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What's Next for AP Automation Series - Part 1: Are You Stuck in the Past?

With a new decade quickly approaching, we thought this was the perfect time to start talking about what's next for AP Automation. In this three-part series, we'll cover everything you need to know about the past, present, and future of B2B Payment Automation. So buckle up, put on your thinking cap, and get excited! The entire landscape of B2B Payments is rapidly changing, and the Payment Automation train is about to leave the station. This is your first-class ticket into the future. 

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"Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him." - Dwight D. Eisenhower 

What's Next for AP Automation? Part 1: Are You Stuck in the Past? 

AP Departments have improved their efficiencies exponentially in the last 50+ years. And even more so in the last 10. The number of businesses using paper checks for B2B Payments has decreased from 81% to 42% in 15 short years and paper checks for B2B Payments will be obsolete in less than 20 years. The same can be said for paper invoices. In 2016 the volume of e-bills/ e-invoices was hovering around 30 billion with an expected increase of 10 %- 20% year over year. That puts us at about 46 billion this year, and 52 billion next year and it's only going to escalate from there. Has your AP Department changed with the times? Many finance professionals can't tell. We speak with CFOs, Controllers, CIOs, IT Managers, and even AP Managers and AR Managers who wholeheartedly believe that the processes they have in place for payments are current and efficient. It isn't until we dive into what the other 58% of businesses are doing for B2B Payments that they realize they might be stuck in the past.

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If You Want to Know Where Your AP Department Sits in the B2B Payments Timeline, Ask Yourself the Following Questions.

Do you find yourself working extra hours trying to complete tedious manual tasks that originate from the 1970s? Are you answering your portable mini supercomputer (smartphone) at 8 p.m. to tell your spouse you're going to be home late because you can't find a vital paper invoice that seems to be lost (again)? Do you have to approve everything that comes through with a stamp or signature, just to put it back in an envelope so it can go to 3 more internal departments before finally paying your vendors?

If your answer to any of those questions was yes, you - and your AP Department - may be stuck in the past. 

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Not to worry, transitioning to Payment Automation isn't difficult at all, and full implementation and migration can be completed in 30 days. B2B Payment Automation isn't just a way of making life easier on you and your employees; it's also a way to generate revenue with monthly rebates on Virtual card spend, cut costs on supplies, reduce risk of fraud, and eliminate monthly headaches from lost invoices. It's also going to be the go-forward method for paying and receiving funds. Imagine the way the cashier at a movie theater would look at you if you whipped out a checkbook to pay for your ticket. They wouldn't accept it. And you wouldn't even attempt it. You probably purchased your tickets with your cc on file well before you drove to the theater. The funds were more than likely withdrawn from your account and pending to Fandango immediately. B2B Payments can and will function the same way. 

Believe it or not, payment automation is not a new concept. It's just a lot more modern than the paper check."ACH started in 1974 with electronic linking among all local ACHs by 1978." SaaS companies utilizing the cloud for payment automation solutions were first seen in the early 2000s. And Virtual Cards - the newest method for B2B Payments - have been around since 2009, with more and more vendors preferring to be paid by Virtual Cards. To break it down, if you're still using paper checks for B2B Payments, you're 10 years late to the Virtual Card party, 19 years behind on payment automation software, and even 45-year-old technology isn't good enough for you to rely on consistently.

The only thing I can think of offhand that ages that well is a 1964 Corvette Stingray. 

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Unfortunately, the same can't be said for B2B payment processes. 

That's okay though. Businesses need to adapt and payment processes need to be digitized. If antique payment processes aged as well as cars, we'd be paying vendors via guarded stagecoach. The good news is it's easy to transition and the benefits far outweigh any perceived barriers. We recently wrote about AP Departments being stuck in the 1970's and highlighted critical benefits for buyers and suppliers.  

"The barrier to making ePayments continue to frustrate corporate buyers and suppliers. Buyers would love to streamline the process, and suppliers would genuinely appreciate the ease of payments made electronically.  There are pluses on both sides: 

Benefits for Buyers: 

  • Improved level of productivity by reducing manual processes
  • Lower costs by reducing staff-hours and eliminating costly supplies like paper, MICR toner and others required for check printing
  • Highly secure V-Cards, single-issue credit card numbers -- the safest payment method -- tied to a specific vendor and invoice or invoices and dollar amounts
  • Reduced errors by eliminating re-keying of critical payment data
  • Secure online portal for on-boarding vendors to ePayments program takes the burden off your staff
  • A more productive and empowered staff who have more time to focus on finance and not administrative paper-pushing
  • Rebates paid monthly for V-Card transactions make an impact on monthly reoccurring revenue

 Benefits for Suppliers: 

    • More on-time payments
    • Improved visibility into the payment process
    • Downloadable remittance information lower costs by reducing man hours for posting payments and reconciling invoices
    • Reduced errors by eliminating re-keying of critical invoice and payment data
    • Secure online portal for registering for ePayment program to keep company bank information secure
    • A more productive and empowered staff who have more time to focus on finance and not administrative paper pushing"

Those are just a few of the incredible benefits associated with automating your payment processes. 

 The past is great for many things. It heals old wounds. It cultivates positive emotion and dulls negative experiences. It brings people together. But, no matter how you feel about the past, one thing is certain; you don't want to be stuck there. Especially not in business.

The good news is, the future is here and it's always in motion. All we have to do is hop on board. Change, progress, and innovation through B2B Payment Automation await. Join us. Your first-class ticket is only a click away.