Accounts Payable Automation FAQs

What is the typical onboarding process?

Zahara has been created to be both flexible and easy to use. You will have access to our comprehensive knowledge base and help videos throughout your Zahara journey. Our experienced onboarding team can also help with your more sophisticated requirements.

The process typically begins straight after you choose Zahara and continues through your first few weeks of using it live.

The onboarding process may include the following steps:

  1. Onboarding Invoice: After signing up for Zahara, you’ll receive an invoice for any professional services. This is typically due within seven days or before work begins.
  2. Scoping and Kickoff: Before we start, our onboarding team will discuss how you’d like Zahara to work with you. This involves populating a staging spreadsheet with key details like users, divisions, and desired workflows. This kickoff meeting usually happens once payment has been received.
  3. Implementation: Our onboarding team will configure Zahara for you and begin the initial setup, including adding users, configuring workflows and helping you organise any integration. We’ll keep you updated throughout the process.
  4. Testing and Training: Once the initial setup is ready, we’ll show you around your system and train you to maintain Zahara in the future. You’ll then be invited to test how Zahara has been configured, informing the team if any tweaks are needed.
  5. Ongoing Support: Our Onboarding Team will be available for the first two to four weeks to make tweaks and answer questions once the sessions have finished. After that, our continued support options will be explained to you, including access to our Support Team, who will be there for you whenever you need further assistance.

Here are some of the benefits you can expect:

  • A smoother transition to Zahara: Our onboarding service is designed to make the transition to Zahara as seamless as possible.
  • Reduced implementation period: You can speed up the implementation process and start using Zahara sooner than if you were to do it alone.
  • A better understanding of how to maintain Zahara: Our onboarding service includes training and support, so you’ll better understand how to maintain Zahara going forward. We’re here to help you succeed!
Can we use our existing purchase order numbering scheme in Zahara?

Within reason, yes. Before raising purchase orders in Zahara, you can choose a number to start from. This number can be prefixed based on business unit, division, and project. For anything else, we offer a “secondary order reference” option allowing you to add any purchase order number/format that you’d like to each purchase order.

Why would I need to approve my invoices if a purchase order is associated?

Zahara can detect discrepancies in price and delivery between a purchase order and an invoice. If an invoice turns up and it is outside of tolerance, is more than the purchase order, or hasn’t been marked as delivered, Zahara to route the invoice around your business for approval to make sure everyone is happy before you pay your supplier.

How long does it typically take to implement Zahara?

A simple Zahara can be up and running within 30 minutes. For more sophisticated structures, our Zahara specialists can take you through setting up Zahara. From initial kick-off to full go-live is typically between 6 to 12 weeks, but this will include setup, training, and initial tweaks and assistance that crops up through using a new system for the first time.

Can I import my Sales Invoices into Zahara?

Unfortunately not. Zahara is purely an Accounts Payable system. You can easily run reports of your purchases to compare with your Accounts Receivable system.

Can I import my existing purchase orders into Zahara?

Yes, you can import a whole host of purchase orders into Zahara via a csv. We recommend enabling “Secondary order reference” in your business settings to use as your existing purchase order numbers. We will use this reference for invoice matching as they are sent into Zahara.

Does Zahara support Single Sign-on?

Zahara offers SSO for Microsoft 365 and Gmail accounts. There is nothing to set up on either of these services, we simply validate that you can sign in with either of these two options. If successful, we’ll give the user access.

To what level does Zahara handle 3-way (Purchase Order/Delivery/Invoice) matching?

Zahara currently offers matching to the line item level of purchase orders and deliveries. Matching to invoice is typically done to header level (Total value of invoice against total value of purchase order). 3-way line item matching can be achieved by using the line items on your purchase order as your invoice lines.

We intend to offer full 3-way matching to line item level in the future.

Does your system export the purchase order information into my accounting package?

Zahara typically replaces the purchase order functionality of your accounting package. However, there are ways inserting this information. These include:

  • Using reports to export purchase information to an Excel or CSV format.
  • Using integrations services such as Zapier or Microsoft Power Automate to link Zahara with 5000+ other cloud based apps
  • Specifically for Sage 50, using tools such as the Adept Sage 50 Purchase Order CSV.
What happens when an approver is on annual leave?

