Microsoft waved its magic wand again. At last week’s Inspire partner conference in Washington, DC, the heads of Bill Gates’ brainchild unveiled three new additions to the Microsoft Office 365 Business suite – including a new invoicing app.

In many ways, the aptly named Microsoft Invoicing app is still a mystery. It won’t be available in public preview until August 2nd. Then, Microsoft says it will roll Microsoft Invoicing out for Office 365 Business and Office 365 Premium users in the U.S., UK, and Canada this fall.

Does your small business need an invoicing app? Here are some tips to tell if Microsoft Invoicing is worth waiting for:

Microsoft Invoicing is free – but only for Office 365 Business and Office 365 Premium users

Microsoft Invoicing will be added to the new Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Premium suites at no additional cost. In that sense, it’s a free app – if you already use one of these tools.

But Office 365 Business is far from cheap. Its website lists a monthly price of $8.25 per user per month, or an annual cost of $99 per user per year. So, a small business owner with 20 employees would pay $2,079 per year for 21 users.

GetApp’s verdict:

This pricing could be a deal depending on your small business needs and how well Office 365 Business solves them. But it’s a steep price to pay if you just need an invoicing app.

“They are adding this to existing [Office 365] plans at no additional charge,” explains Jeffrey Mann, Research VP at Gartner and Agenda Manager for Gartner’s coverage of Microsoft Office 365. “They most likely are positioning this as quite literally ‘better than nothing.'”

Microsoft Invoicing is one of three new apps for Office 365 Business

Office 365 is known as a jack-of-all-trades product. This subscription plan boasts a big suite of apps that solve a host of small business pain points. As two of several examples, the Office 365 Business version includes Skype for Business (for video conferencing) and OneDrive for Business (to manage online storage).

This theme continues with Microsoft Invoicing’s debut. Alongside this new invoicing app, the next version of Office 365 Business includes Microsoft Connections (for email marketing) and Microsoft Listings (to track business listings on websites like Facebook).

So, small business owners who already use Office 365 Business will soon add three new apps to their tool kits. This makes the next Office 365 Business suite worth a look if you need more robust productivity software.

Products that sit under this umbrella solve a broad range of business needs. The trade-off is that some apps within productivity suites lack the features that their standalone competitors provide.

GetApp’s verdict:

Before you buy the next Office 365 Business suite, make sure to to review Microsoft Invoicing’s full features list once it’s available. This will help you compare Microsoft Invoicing against other cloud-based invoicing apps. Then, you can decide what your small business needs most – a diverse productivity suite or an exceptional invoicing app.

Microsoft Invoicing offers integrations – but are they enough?

It’s tough to beat Office 365’s integrations list. From MailChimp (for email marketing) and Wrike (for project management) to Zoho Books (for full-fledged accounting), Office 365 integrates with 40 percent of the most popular apps on GetApp.com.

The next version of Office 365 Business will integrate with popular cloud-based apps as well. When Microsoft Invoicing was announced last week, this came alongside notes that it will integrate with PayPal and QuickBooks. The end goals are to help small business owners accept online debit and credit payments and process invoicing payments, respectively.

These integrations are not insignificant. As Business Insider notes, they’ll save small business owners substantial time and money. The ability to complete digital payments can save small business owners from waiting an average of 30 days to complete a payment. And for small businesses that can’t benefit from bulk processing discounts, Microsoft Invoicing’s QuickBooks integration can cut costs from invoicing fees.

But beyond PayPal and QuickBooks, details about Microsoft Invoicing’s full integrations list are scarce. And we know that software buyers want their integrations.

GetApp readers value integrations so much that this is one of five data points in our quarterly Category Leaders app rankings. In our current ranking of the best billing and invoicing apps, QuickBooks Online has a perfect score of 20 (out of 20) in the “Integrations” category. Xero isn’t far behind with a score of 19, while FreshBooks boasts a score of 17.

GetApp’s verdict:

Review the cloud-based apps that your small business already uses. Then, cross-check them against the integrations that billing and invoicing apps offer. When you compare two apps side-by-side, you’ll get a clearer picture of which one is the best fit for your tool kit. And this exercise offers more context for whether you’ll need Microsoft Invoicing.

Our invoicing opinion

At GetApp, our readers have taught us that Microsoft’s brand has a tight grip on the B2B apps world – including small business owners.

Our past research on project management software found that two in three project managers use Microsoft Project – even though this tool wasn’t built for small business owners and three in four of our respondents worked in small businesses.

We’re working on new research to learn more about why project managers in SMBs are switching to Project. But we do have one big clue: the size of Microsoft’s apps ecosystem.

The Microsoft Office suite is popular enough that Project’s integration with it sways project managers. Similarly, Microsoft’s goal for its new Invoicing app is to keep current Office 365 Business users within the tool instead of shopping for a separate invoicing app.

But Office 365 Business users and invoicing app shoppers alike should view next month’s public preview with a critical eye. It’s one thing if your small business needs a full productivity suite or already uses Office 365 Business and views these new apps as bonuses.

But if you need a cloud-based invoicing app with robust features and substantial integrations, Microsoft Invoicing might not fit the bill.

“[Microsoft Invoicing’s] primary competitor is sending invoices manually, maybe keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Mann concludes. “I doubt that anyone using a more full-function package or an accounting system with an invoicing module would be happy with this.

“Based on what I know, only very small companies that do not have a formal invoicing tool should consider this.”

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