Friday, January 17, 2014

PC Magazine Reviews

Kathy Yakal for PC Magazine reviews 

Pros Automates accounts receivable and payable approval and processing. Forecasts cash. Integrates with numerous financial applications. Easily accessible via mobile devices.

Cons Lacks the depth of partnerships that some financial solutions have. Online support scattered.
Bottom Line can manage your company's accounts receivable and payable or as an integrated partner with your accounting solution. Either way, you'll have tremendous collaboration and financial transaction-processing and tracking tools.
When I first reviewed in 2009, it was an excellent accounts payable website, automating the process of receiving, approving and paying bills. It had a simple, clean user interface, a good help system and a relatively painless setup routine. My main criticism was that the workflow could be puzzling to new users. In the intervening four years, not only improved its workflow, but it has also more than doubled its usefulness, its collaboration capabilities and its user base.

Today, it manages both accounts receivable and payable. It integrates with many more financial applications. And it's easily accessed via mobile devices.

Founder Rene Lacerte comes from a long line of successful entrepreneurs, and this history shows in the smart, careful evolution of It's to his credit that I'm unable to find another Web-based solution that can compete with it.

Establishing Your Financial Framework provides a setup checklist that breaks the process down into small steps (though I would do it in a different order than they did). First up is synchronization with your accounting software, unless you're using as a standalone application. The service now shares data with NetSuite, Sage and Xero ($15 extra), in addition to QuickBooks and Intacct. Once you've completed the initial sync using the site's step-by-step videos and printed guides, will continue to send changes to your accounting software, which will in turn update

If you don't import data, you'll need to create records for your vendors manually. Once this is done, you'll have a page for each that displays not only their addresses, phone numbers, payment terms, etc., but also lists their historical bills, payments, vendor credits and any documents that have been attached to them.

Next, you'll want to set up the users who will be accessing the system. comes with five pre-defined roles: Administrator, Accountant, Payer, Approver and Clerk. These are displayed in a grid that shows what permissions each has by definition (Approve Bills/Vendor Credits, Pay approved bills via, Sync with Accounting System, etc.). You can either assign staff to one of these or you can create your own roles.

It's easy to designate the bank account(s) you'll use to pay bills and/or receive payments. walks you through the process of verifying your identity and connecting to your account(s). If you want customers to be able to pay you online, will set up a separate website for that purpose that can include your business name and your logo. You can accept credit and debit cards through's merchant account service, as well as ePayments and PayPal payments.

One of the advantages of using is its bill approval mechanism, something QuickBooks doesn't offer. You'll need to indicate whether or not bills need to be approved before they're paid (and who is allowed to do so). Your bill approval workflow preferences must also be established. In fact, there are many other preferences that you'll need to establish, so it's best to work your way through this whole section before you upload your fist bill.

Clean Operations, Cash Flow Forecast's user interface is clean, simple and understandable. You can access any area of the site by clicking the tabs at the top of the screen: Home, Inbox, Payables, Receivables, Documents and Reports. Each has its own sub-menus.

Your personal dashboard appears when you first log on to The most common activities are represented here. Your to-do list contains links to tasks that need attention, like overdue invoices, bills awaiting approval and documents in your Inbox that need processing. There's a vendor search box and a tool for uploading bills. Your cash forecast is displayed here in a graph; you can see how your projected income and bills will affect your bottom line over the next three months.

Many sites offer simple cash forecasts, but's is interactive in an unusual way. Follow the line that represents your current balance with your mouse, and a small window opens for each day of the next three months, displaying the prior day's balance, inflow and outflow totals, and your ending balance. If your forecast indicates that you're going to have a negative balance at any point, you can edit any of the unprocessed transactions to, for example, push a bill payment back or move an invoice due date up. This is great.

Moving Your Payables
There are three ways to move your actual bills to The service establishes a unique email address and fax number for your company. You can scan and email paper bills, fax them directly or drag and drop electronic copies onto your dashboard. A fourth alternative is offered by one of's partners, Earth Class Mail. You can have your bills mailed directly to them, and they'll scan and submit them to for you.