Users can be marked as “absent” within Zahara. This can be done by an admin, or by the user themselves. They can choose to set an end date, and who should approve purchase orders and invoices sent to them whilst they are absent.

How does Zahara handle credit card purchases?

Each business unit can add custom fields to purchase orders and invoices. These can be dropdown options, date pickers, or free text.

For invoice categories such as credit card purchases, we recommend adding an “invoice type” dropdown menu to your custom fields for invoices with options such as “Standard invoice”, “Credit card purchase”, “Proforma invoice”, etc. This data can then be used for reports, filtering, workflow, and (for certain accounting packages) included as part of the export.

How is Zahara priced?

Zahara is priced by usage. Every customer has a unique requirement for the volume of invoices and orders they wish to create every month. Our price reflects how much Zahara is used, how many users will access Zahara and what integrations and addons are required. We have 3 off-the-shelf packages – Lite, Teams & Business and once your requirements are above these, book a demo, and we will take you through Zahara and send you a unique proposal. 

How does the software handle non-PO-based invoices and expense reimbursements?

Standalone invoices can be processed very easily along with expense claims. Zahara reads invoices and routes both invoices and expense claims through automated approval workflows that are pre-set and designed with custom rules. 

Does the solution provide an option for vendor self-service portals?

We have the functionality to allow a vendor to log in to Zahara and view all their purchase orders and invoices. 

How does the software handle payment approvals for different employee roles?

Our workflow approvals allow you to use multiple conditions so the right documents are placed in front of the right people for approval. Different payment thresholds are a common condition to implement. 

Can the system handle complex tax jurisdictions and compliance requirements?

Zahara has customers worldwide but our expertise is with European tax jurisdictions which align very well with GST in ANZ and Canada. USA taxes can be handled as well. 

What is the average cost of ownership for implementing and maintaining the software?

Every client deployment is different but Zahara is very much an add-on to the finance system, and you should expect the TCO and ROI to reflect the value we give you. We would expect an organisation to see significant cost savings through controls and better vendor management. Zahara is a subscription-based software and is realistically priced in the market.

Does the software support automated vendor communication for payment status?

This isn’t a feature we have implemented yet. There are workflow steps that can be created to email the vendor though. 

Can the system handle different approval workflows based on invoice types or amounts?

Yes absolutely. It is a key part of our functionality to be able to engage different workflows or different workflow steps based on the criteria of the invoice or it’s type, like the value or the vendor. 

How does the software handle retention policies for invoices and payment records?

Zahara currently stores invoices for at least seven years. Each invoice represents a a case with history and audit trail and it’s all preserved for records management. 

Does the solution support digital signatures for approvals?

Zahara has an audit trail behind every approval request and we date time stamp every action but we don’t use digital signatures. 

Can the software provide real-time visibility into the AP process?

Yes. Every document – order or invoice  – has a displayable visual on where in the process the document is and who is next in the approval process.

How does the software handle recurring expenses and subscriptions?

Zahara doesn’t have functionality currently around repeating orders or invoices. You can create a master purchase order and record multiple invoices against it and you can clone both orders and invoices for fast recreation. 

How does the software handle automatic vendor statement reconciliations?

This isn’t current functionality we offer.

Does the solution support different types of payment file formats?

Zahara has built-in payments using partners like Comma. We can also output payment file formats to suit on a client-by-client basis with some standard ones like BACS being an expected feature. 

Can the software handle automatic allocation of expenses to specific cost centers?

Expenses are assigned to a Division in Zahara and these have their own workflows. If an invoice is linked to a purchase order then the allocation to the cost centre is automated. 

How does the system handle invoice approval escalation paths?

An invoice in Zahara can be approved or rejected and the workflows can be designed to suit. In terms of escalation, multiple people can be involved in the approval process and you can decide the rules for the escalation of approvals. 

What level of data security and encryption does the solution employ?

