Practice Management

SmartVault vs Bill.com

Written by Tim Hughes

In an ever crowded arena of web-based applications available today, two stand out as essential for any thriving business. SmartVault is a powerful online document management system and Bill.com is the best in breed for online payables (and great for online receivables too). Both have the ability to store documents – so which should you use? While there are some similar processes, both have strengths that should be leveraged.

Managing Documents with Bill.com

WhBill.comen I first started using Bill.com, I used it for the payable system. I found that document management was another benefit that I hadn’t anticipated. Bill.com has such a strong work flow system, it ensures quality control and effectiveness like no other payable system. I scan, email or fax in bills and receipts into the online portal. Then, I grab the source document (invoice, receipt, etc.) and enter it for its intended purpose – bill, vendor doc,  and so forth. The document is automatically stored under that vendor. One of the great designs of Bill.com is to have an approval process, which gives clients great control wherever they want it in the process. Once the bill has been approved by all that need to approve it, then the bill gets scheduled for payment. This is much better than the old way of entering in bills and receipts into QuickBooks, printing checks to match the bills and wait for the owner of the company to sign the checks.

Prior to using Bill.com we would mail the check and stub to the vendor. We kept the extra stub and attached it to the original invoice, and placed it in a pile to file it later. Sometimes we would go weeks or longer before we had the time to file the paid invoice in the file cabinet. Some of my clients had staff manage this process, and it would be even worse. Many times we would need to find the invoice and payment for reference only to find it wasn’t filed or missing. When using Bill.com, the filling is done automatically for you on the fly, and it is ridiculously easy to find any documents when you need them later.

There are two other key benefits to using Bill.com.

  • When bills and checks are presented to the owner, they are not always available to review them at a convenient time. With Bill.com, they can review and approve bills when it is convenient for them – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Bill.com has a great feature where you can time payments of your bills based on your current cash flow. Since Bill.com syncs with QuickBooks, and many other accounting solutions for that matter, you know what the book balance is at any given time (as long as you have updated all transactions in QuickBooks). You can look on the Bill.com calendar to see how much cash you have with each payment. This is far different than the old system of holding checks and manually calculating when to pay each bill.

When you get in the habit of scanning, emailing or faxing documents into Bill.com, it makes you want to store all documents in Bill.com. It is possible to do this, however, there are many documents that are better placed and managed within SmartVault.

Managing Documents with SmartVault

SmartVaultSmartVault gives you the ability to create a folder and file system based on the needs of your organization. At our firm, we have created the following document folders – Best Practices, Clients, Finance, Human Resources, Sales and Marketing and more.

Since it is a permission based document management system, you can give access to each document within the organization based on the person’s role with the company. You can also set permissions for clients to see, edit, review documents related to their business. Within your own firm, you may want some people to have access to certain clients, and others have access to others. Since we do a monthly close for each of our clients, we have staff members perform the monthly close and a controller to review the process and make sure it was done correctly. Because they are in different offices, they can access this at any time. You may want people to have read only permissions, with others the ability to add, change, edit documents. There are many ways to manage these permissions that make it very intuitive.

SmartVault has a toolbar feature where you can attach and store source documents to the record from within QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online.

Another benefit is we can map the drive to our local system, which makes it easy to drag and drop documents. It also makes it easy to send documents out on behalf of our clients to vendors or clients any day of the week. We do not have to be in the client’s physical office.

Using Both

With today’s ever increasing need for security, both applications have bank level security protecting the data. Most small to mid-sized companies do not have IT teams protecting their data at this level. As the hackers and fraud companies get more sophisticated, so does the security protection at SmartVault and Bill.com/

Bill.com stores source documents in Bill.com portals, but not from within QuickBooks. No matter what other service or application source documents live in, most agree that they should also reside in the financial system as a central repository for all data and source documents.

Currently, we use Bill.com for all of our payable and receivable systems. We place vendor invoices, receipts and documents associated with payables and receivables in Bill.com. We use SmartVault for all important company and client documents, and have created. We have created standard folders titled Best Practices, Sales and Marketing, Clients, Human Resources, Finances (for our company), Permanent Files.

It would be great to get comments and feedback on how you use either Bill.com or SmartVault or both. This will help each of us in creating the best in class practices with each of products, applications and services available to us today.


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About the author

Tim Hughes

Tim Hughes is a Certified ProAdvisor and is Advanced Certified in Bill.com. He has a BA in Finance from Cal State University of Fullerton, and an MBA from Thunderbird (Top International Biz School in the US). He has gained corporate experience at Toshiba America, General Motors/Hughes Aircraft, and William Morris Agency (now WME). He is founder of Virbo, LLC (www.virbo.net) an outsourced accounting and coaching company (all done virtually) helping small/mid-sized companies increase profitability and get results.

