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10 requirements for software for digital business processes

The digitalization of business processes often works well in practice – but sometimes not so well. Here, you can get an overview of the requirements for software for incoming invoices or contract management. After all: small differences can make a big difference later on.

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Keeping precise inventory is absolutely essential: What are the company’s own requirements? Is integration into existing systems necessary? Which software solutions on the market offer which feature set? It’s questions like these that go on to determine the success of a software implementation.

1. Software infrastructure and integration into the ERP system

A software solution should be easy to integrate into existing processes within the company. This makes it important that the software can be connected to existing ERP systems without too much extra technical work.

At most companies, for example, accounts payable accounting is linked to various technical processes. This process connection may involve complex enterprise resource planning (ERP) software such as SAP or Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, customer relationship management (CRM) or the archiving of company documents. The right invoice management software for your company must support these systems and the associated processes – including the dependent reporting and monitoring processes.

In addition, the software should also integrate into existing document workflows in your company as smoothly as possible in order to avoid media disruptions.This includes the connection to a system for archiving digital documents.

2. Software model in line with the IT strategy

Software can be licensed and operated in various ways: for example, as a subscription per workstation, where the software is located in the provider’s cloud, or as an on-premises installation on the company’s own servers. Hybrid installations that combine public and private clouds are also possible. It is not a question of what is better or worse, but of whether the software you have selected is in line with your company’s IT strategy (in consultation with your CIO). The latter depends on personnel, technical and fiscal considerations.

3. Data exchange with external applications

While it is important that the software solutions in question fulfill your business requirements as accurately as possible, integration capability is becoming increasingly important. How can the solution be connected to third-party applications? Is API documentation available? What applications offer standard interfaces for data exchange? Relevant software providers should be able to answer questions like these precisely. You should also make sure that the software supports your requirements as well as possible – both now and in the future, i.e. that it can process conventional and well-documented file formats.

4. Transfer of existing data

A software switch raises the question of what happens to your old documents and the associated data. After all, your company is not just now beginning to manage documents with the introduction of the new software. So a solution should offer functions that allow data from legacy systems to be migrated to the new central system without errors and with a manageable amount of effort.

5. Flexible operation and collaboration

One key software requirement is the ability to enable seamless location-independent collaboration on common device classes. This ensures that business processes organized around workflows continue to function without any restrictions.

  • For example, managers are often involved in coordinating contracts, and some of them travel a lot, so they rely on flexible work options. Contracts now have a life cycle, known as the “Contract lifecycle”: This requires cooperation throughout the entire process from the creation of the contract to the drafting and archiving. Modern digital contract management should take these software requirements into account and be available regardless of the device.
  • Example Incoming invoice: The various user groups involved in the invoice process will always have the same view of the current process status: from invoice approval and troubleshooting through to invoice archiving. Everything has to run in sync, and tasks must be distributed smoothly. Modern invoice management software does exactly that.

Another key software requirement is effective handling of the traditional medium of paper:  Media discontinuities caused by paper documents arriving unexpectedly can be handled by modern software solutions with convenient scan-in options. You can simply take a photo of the letter on your smartphone, process it with OCR, then upload the document. The rest of the workflow integration will be no problem at all.

And don’t forget: Equally important is the digital signature, which you can use to sign documents digitally. This software requirement must also be taken into account. According to  the eIDAS Regulation, a digital signature is equivalent to a handwritten signature.

Choose an accounts payable solution in five steps

Do you want to digitize your invoice management with software? This guide, including a practical checklist, will help you find the right solution for your company.

guide and checklist

6. Clear overviews and intuitive handling

Nowadays, being able to see the essentials at a glance is just as important as easy, intuitive software operation. This is evident in the field of reporting: Here in particular, users should have clear dashboards that allow them to individually configure and view all statistics and key figures according to their needs. In conjunction with this, the software should contain a clear process monitoring function that allows ongoing and completed processes to be called up and evaluated.

What applies to reporting and monitoring also applies to specialist applications. A good software solution must be simple, clear and as intuitive as possible for users from your specialist departments to operate without requiring a great deal of training. Examples depending on the application would be:

  • Deadline management that displays all important deadlines in a calendar and can create automated notifications via a reminder function. Programs that do it a little better, however, also allow users to link these deadlines to further steps in the workflow in order to automate processes even more effectively. easy contract, for example, does this with deadlines and lead times. A sophisticated workflow management system helps with this.
  • Chat and comment functions that authorized persons can use to exchange questions about the process or add notes to a document directly from the application.
  • Full-text search, which searches through archived documents, displays the results, accesses them in the application and logs these work steps in detail for authorized users.
  • Context-awareness, so that users can jump directly from the graphical user interface to the relevant document. One practical example is the account payable card in easy for Dynamics 365 BC. The interface shows all the details of an incoming invoice and can also directly open the linked invoice.

7. Tailored right

It is not only important how comprehensive the software is, but also how many features it has on board out of the box. On the one hand, it can happen that many features are only available as paid add-ons, which can drive up the price of the software through the back door.

On the other hand, the right software should not be equipped with an overwhelming feature set if it is not used at all in business practice. After all, you as the customer are paying for this ballast, which often makes operation unnecessarily complicated.

8. Employee training

A major problem with any software is the loss of productivity caused by employees who have not received proper training and therefore have trouble using it: This results in annoying errors and delays.

Since different business areas may be affected depending on the process, the software provider should offer training that introduces your employees to the steps relevant to them in a straightforward and needs-oriented manner. This ensures that everything runs smoothly afterwards.

9. Updates und Upgrades

In the agile digital world, there are no software products without updates and upgrades. They are necessary to close security vulnerabilities and provide new functions for changing requirements in dynamic markets. In addition, reputable providers are constantly expanding and improving existing functions. Pay attention not only to whether the software developer regularly installs updates and upgrades, but also to how this is done and whether you incur additional costs as a result.

Alternatively, there are SaaS solutions that are available in the cloud without long waiting times once the subscription has been taken out. The solution, including all the desired features, is therefore uncomplicated and ready for use in no time at all. Since the provider is responsible for the infrastructure, customers can always be sure that their software will be up to date.

Reading tip: Buy or subscribe? What are the advantages of Software-as-a-Service?

10. Regulatory requirements

Depending on the area of application of the software, there may be regulatory requirements. The processing of incoming invoices for example, is subject to strict legal requirements such as the “Principles for Duly Maintaining, Keeping and Storing Books, Records and Documents in Electronic Form and for Data Access” (GoBD), the German Value-Added Tax Act (UStG) or the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

These legal regulations are relevant for various process steps when processing incoming invoices.They generally pertain to the correct structuring, allocation, traceability and storage of the relevant data. Software for processing incoming invoices must comprehensively cover the associated requirements; in most cases, this involves the subjects of archiving and tamper-proof storage. However, invoices are not the only documents that must be stored in accordance with the GoBD. This also applies to contract management: After termination and expiry of a contract, it is stored in the archive. In digital contract management, it is essential that this storage is tamper-proof. To achieve this, the software must support all legal standards (GoBD, GDPR) to ensure that contracts are stored in a legally compliant manner.

Choose an accounts payable solution in five steps

Do you want to digitize your invoice management with software? This guide, including a practical checklist, will help you find the right solution for your company.

guide and checklist

Conclusion: Look closely and do your own testing is the rule of thumb

In conclusion, the requirements for software in the areas of usability, clarity and intuitive handling must be considered in advance during the selection process and before the purchase. This is best done in a team or with a few key users. The same goes for the other software requirements mentioned here. Contact the software developer, ask them questions, request certifications and do further research. It is worth it.

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