Zahara supports two-factor authentication to secure logins and all data is encrypted at rest. We operate on the Microsoft Azure platform and work to Cyber Essentials Plus certification.

Can the software handle different payment terms and discounts?

Each vendor record has the standard terms and the due date of an invoice can be calculated based on these terms. The user can override this when creating an invoice as well. In terms of payment discounts, the use can display and report on a list of invoices including the due date to take advantage of any early payment discounts. 

Is the software compliant with relevant financial regulations and standards?

Zahara has a worldwide customer base and we have provided financial software that adds on to core finance systems and ERPs. It’s those systems that need to work alongside financial regulations – usually relating to tax. Zahara’s job is to support those systems through the use of automation and AI. Ultimately though, the finance system or ERP is the truth of data. Having said this, Zahara doesn’t compromise any regulations that we are aware of. 

Does the software have built-in compliance checks to prevent fraudulent activities?

Zahara checks for changes in bank details from vendor invoices and also checks for duplicate invoices. Running on the Azure platform our back office team is also notified of any suspicious behavior and this is naturally investigated. 

What are the system requirements for implementing the software?

Zahara is cloud-based so can run stand-alone without any on-premise software. However, our on-premise tool SmartSync can sync with on-premise systems like ERP’s and this tool requires a Windows server and runs as a Windows service with a very small footprint. 

Can the solution automatically update the general ledger with payment data?

Not currently, but it’s something we have in the development backlog. 

How does the software handle invoice archiving and document management?

Zahara has built-in storage for a number of document types including purchase invoices, and any other vendor correspondence that you would like to upload. Each document you create – invoice, purchase order or expense claim, can have associated documents attached and stored with them for years to come. All financial records are stored for at least 7 years.

Does the software provide audit trails for compliance purposes?

Yes. Each document has a full audit trail with automated steps writing entries to the trail as well as the user being able to add notes and documents. 

What measures are in place to prevent duplicate payments?
Can the system handle vendor enquiries and communication?

Zahara allows you to record notes of conversations with vendors in their vendor records and also allows correspondence documents from vendors to be manually attached to their records. 

Is it possible to configure automated approval thresholds based on different criteria?

Yes. Our multi-step workflows are incredibly sophisticated and allow you to choose different price thresholds to engage different people in the process. This allows users to create purchases that are effectively pre-approved under their approval limit or engage multiple different persons to additionally approve the more expensive purchases. 

How does the software handle exceptions and discrepancies in invoices?

An invoice can have a rejected state that places it in the disputed area. AP staff can then review this invoice when additional information has been collated. It’s possible to create an auto-reject workflow as well to notify the vendor. 

Does the solution support electronic payments and ACH transfers?

UK customers can use a payments partner to make electronic payments from their existing banks. We do not provide US customers with payment facilities currently. 

Can the software handle multi-entity or multi-subsidiary environments?

Yes. Zahara has Business Units that are designed to be separate entities. We also have Divisions in a Business Unit that can be used in a number of different ways. They can act as traditional business departments or can be used as locations or sites. Business Units are ring-fenced with separate users, vendors, coding, and Divisions.

What is the average implementation timeline for your software?

Zahara typically takes 2 months from sign-off to go live. It’s fast to deploy and easy to learn. With very little, if any on-premise software, all of the work is around staging data that you supply – users, vendors, and approval matrix. Once we have this we can have you up and running very quickly and start the training. Our turn-key solutions are designed to get using Zahara with minimal fuss so cost savings can be achieved faster.

Does the solution offer mobile access for approvals and monitoring?

Zahara has a mobile app that can be used to create purchases, create expense claims and approve on the go. The mobile app isn’t used by the finance team to monitor the AP process – our main app would be used for this – but an approver will be alerted when a document needs their attention. 

How does the software handle early payment discounts and late payment penalties?

Our user-friendly list views show the invoices with their dates and due dates. You can also enable colour coding of the due dates to show you those invoices that need paying urgently to achieve discounts or avoid penalties. 

Can the system handle both PO and non-PO based invoices?

Yes. You can rec ord both types of invoices.

How scalable is the software, and can it handle a growing volume of transactions?

