Legacy Firms Prep for Digital Buyers Who Don’t Want to Talk to Procurement

Better automation and integration of systems can help companies of all sizes adjust to economic challenges and exploit opportunities regarding B2B payments.

Generational divides exist everywhere — but perhaps nowhere more than the business landscape.

That’s part of why keeping up with rapidly changing technology and emergent digital strategies can prove to be a continuous challenge for many organizations, particularly companies where rising decision-makers and entrenched leaders find themselves at odds about adapting with the times and trying new things.

Isaac Newton said it best: an object at rest tends to stay at rest. Institutional inertia is a critical barrier to modernization programs.

Within the industrial economy, where certain firms have been doing things the same way for generations, new ideas and process changes are met with even greater resistance.

But modernization is now becoming necessary.

Historically (a word often used when describing present-day operational realities across certain sectors), most commercial partnerships are done on a relational basis requiring reams of paper and countless phone calls.

And that fragmentedly laborious way of doing things doesn’t even take into account commercial payment workflows, many of which are stuck in the stone (or at least the carbon-copy) age.

Still, change is brewing. There’s a growing appetitive for many of even the most traditional firms to upskill and move in-step with today’s technological advances.

That’s because, as they look around the landscape, established decision-makers are realizing that doing things the same way they always have may leave them unable to meet the rising demands of a younger generation of purchasing managers raised on digital solutions.

The Broader Implications of Technology Start with Payments

As older purchasing managers retire or leave the workforce in other ways, a younger generation of digital-first B2B buyers may prefer no contact at all, except online.

This shift in behavioral expectations around commercial engagements is helping accelerate the digitization of B2B relationships and spurring firms to take the necessary steps to streamline their ecosystem workflows.

As seen across the rest of the commercial landscape, the payments process is frequently where institutional inertia tends to gum up the works most and create games of “who will blink first” when it comes to innovative workflows on one side of the buyer-supplier dynamic and traditional, manual processes on the other.

“We still have to have a lockbox for checks, you still have people out there doing things on carbon copy paper and writing it down, and the thing about payments is everyone still wants to do it every way. We’re really trying to get away from phone calls and checks, but the reality is that in this space there are still plenty of people who want to do it the old-fashioned way. The old channels are still very, very prevalent,” Jordan Wagner, vice president and general manager at Torque by Ryder, told PYMNTS this month.

“Checks are going to continue to die the slowest death,” Ernest Rolfson, CEO and founder of Payments-as-a-Service solution Finexio, explained to PYMNTS in an earlier conversation, emphasizing that “these are things that take time, and [some] industries very slow. It’s a generational change that is only just happening.”

Unlearning Manual Processes

For business leaders not raised on their iPhones, and instead dependent on old — yet reliable — monolithic systems and workflows, critical to the adoption of innovative technologies is a counter-intuitive unlearning of all the manual processes that no longer need to be done by various departments and employees.

This novel understanding of what technology can do is crucial to streamlining the offline and highly intermediated nature of family businesses and legacy operations.

But the technology is ready right now — and upstart firms are already leveraging its advantages to automate a lot of the processes around scheduling, receiving an accurate quote, getting the work done, processing the payments and eliminating as many touch or pain points as possible.

This could leave bigger, slower to move firms at a competitive disadvantage.

“There’s legacy businesses, family businesses, old traditional companies that have now reached a point in the last two years where they understand that if they don’t take the next step, they will have troubles, they might even close, because they now need technology to provide the right level of service that their customers are looking for,” Raz Ronen, CEO at FreightTech startup Wisor.AI, said in a discussion with PYMNTS.

“Our initial mission was to look at these historic legacy processes that were highly inefficient, whether they were paper or [electronic data interchange (EDI)] or relatively slow-moving processes, a lot of phone calls, and saying, ‘How do we modernize all of that? How do we bring real-time connectivity to all of these different processes?’” Will Hansmann, CTO at logistics technology firm project44, told PYMNTS.

Fortunately, the world is only growing more connected and digitized, resulting in a constant evolution of even the most entrenched-in-their-ways industries.

“The rapid speed of technical adoption over just the past seven years has been incredible and frankly enormous in [the shipping and logistics] industry,” Fernando Correa, CEO and co-founder of Cargobot, underscored to PYMNTS.

As the passing of the torch continues from one generation to the next, expect that speed of adoption to only increase – bringing with it greater business benefits and process efficiencies.