B2B payment clouds could hide hidden performance risk

Register now

Organizations of every size are facing a similar problem: The volume and complexity of the data they collect, store and handle are growing significantly – so much so that manual processing is now simply impossible. The good news: Automation can help businesses tame their data.

A good example is accounts payable (AP). With a diversity of data sources and formats and the need to contend with a mixture of payment processes, it’s the perfect candidate for automation. Not only will an AP automation solution help your team process data and invoices faster, it’ll also improve data quality, security and reliability.

Although there are several automation options on the market, organizations are increasingly turning to cloud-based solutions, which are more accessible and scalable. These platforms also provide other crucial benefits including round-the-clock support and cost savings.

But while the cloud holds great promise for optimizing invoicing processes, organizations must thoroughly evaluate their options before deploying a solution. Any assessment should focus on three areas: performance; security and reliability, and vendor reputation. Following this approach will help you choose a solution that best meets your AP requirements.

SaaS products have come a long way in mastering AP automation, and many now provide excellent functionality that’s quite comparable to on-premise solutions. Before deciding on a solution, first determine if it has the appropriate capabilities, taking into account your needs and constraints.

ERP integration is essential for achieving end-to-end automation. The first question to ask is: Are other organizations with the same ERP using this solution? In addition, check to see if the vendor is certified for your ERP. Certifications indicate that the solution has been rigorously tested and is proof both vendors have a close working relationship.

Assess the quality of the solution’s OCR (Optical Character Recognition). Powerful OCR technology allows for more accurate invoice processing, including capturing complex headers and line items. This is especially important when managing a wide array of incoming supplier invoices. Without the ability to support rich data sets, the efficiency and speed of data collection and processing could be compromised.

Determine the scope and depth of functionality of the solution. For instance, does it support straight-through processing? Choose a solution capable of automating the entire supplier invoicing process, from invoice entry to transfer, allocation and validation. Also, be sure the solution is scalable and will grow with your organization.

You’ll also want to gain a deep understanding of how the solution provider handles security. Choosing a cloud-based solution means relying on third-party systems to protect your data, especially as data centers potentially could be located in different countries. Due to the level of control required over sensitive data, some organizations remain reluctant to transfer their processes and financial data outside of their environment.

This is understandable, but cloud technology has matured considerably, and solution providers have addressed the main issues of data protection. For example, major vendors operate data centers on a completely different scale than an average business. They deploy layers of defenses that would be impossible for an SME to duplicate. This level of security is therefore higher than what your company would be able to implement as part of an on-premises offering.

Of course, the best way to protect your organization is to take full responsibility for evaluating the overall security of the cloud services you choose to deploy. It’s important that the hosting platform offers robust security protocols and has a proven track record for data security and 24/7 reliability.

It’s vital to work with a cloud solutions provider with a strong reputation and reliable track record in AP automation. When conducting your evaluations, take the time to fully assess each solution’s data capture and automated workflows. This step will help you better understand their experience and expertise. A supplier with more AP automation experience will be able to address the specific challenges of the invoicing process. In particular, ask how the solution was developed. If the provider outsources the development or calls on a team without specific knowledge in the field, accountability could be compromised.

The vendor’s after-sales service is also a strong indicator of reliability. Choose a solutions provider that maintains in-house support services, staffed by experienced and loyal employees.

Finally, the most tangible proof of reliability lies in the actual number of satisfied customers, especially if they represent a wide range of sizes and industries.

There are many advantages to cloud-based solutions, especially for small or medium-sized organizations where IT resources are limited. Advances in computing power and storage capacity allow organizations to choose from many options, at a cost much lower than 20 years ago. In addition, deploying a SaaS solution means you’ll also benefit from real-time updates, upgrades and innovations.

However, the selection, as well as the success of a deployment, depends on knowing your needs and objectives and matching them to the right vendor and solution. The guidelines outlined above will aid your decision process and help you implement end-to-end invoice processing faster, which means your AP team can start working like tomorrow – today.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Cloud computing B-to-B payments Payment processing Risk Digital payments