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A process improvement consultant recently asked me if there was a way to truly automate the payment process so that a vendor could be paid using a procedure that is “untouched by human hands.” As in many finance applications today, the answer is yes, with one important caveat: You can’t buy it; you have to build it. While the tools exist, straight through processing (STP)–a concept that came into vogue toward the end of the last century–can only really be achieved by an enterprising treasury willing to commit the resources and know-how (forgive me, Don Henley of the Eagles) to “Build… the Perfect Beast.”

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