Today’s finance leaders are finally embracing automation. In fact, according to a recent special report by the AP & P2P, seventy percent of finance leaders surveyed say their AP departments have already automated their invoice and payment processing. And more than fifty percent anticipate that they will completely eliminate the paper invoices they currently receive from suppliers*. If you are not one of them, you likely will be soon.

The benefits of AP automation are clear. 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 you may think), another.

Concerns about security? Definitely. There might appear to be a disconnect between what many AP automation providers boast as an AP automation solution that is both transparent and secure. 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, out-in-the-open.

But actually, transparency and security overlap more than you think when it comes to cloud-based AP automation.

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, David Rabin, Lenovo Vice-president of Global Commercial Marketing, said in an interview at the conference that “with the proliferation of smart devices, businesses are put at risk by something as small as an employee bringing their phone to work.”

When it comes to AP automation sensitive documents are much more secure 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 the office—or even between buildings in multiple locations—for approvals, it can get lost, or worse fall into the wrong hands. With cloud-based AP automation platforms, like Sage Intacct Marketplace Partner, Yooz, 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 only be accessed 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 exposed at all stages in the process. No more lost documents.
  • Access permissions can be set by department managers according to the dollar amount and/or sensitivity of the documents, so only those approved will virtually “touch” the document.
  • Once the document is in the automated system, it goes all the way through the process electronically, and for AP automation solutions that integrate seamlessly with your legacy finance system, this includes being exported to the secure Sage Intacct 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. That’s transparency. And you can’t have transparency or security when you’re searching piles of papers on who knows whose desk!

*Special Report: The Future of Accounts Payable: Digital, Profitable, and Strategic. An AP & P2P whitepaper. Part of the Institute of Finance Management (IOFM).