% from 2012-2015 according to the 2016 Federal Reserve Payments Study—businesses must ensure they can not only accept card payments, but do so securely while adhering to PCI compliance requirements.
And if businesses are going to accept electronic payments (ACH or credit card) online, electronic bill/invoice presentment (EBPP/EIPP) capabilities ensure a convenient customer experience for selecting and paying their bills and/or invoices. Taking that a step further, depending on your business, the same online payment solution should also allow customers to make one-time or recurring payments. Finally, whether you desire your customers to pay online via a dedicated payment portal, or if you want them to make a payment directly within your existing website, the same payment platform should be able to deliver this functionality. All while delivering the same, uncompromising levels of security and compliance.
The fact of the matter is, if the solution can’t handle credit-card transactions or EBPP/EIPP, it’s not an integrated solution. Those are big things to leave out, and it’s another indication that the solution isn’t cloud-based, as reputable cloud providers providing credit card payment acceptance functionality should always have PCI compliance built-in—not bolted-on—to their solution set.
Integrated APIs and Web Services
In our view, truly integrated receivables solutions should also include APIs and SDKs that developers can use to integrate your system with online applications and mobile technology. This allows you to control the look and feel of the user interface while still delivering to the end customer a variety of payment options.
The flexibility to build proven payment acceptance technology directly within your own applications delivers yet another layer of flexibility to your AR operations. All while continuing to have all transactions (check, ACH, credit card) flow through a consolidated user interface that allows you to have a real-time view of all your AR activity from a single platform and interface. After all, having to accept multiple payment methods and channels shouldn’t have to mean managing multiple platforms.
The Hallmarks of a True Integrated Receivables Platform
A true integrated receivables platform is easy to deploy with a modular, cloud-based design that lets you configure it to the demands of your current business model while providing a simplified approach to supporting future growth and evolution within your AR operations. It seamlessly integrates current business processes, bank and processor relationships, and back-office accounting software, so your team can work more efficiently. Perhaps most importantly, it eliminates costly siloed platforms and processes to save you time and money.
So be diligent when researching prospective solutions to help improve your AR operations. Taking the time to identify a truly integrated platform that can also provide straight-through processing (payment acceptance, processing AND posting in a single pass) will pay off in the end as many ‘dashboard’ offerings may not fully meet the need. Don’t waste resources on something that will just become another silo, leaching funds from your budget and burdening your staff with low-value tactical work. Instead, look for solutions with the following attributes:
- A single, unified interface that consolidates all your payment methods and channels
- Any payment method: check, ACH, credit and debit cards, cash)
- Any payment channel: mailed-in, lockbox, called-in, in-person, online, mobile
- 100% Cloud-based, Software as a Service (SaaS) design and deployment
- PCI compliance – Preferably PCI DSS Level 1
- Integrated APIs, SDKs and web services
- Agnostic by Design – Seamless integration with any back-office system, banking institution(s) and merchant processor(s)
- Straight-through processing – The ability to accept, process AND post payments and associated remittance data into your back-office system(s) in a single pass
If you don’t see these features in an integrated receivables platform, think twice about investing in it. After all, each time someone in your AR department has to manually address a payment, it costs you money. If that means they have to manage multiple systems to even access that payment, costs only rise. So when the time comes that you’re ready to explore the benefits a truly integrated receivables platform can deliver your company, be sure to look behind the “dashboard” curtain, you may be surprised with what you find.
Originally Published April 24, 2017.
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