Over the last two years, companies have made enormous strides integrating technology into their businesses. Although a deep dive into new technology was not necessarily on their to-do lists at the beginning of 2020, companies across the economy, faced with the constraints and challenges of the pandemic, rose to the occasion. They adopted video-conferencing to keep their teams together, inventory-control software to reimagine their supply chains, and project management tools to track and coordinate distributed activities.
This was a big lift, but the vast majority felt these strategies paid off, a sentiment supported by Capital One’s most recent survey of 400 middle-market financial and technology leaders. Because of this success, more than 80% now expect to see a positive return from new technology initiatives within a few months to a year of their investment.
And thanks to their firsthand experience with the transformative potential of technology, 70% now see technology investment not simply as a hedge against COVID-19 and other disruptions, but as a source of growth, competitiveness and sustainability as the economy moves forward.
B2B Payments Can Make a Real Difference
A critical technology priority for small- and mid-sized companies during the pandemic was around business payments. More than half of our respondents reported their companies upgraded or implemented new payments technologies in the past year. Among other choices, they adopted invoice and accounts payable automation, virtual card, electronic payments, digital account reconciliation and unified payment platforms.
The benefits were compelling. Efficient customer- and supplier-facing payments technologies, for instance, seemed purposely created for the work-from-home economy and continue to drive value as many head back to the office. By enabling clients and suppliers to make or receive payments at any time or from any place, they helped ensure that their company generated a steady stream of revenue and efficiently stayed on top of their bills.
There were other advantages as well. Payment technologies give companies better control of their cash flow, providing insights to accelerate their receivables and simplify their payables. And payments technologies allow more associates to focus on work they consider meaningful, rather than repetitive tasks like writing or processing checks.
Implementing business payments solutions may seem daunting, and it can sometimes come with initial pain points. Respondents pointed to such issues as security and fraud, friction across systems and workforce training. These insights underscore the importance of implementing easy-to-use solutions that prioritize automation and simplicity, enabling higher rates of adoption. That is likely why more than a third (36 percent) of decision makers said they are heavily investing in automated, real-time, or fully integrated payables systems, underscoring the importance they are placing on streamlined and straightforward solutions.
The Right Technology Partner Is as Important as the Right Technology
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies that businesses can adopt to mitigate the pain of technology adoption. The first is to plan ahead by identifying existing challenges, documenting the hard and soft costs of implementation, onboarding key stakeholder groups, and defining metrics for success. Robust, transparent communication is another prerequisite for successful implementation.
But most important is engaging an external partner who understands how to help businesses blend the new payments technology with its current systems, creating streamlined processes that meet the needs of their customers and employees alike. This partner should offer compelling technology and have the skills to serve as a change agent, iterating prototypes and accommodating feedback as it zeros in on customized solutions that are appropriate for small- and mid-sized companies.
For something as complex as B2B payments, there is no point in doing it alone. Having a responsive partner can help you make better decisions and implement payments solutions that will provide durable value over the long term.