B2B Payments

How Pandemic Disruption Exposed The Value Of Data Integration

In a frenzy, organizations dove headfirst into their digital transformations as a result of the global pandemic.

For many companies that had been laggards in their modernization efforts, this digitization process wasn't simply about business continuity — it was about business survival.

Now that the dust has (somewhat) settled, firms are beginning to take stock of their progress and understand what has worked, and what hasn't, in their accelerated digitization efforts.

Winshuttle's Vice President of Product Solutions Kristian Kalsing, Head of Partnerships for the Americas Richard Rogers, and Senior Product Marketing Manager Andrew Hayden, all spoke with PYMNTS to reflect on how companies have handled the pressure to support a remote working environment thus far and explored the potential long-term impacts of this sudden shift that may have left back offices digitized, but not necessarily optimized.

A New View on Digitization

The pandemic did not suddenly wake businesses up to the importance of digitization, according to Kalsing, Rogers and Hayden. Rather, it accelerated the modernization efforts that many firms had put off for some time, particularly in financial functions of the enterprise.

"These are trends that were already going on, and customers were already down their own path of some of these digitization initiatives," said Kalsing. "This situation has accelerated some of these things. The pandemic, more than anything, is not about learning completely new things, but waking up to accelerate what they were already doing."

Hayden noted it's also led to a shift in how companies look at the role digitization plays in the enterprise. With so many companies still relying on paper — particularly in areas like accounts payable (AP) in which paper invoices are received and paper purchase orders are sent — the conversation was not only about how to digitize that process, but potentially optimize that workflow, he said.

To support firms' effort, Winshuttle recently announced a partnership with digital intelligence firm ABBYY. Together, the companies are able to digitize and optimize data taken from paper where it is unstructured and integrate it seamlessly into their workflows through to their SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. While this technology has many use-cases, the firms identified AP as a particularly valuable one — and perhaps one most in need of modernization.

"Financial processes are probably at the top of the list of things people want to fix," said Rogers, "because managing cash is highly important to companies... It's highly important to have a pulse on where organizations' money is and how it's working for them at any particular time in a quarter."

Room for Improvement

Making the shift away from paper toward digital data can be challenging enough, so ensuring that firms collaborate with vendors that can support their data integration needs to promote seamless workflows is especially important.

But in the rush to migrate to the cloud and keep operating amid the pandemic, some businesses may not have had the time or resources to digitize their back offices in a way that provides the best results.

For instance, noted Hayden, digitizing data is only as effective as the quality of that data to begin with.

"Correcting data costs a lot more than fixing it on the front end," he said, highlighting the burden of manual intervention when data — even when it's digital — is of poor quality or erroneous.

This pain point reflects a shift in the way organizations approach their modernization initiatives. Five or 10 years ago, said Kalsing, the goal was to reduce headcount and reliance on human workers.

"We're far beyond that now," he said. "On the front end, you need to have all the support and automated processes, and really focus on data quality and speed."

With firms now able to take a breather and assess their progress, they may come to find that digitizing workflows that weren't optimized to begin with will not yield the benefits of modernization they were expecting.

Indeed, noted Hayden, it will be interesting to watch in the coming months and years how businesses move forward with the digitization progress they've made thus far. For firms that may not have gotten the result they wanted, there is now an opportunity to take a closer look at their internal workflows to understand which need optimization most pressingly.

And in a post-pandemic climate, the shift to work-from-home and even mobile workforce strategies will continue to press companies to not simply go digital, but to ensure back offices are seamlessly integrated and data quality is sufficient to ensure professionals can work from wherever they need to be.

"I, personally, would be curious to see how many companies are going to go back in 2021 and 2022 and reengineer all of the processes they automated in a hurry," said Hayden.

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NEW PYMNTS STUDY: ACCELERATING THE REAL-TIME PAYMENTS DEMAND CURVE – NOVEMBER 2020

About: Accelerating The Real-Time Payments Demand Curve:What Banks Need To Know About What Consumers Want And Need, PYMNTS  examines consumers’ understanding of real-time payments and the methods they use for different types of payments. The report explores consumers’ interest in real-time payments and their willingness to switch to financial institutions that offer such capabilities.

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