B2B Payments

Ricoh, Built On Paper, Cultivates A Digital Presence In B2B Payments

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Like other corporations in its field, Ricoh made a name for itself over the decades helping corporations manage the mounds of paperwork they produce and manage. For Ricoh, that meant developing printers, copiers and, later, scanners to digitize some of those documents.

According to Laura McGowan, director of services marketing at Ricoh Canada, the company has had to pivot its outlook on paper as companies digitize processes like invoicing and accounts receivable.

“It’s almost ironic: At Ricoh, we’ve been proponents in creating, or assisting in the creation through our copier and printer business over the years, of paper,” she recently told PYMNTS. “So, what the reset for Ricoh is is: How can we help, using the hardware that we already have in a lot of our customers’ businesses and facilities, incorporate that within business processes?”

Last month, the company partnered with accounts receivable technology firm VersaPay, positioning Ricoh not only in the document digitization space but directly in the path of digital B2B payments and transacting. Last week, the firm made another move in this direction by launching its eInvoice Presentment & Payment Service.

For a company that was essentially built on the importance of paper within the enterprise, these initiatives seem to be a strong mark of confidence for the eventual digitizing of physical paperwork altogether.

But McGowan said corporations aren’t there yet.

“With the elimination of paper, there’s a lot of room to go as far as identifying opportunities to do that,” she said. “Our goal is to start with something like AR, managing that back-and-forth transaction with our customers’ customers for them to eliminate paper.”

Like other accounting automation players, the name of the game isn’t simply to ditch paper; it’s to improve accuracy and data management through that digitization process. It’s also about the cost savings businesses can incur by spending less on paper, McGowan added, and about accelerating the AR process to facilitate faster payments. These are the priorities of suppliers and vendors in this day and age, McGowan said.

That final aspect, regarding the speed at which companies can complete AR processes and get paid faster, is an especially high priority today, the executive noted.

“When you’re looking at the decision-makers that are responsible for things like cash flow and days on hand and other metrics that are important to them, technology and processes that improve that for them is probably motivation number one,” she said. “Aside from that, they look at accuracy reporting and the added benefits of cost savings on things like paper. It’s a solution that touches on many needs within the organization.”

The cost-savings benefits of digitizing areas like invoicing have been shouted from the rooftops — but with limited success. Electronic invoicing company Exchange released research last year that found that, while 94 percent of corporate professionals are considered to have at least medium saving potential for their firms, businesses have significant barriers to actually make the jump to eInvoicing.

For instance, the research revealed that a lack of information and education on eInvoicing, along with a resistance to change within an organization, prevent these executives from acting on their desire for cost savings and more efficient AR processes.

“Despite the potential to save costs, isolated eInvoicing projects do not seem to be very popular,” Exchange’s report concluded.

Analysts have continued the debate over whether organizations are really ready to eliminate paper altogether, but McGowan suggested that, for now, that feat is best reserved for non-core areas of the enterprise. For example, she said, digitizing accounts receivable workflows like invoicing and payment acceptance are certainly important for a company, but they aren’t part of its core strategies and goals like, say, sales increases, market share, revenue and profit.

But, she added, digitization does promote the achievement of these goals in its own way.

“These types of services and moving digital allow for more time and attention to focus on what the business’ real core goals are,” McGowan said.

Ricoh will continue to focus on solutions for corporate finance departments moving forward, she added, so it seems the corporation built on paper is slowly positioning itself to play a critical role in digital documentation and have a stronger presence in B2B payments, too.

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