14 Comments

  • Security is a huge issue for our company and for our customers, and we take it very seriously. I think both of these companies do a great job with that. Second only to this issue is disaster recovery. In this digital age, we need to be able to backup and access our data both online and offline.

    As much as I love Bill.com, this is the one area that I wish they would join forces with SmartVault to develop a comprehensive solution to address this concern.

    Does Bill.com store documents? Yes. Is it easy to use? Yes. Does it improve workflow? Yes.

    Can you get a backup of the information? Umm… for $35 per request (then they provide a CD which may take days or weeks to receive).

    I am a huge fan of Bill.com, but I believe I should have the ability to get a backup copy of my or my customers’ data without having to pay for it. Each time I pay $35 for a backup CD, it feels like ransom.

    Because of that, we store copies of all data, even payables and receivables documentation, on SmartVault. We use Bill.com for workflow. It’s not ideal, but it works for us.

    • Tim and Patti,

      Thanks so much for weighing in on this! We hear from lots of customers that they don’t always know whether it makes sense to use both solutions, or one or the other. It’s so helpful to us (and to your peers of course) to hear how our customers are using the solutions together, and which features are most compelling in each solution, to you as accounting pros. Love the feedback, as always!

      Cheers,
      Allie w/ SmartVault

    • Interesting point, Patti. That was one of the reasons why I didn’t like the older QuickBooks Document Management system (when it was an online product, not just local storage). SmartVault makes it easy to get a backup of your files – I seem to recall that several years ago you had to request a CD/DVD backup and it was one aspect that I wasn’t entirely happy with, but they’ve taken care of that. Getting your files out easily for backup (etc) is a big issue for me.

    • If you have check fraud, Bill.com is little help. Had 3rd party steal check before it got to vendor. They cashed it, and endorsement did not match payee. The check was dated 2/22/2013. We are still waiting (7/31/2013) for Bill.com’s bank to refund the $1,700.

      Had this been through one of our local banks, we could have gotten our money back in the same week. We are so glad the damage was not greater than $1,700. Having our money tied up like this causes problems. Having our staff tied up re-explaining every time we chat in (no phone support) increases the financial damage.

      • Follow up: Bill.com did resolve this issue on 9/3/2013. Once the job was done, the quality was fantastic. All other aspects of their service are fantastic, and by far, out weigh the inconvenience of this one event. Now that we know they can handle the difficult problems, we are ready to send more business to them with confidence they will make us look good to our clients. Thank you Bill.com!

  • I’d love to use Bill.com for payables. But I don’t because last time I checked, bill.com requires the Quickbooks Online Master Admin credentials for integration purposes. I can’t give access to all of our financials. If the bill.com and quickbooks integration would work with a QB user with Limited Access (Vendors and Purchases), we would use it.

    • Hi Gena,

      Bill.com requires QB admin log in to grant access to sync but users do not have to be logged in as the admin to run the sync. I would highly encourage you to consider it again, one you do there will be no turning back….

      • Thanks, Judie! That was our understanding, too – but even the sync requiring the QB admin login was our concern. Wish it could sync using a non-admin QB account (i.e. a QB account that has access to vendors/payable only – which QBO offers).

  • I saw a recent demo of SmartVault and it sounds like there is now an add-on that can be purchased by clients that creates a ‘widget’ of sorts right within QuickBooks to attach documents that then can get stored on the cloud. It can then be accessed via the QuickBooks or an online portal. It sounds like a better solution for those companies not necessarily requiring rigorous workflow but who need something better than the QuickBooks document center.

    Can any one from SmartVault (or Charlie) give some further opinion about that offering. I don’t know if its new or not.

    • Mary,

      The ‘widget’ you refer to is our patented SmartVault Toolbar! And that is really the core of our service offering and has been for the last 4 1/2 years! You are correct that we do offer client licenses that can be added to any user account and will allow clients access to the Toolbar integrated with QuickBooks giving them the ability to attach, store and manage their documents right from inside QuickBooks. It is a terrific client / practice workflow.

      Be sure and let our team know if we can assist with demo’s or additional information as you evaluate our service.

      Best,
      Dania (SmartVault)

  • Many of our RootWorks member firms use both Bill.com and SmartVault as core components of their collaborative online client accounting system. Bill.com offers the best technology for cloud-based bill paying while SmartVault serves as the firm’s comprehensive online document management system—one that allows firm staff to create a file structure unique to their needs. What we always hear is that the combination of these two applications (and each app’s integration with QuickBooks) allows firm leaders to build their own custom workflow system and “work the way they want to work.”

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