Topics: Accounts Payable Optimisation, Finance & Accounting Outsourcing

Ensuring Data Security in the Accounts Payable Outsourcing Process – A Primer

Posted on February 09, 2024
Written By QX Global Group

Securing Data in Accounts Payable Outsourcing

 Your company can no longer ignore data security. Your customers are increasingly aware of data breaches and how the data they share with your company needs to be secured against unauthorised access. This is just one aspect of data security. The vast volumes of financial information you collect from diverse systems across your organisation must also be protected. Now, look at data security from yet another angle. As a business, you will work with many vendors and suppliers, which calls for your systems to store vendor information, transaction information, and other types of accounts payable data. This is, again, the kind of information that calls for the implementation of exceptional security protocols that guarantee data privacy.  

Now, suppose your company is leveraging accounts payable business process outsourcing services. In this case, you must be able to ensure your commitment to the security of this data, even if a third party, like an outsourcing provider, is using it. As a company, there are certain things you must keep in mind while outsourcing accounting functions. Still, it is imperative to drill down into some specifics that can enable a safe and secure outsourced ecosystem for your accounts payable data.  

Deploy Internal Security Solutions 

Before you begin the accounts payable outsourcing process, you must have a cybersecurity infrastructure that delivers 360-degree security. The first step in building a strong security posture is deploying network security through next-generation firewalls that provide granular visibility into all incoming and outgoing traffic and help implement specific security rules that block malware and keep malicious traffic from getting into your company’s network. Another aspect of strong network security is deploying solutions that offer identity and access management features that ensure only authorised personnel can access specific company assets, including data.  

Security-conscious companies can go a step ahead and deploy Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) that can protect your company from vulnerability exploits that exploit software vulnerabilities before a patch addresses this security gap in the software. Think of this from the perspective of your accounting tech stack. Imagine an unaddressed vulnerability in critical accounting software exploited to launch a cyber-attack.  

You must also deploy comprehensive endpoint protection at the endpoint and the corporate network. This enables you to leverage anti-malware, behavioural analytics, compliance, data encryption, URL filtering, and more. Such features ensure your company’s endpoints, such as laptops, desktops, mobile devices, etc., are not easy to hack and become an essential line of defence in your data security ecosystem. 

Preparing an Information Security Charter 

Before identifying accounts payable outsourcing firms, you must prepare a security document establishing clear lines of accountability for protecting financial information. This will help finance leaders work with Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) to chart a mandate that specifies a security framework for the accounts payable outsourcing process and identifies vital security expectations from the provider. When you choose the provider who you believe can meet all your outsourcing expectations, the document must be clearly understood by the provider and endorsed by the signing authority. It is important to note that your company should periodically reaffirm these protocols and check their enforcement.  

Focus on Compliance 

TikTok was fined £12.7m for non-compliance with GDPR, which illustrates the importance you must place on your enforcement of GDPR compliance and making sure you work with accounts payable outsourcing companies that are GDPR compliant or compliant with other industry standards that allow them to enable compliance with GDPR. As a company, you have to implemented transparent processes ensuring adherence to data security standards enshrined in GDPR and other industry or geography-specific regulations. Similarly, when you leverage accounts payable business process outsourcing services, you must ensure that there are no compliance weaknesses or gaps.   

Accounts Payable Outsourcing Firms – Privacy Pillars 

As a client of the outsourcing provider, you will require transparency in how they manage the information you will share with them. You should be also aware of the kind of tools, processes, and features that are not only involved in the accounts payable outsourcing process but also how the overall process will help keep sensitive information private ensure the data do not fall into the hands of unauthorised users. Do not work with providers whose business processes seem like a black box that needs to be demystified. Ensure that the outsourcing provider’s data privacy features are founded on encryption, anonymisation, authorisation, and data erasure (in cases where applicable). Following these pillars makes data unreadable without a proper encryption key; your company and provider can only share encrypted passwords with authorised users (accountants). Strict access controls prevent authorised personnel from accessing data while all others are blocked. Moreover, wherever needed, the source of sensitive financial information can be kept anonymous.  

Security Awareness Training to Plug Weak Links 

Humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity. A Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) reveals that 82% of data breaches had a human element. One of the ways this weakness can be addressed is to conduct security awareness training amongst employees and even the outsourced accounting department managing your accounts payable process. The two critical areas where training must be provided are maintaining password hygiene and not falling into the trap of social engineering scams. Make the team aware of tell-tale signs of phishing scams that encourage victims to disclose passwords or other sensitive information. Such threats assume a new dimension regarding communication between the internal and outsourced teams. Both need to know that a communique (mail, message) has come from a credible source, either from the outsourcing provider or vice versa.  

Safe and Secure Accounts Payable Outsourcing 

The question you might be thinking of asking is how do you make sure that out of all the accounts payable outsourcing companies, which is the one that will deliver on your security needs? The answer lies in a multi-pronged approach. First, you must ask for their security credentials, which are available in the form of the latest certifications. There are accredited industry bodies that certify companies for standards, such as ISO; a reputed company focuses on earning such certifications. It would be best if you also asked for concrete and documented assurances that underline the security responsibility of the accounts payable outsourcing firms. The provider must also be able to answer all questions about data security thoroughly and provide proof regarding their ability to address your data security concerns.  

QX is a reputed accounts payable business process outsourcing services provider that has earned the internationally recognised ISO 27001:2013 certification for its information security management system.  The company has also implemented the ISO 27701 standard for global privacy management, followed by a successful audit by the British Standards Institution (BSI). Couple its data security focus with its expertise across all aspects of accounts payable, and QX becomes your ideal choice for accounts payable outsourcing. 

Contact QX to know more about how it makes the accounts payable outsourcing process extraordinarily safe and secure. 

FAQs

Q. How do you streamline the accounts payable process?

Ans. The first step in streamlining your Accounts Payable (AP) is evaluating the workflow. Look for red flags such as the slow process of invoice proposals, dissatisfied vendors, decentralised invoice processing and more. If you see a lot of red flags, it is time to make the necessary investments in people, processes, and technology to overhaul the process and transcend the traditional AP process, which is mainly manual, to a more modern process driven by automation. Ideally, work with an accounts payable business process outsourcing provider with a proven track record of streamlining AP for companies across domains in the UK. 

Q. How can I improve my accounts payable process?

Ans. Accounts payable can only be improved if you take the necessary steps to enhance productivity, accuracy, and reporting. This can only happen if you invest in technology to automate repetitive AP tasks such as data entry and increase invoice approval velocity. Moreover, you must invest in qualified professionals who can see AP strategically and not just from the perspective of paying vendors on time. The best action will be to harness the skill sets and advanced technologies offered by accounts payable outsourcing companies to improve AP.

Q. How can I manage my accounts payable better?

Ans. Managing accounts payable optimally is a direct outcome of identifying existing problems with the process and taking action to address these issues. You can make necessary improvements in two ways: Investing the required resources in technology deployment, hiring qualified accountants, and defining and implementing a better workflow; or you can partner with a third-party provider who can improve AP through an accounts payable outsourcing process geared for high performance.  

Originally published Feb 09, 2024 06:02:01, updated Feb 09 2024

Topics: Accounts Payable Optimisation, Finance & Accounting Outsourcing


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