Yes. Zahara is very elastic in that the application can scale architecturally to support the continued growth of us as a company and application. From your perspective as a customer, you can segment Zahara in a number of different ways to make sure you are displaying relevant information as your volumes grow. 

What level of support and training do you offer during implementation?

All customers are supported as part of their subscriptions. During onboarding, you work with our customer success team who will build your Zahara environment with the data you supply.  They will then take you through the learning and onboarding process with you fully supported at all times. Zahara’s intuitive user interface makes it faster and easier to learn. Zahara is very much software for non-finance end users, with features and functionality that the finance team want. 

Is it possible to customize the solution to fit our unique AP process?

Almost certainly. Zahara’s real value is in the huge amount of settings that can be turned on or off to customise the environment to suit you. There may be some things you want that we don’t have but there is usually a workaround. It could be our AP specialists – who have worked with hundreds of finance teams – will provide you with ideas and guidance to do things better. 

How does the solution handle tax compliance and reporting?

Zahara supports your finance system or ERP as an add-on. We feel it’s the job of that software to handle tax compliance. 

Can the software automate vendor onboarding and data maintenance?

No. We have no functionality around automatic vendor onboarding. We do allow vendors to be created in Zahara by permitted people, and you can create alerts in tools like Teams for chosen people to let them know a colleague has created a vendor and that a diligence process should be undertaken. 

Does the software provide analytics and reporting on AP performance?

Zahara has built-in reporting as well as data under the subscription section to show you how many orders and invoices you are creating. You can also connect to our reporting API and pull Zahara’s data on a daily basis for further analysis using tools like Excel or PowerBI. 

Is the system capable of handling recurring payments?

We don’t have recurring payments as a feature but we do have the ability to clone documents to make creation simple. Recurring payments are something we would like to introduce in time or certainly automated scheduled payments. 

How does the software handle approval workflows for invoices and payments?

Create custom approval workflows with multiple steps engaging multiple people for invoices. Payments are currently manual requiring the user to multiple select invoices but we are expecting to release automated payments in the coming months. 

What types of payment methods does the software support?

Currently, we have partnered with one UK provider to enable payments from your existing bank. In January 2024 we are expecting to launch a fully integrated payments solution for muti-currencies with a whole host of advanced features

Can the software automate the matching of purchase orders, invoices, and receipts?

Zahara can link orders to invoices automatically. Receipting isn’t automatic – it requires a user to GRN a delivery either in the web app or on the mobile app. Book a demonstration to understand fully how our matching works and saves countless hours every month. 

How does the software handle multi-currency and multi-language invoices?

Each business unit has a base currency and orders and invoices can be created in any other currency. Our invoice recognition picks up different currencies and recognises most European languages competently. Our reporting api offers all data as well as currency exchange rates by date for more meaningful reports in tools like PowerBI.

Does your solution offer electronic invoice capture and processing capabilities?

Yes. Zahara’s invoice capture works without any user training or intervention. Just forward invoices to Zahara and see the results within 30 seconds. Accurate line-item reading together with automated workflows make our invoice capture and processing versatile, friendly and easy. 

What security measures are in place to protect sensitive financial data?

Zahara runs on Azure – Microsoft’s cloud-platform. This is a robust scalable platform. We take security very seriously – as you’d expect and offer two factor authentication, including Login with Microsoft. All of our data is encrypted at rest. We are Cyber Essentials Plus certified and we have external tests of Zahara every year for security weaknesses. In summary we are as good as we can be.

Can your software integrate with our existing ERP or accounting system?

If your finance or ERP system has any form of input for purchase invoices, we can integrate. We have full-integrations with many systems as shown above on this page, but we also make it easy to get the key-data you need out of Zahara and into your system. This could be fully-automated or simply you downloading data from our web-based software. We will work with you to design the best process.

How does your AP Automation software streamline the accounts payable process?

If your existing process relies on paper, spreadsheets or any form of manual intervention, you will find Zahara adds a huge amount of value to the AP Process. Every purchase is available in the Zahara online portal, where you will see the history grow from requisition to payment. There will be less waste, more speed and a smoother trackable process.

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