Accounts Payable: What Is the Best User Role for Your Client?

So you have just about completed the Startup Checklist. You are on the last item and it’s time to add those additional users, including your client, who will be the ultimate decision-maker regarding what bills to pay and when. You add their name and email address and then are faced with the big decision: What user Role you will assign to them? First instinct might have you teetering between the role of Administrator and Payer, but this is where I would warn you to stop and take a look at the bigger picture.

Roles and Responsibilities

Before you can select a user role you will first need to decide what your client’s responsibility will be within the accounts payable process. In there are three basic accounts payable functions. These are:

  • Enter bills
  • Approve bills
  • Pay bills

Your initial reaction may be to have the client schedule the bill payments. After all, you may not be a signer on their bank account or you may not want to be responsible for making such important decisions. But in that choice of function may not be the one that provides the level of details necessary for your client to make the most informed decision about what to pay and when.

What Is a User Role?

In, a User Role is a set of permissions that determine what the user can do and see within the account. There are 5 predefined user roles, as shown below. This chart also displays a summary of what permissions each of these roles grants.


As you can see, these predefined roles are designed to help with the separation of duties and to ensure tight controls. However, they may not fit well with the way we work with our small business clients. Fortunately, has a feature that allows us to create Custom User Roles. This is one of my favorite features because it offers the ability to create over 500,000 different combinations of user permissions. This flexibility lets us customize user permissions that are aligned with each client’s unique needs and workflow. As an example, you can limit a user’s ability to Pay Approved Bills only, which shifts the decision-making responsibility to the final approver rather than the user who schedules the payments.

What Is Approval?

Approving bills in allows access to see all the bill details along with a digital image of the bill and supporting documents. When reviewing bills for approval users have the ability to add notes, post questions and either Approve or Deny the bill. If the approver has permission to manage bills then he or she is able to edit the details to fix clerical errors or provide additional information, such as class tracking or job costing.

Bill approval

Having access to this level of information and the ability to Deny bills gives users with this responsibility control over which bills can or can’t be paid. They can also control when bills can be paid by simply holding them in the approval queue until they want the funds released.

Other Permissions

In addition to deciding what function your client will be responsible for, you will also want to consider what their overall access to should be. The Home Page To Do List is unique to each user and display task based on their permissions. To reduce confusion and make the experience more convenient, I recommend giving users View Only access to tasks that they will not be responsible for managing. By granting this level of access, your client users will still have full visibility into all transactions but will not have access to edit; the tasks will not show up on their To Do List and they will not receive email reminders about them.

To do list

It’s Not Only About the Role

The question really is not as simple as which Role to assign, but is more about the overall process, user responsibilities and access. Taking time to prepare in advance by mapping out the process and listing those involved will provide a foundation for determining what permission each user should be assigned.

Be prepared, as this will most likely require you and your client to adjust your internal workflow to match the functions in rather than trying to make mimic your old manual process. Keep in mind that “life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change”—Jim Rohn.


Updated and republished with permission from The Sleeter Group’s Blog Accountex Report