 Your scanned bills go into your Inbox, which displays every uploaded file, eBill and ePayment in a small box that contains a miniature version of the document itself. Hover over "View Email" to see the "From" and "Subject" line, and over the document itself to see a larger version. This is just an image, though; information will have to be pulled from it to create a version that can read. To do so, you click "Bill" under the "Create a New" menu to the right of the image in the Inbox.

The next screen contains your scanned image and the "Bill Details" dialog box, which contains fields and drop-down boxes for entering data about your bill (vendor, due date, account, etc.). Your default approver for that bill is pictured there, though you can add another. When you complete the fields and save the transaction, your bill is entered into the system for processing. Recurring bills are supported, and can be set up on a separate screen.

To approve bills, you either click through to that screen from the dashboard or click Payables/Approve. The pending bills that you must approve are listed on the screen, ready to be selected and approved in two clicks. Select Payables/Pay if you have that particular permission, and enter the required details. You also have the option to pay without using (if you're printing a check, for example) and to mark a bill already paid. will make the payment for you either electronically or via U.S. Mail by its due date.
All paid bills are available in the History section of your Inbox. Your bill payments themselves are stored in Payables/History. This screen offers much more information than small business accounting solutions generally do, and which is sorely needed: keeps track of uncashed checks, returned checks and failed ePayments.

Time-Saving Alternative
If you have a lot of bills or limited staff time or both, you can subscribe to's Data Entry Service (formerly called "Zen"). For $1.99/bill,two different U.S.-based agents enter all bill and vendor information for you, and any discrepancies are caught by a third person. All bills received by 7 p.m. Eastern appear online in the Inbox of your approver by the morning of the next business day. Company representatives create new vendor records when necessary and categorize bills based on that vendor's previous bill. Your bills are also scanned using state-of-the-art OCR technology, providing you with a searchable database.

If you don't opt for this service, you'll still pay $1.29 per processed bill that sends by U.S. Mail. Electronic payments are 49 cents each. And there are three subscription levels for the service itself, ranging from $24.99 per month (customized plans and multi-account discounts are available for enterprise users). The differences in service levels are related primarily to the accounting syncs supported. Intacct and NetSuite synchronization require corporate subscriptions ($99 per month for up to 15 users), for example. The customized roles option, too, is limited to Corporate.

Incoming Revenue has added receivables-processing since the last time I reviewed it. That enhancement has made the site the only accounting solution that many companies need. Just as a large segment of the Microsoft Word user base uses only a fraction of the word processor's tools, small businesses often buy or subscribe to an accounting program or website and only use accounts receivable and payable, and maybe a few reports.

All of your work on invoicing and receiving income is done within the Receivables menu. And it works much the same as Payables, only you may be creating invoices (though these can also be done in an accounting product). You'll click the Overview link under Receivables to see the same kind of information you saw in the Payables dashboard – soon-to-be-due and overdue invoices, those that need processing and payments received/scheduled.
Of course, you'll have to import a customer database or manually enter records. You'll also need to build item service and sales tax records so you can enter them on invoices. You'll assign staff roles and establish preferences, and if you haven't already, create branded payment websites and sign up for merchant accounts or other payment options.

Invoices forms are simple and similar to other web-based accounting sites, though not as detailed as some. If you've built a thorough customer database, some of the upper part of the invoice will already be completed. You may have to supply information like invoice number, sales rep, etc. Then you select items from the drop-down list, enter quantities and indicate whether the sale is taxable. Like bill payments, you can dispatch invoices electronically or pay to send them through U.S. Mail.

The last two toolbar tabs gives you access to lists of documents (you can attach documents to bills and invoices) and reports (many more than five years ago, but with minimal customization options).

The Work Flows

There are numerous benefits of using to automate your company's accounts receivable and payable workflow. For example, it makes these processes actually feel like a workflow, rather than a series of related-but-separate actions. Add to that the site's approval mechanism, its secure financial data storage, its data entry option and, above all, its tremendous collaboration capabilities, and you have a solution that's yet to be rivalled.


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