Cloud AP Automation: Where Transparency and Security Intersect

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Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Laurent Charpentier, COO and chief innovation officer at Yooz Inc.

After years of false starts, accounts payable departments are finally automating. In fact, an eye-popping 84% of AP practitioners are optimistic about the progress their department will make over the next three years in eliminating paper processes. (That’s according to the Institute of Finance and Management’s 2018 Future of Accounts Payable Survey.) If you’re among those that aren’t yet planning to automate, you likely will be soon.

There’s no question why AP departments are automating. We’ve all heard them by now: increased efficiencies and better staff productivity are cited as among the biggest benefits in this same report. The question is, for those companies that have not already digitized, why not? Fear of change or the unknown, maybe. Budget restrictions (or so they think), another.

Concerns about security? Definitely. There might appear to be a dichotomy between what many providers boast as an AP automation solution that is both transparent and secure. A dichotomy because typically when we think of secure, we imagine things like being locked in a file cabinet, stored in a bank vault or safe, accessed by only certain people with biometric verification. That doesn’t sync up with something that is transparent — fully visible and easily accessible.

But actually, transparency and security overlap more than you think when it comes to today’s smart AP automation solutions.

Security was the hot topic of this year’s 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the largest and most influential technology event in the world. In fact, during an interview at CES, David Rabin, Lenovo vice president of global commercial marketing, said that with the proliferation of smart devices, businesses are put at risk by something as small as an employee bringing their phone to work.

With cloud-based AP automation solutions, sensitive documents are much more secure stored in the cloud. Here’s why:

  • In a manual process where data is entered from a paper document, and then that same document is routed around for approvals, it can get lost, or worse, fall into the wrong hands. With cloud-based AP automation platforms, as soon as you scan the document into the system it moves securely through the workflow and then is stored securely in the cloud. The original document can then be shredded.
  • Documents stored in the cloud can be accessed only by those with login credentials, whether it be to view or approve. Users are also able to see the history of the document, who has accessed it, who has approved, where it is in the workflow. No more paper documents being exposed at all stages in the process. No more lost documents.
  • Access permissions can be set by department managers according to the dollar amount or sensitivity of the documents, so only those approved will virtually “touch” the document.
  • Again, once the document is in the automated system, it goes all the way through the process electronically, and with the more advanced solutions that includes being exported to a secure ERP.

And remember when we talked about how your AP automation system can, and should, be as transparent as it is secure? Notice how authorized users can access documents — stored securely in the cloud — to see exactly where they are in the workflow, as well as the history of who has accessed, approved, commented on and moved to the next step. You can’t do that when you’re searching piles of papers on who knows whose desk.

These two critical aspects of a cloud-based AP automation solution work together perfectly for a transparent and secure invoice and payment processing workflow. Start here when investigating AP automation providers, and other key elements, such as simplicity, seamless integration with your ERP and a risk-free implementation should follow.

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