Why Automation Alone Won’t Transform B2B Payments in 2024

In the world of B2B commerce, staying ahead of the curve is crucial for success.

If only there weren’t so many ways and so many innovations to do so, making choosing the right path forward a roll of the dice.

“The environment is changing so rapidly,” Boris Lokschin, co-founder and CEO at composable commerce platform Spryker, told PYMNTS. “We went from hyper growth to striving for efficiency… spiking interest rates and increased cost of capital have made enterprises challenge every initiative they have invested in and try to get faster time to value.”

Meeting the challenges of a changing landscape is one of the broader trends shaping the B2B innovation space.

As traditional monolithic applications give way to cloud-native, headless and API-driven solutions, the B2B landscape becomes more versatile but also more complex, Lokschin explained.

In response to the growing complexity of data challenges and the proliferation of third-party integration systems, Spryker recently announced middleware updates to support enterprises in addressing these challenges by enabling cost reduction and offering a unified service level agreement (SLA). 

The updates speak to the increasing intersection of B2B behavioral expectations, and the innovations being brought to market to meet them.

Lokschin highlighted the need for a solution that streamlines processes, clarifies data management and reduces total cost of ownership.

By addressing challenges related to enterprise resource planning, product information management systems and order management systems, digital transformation initiatives and investments can simplify the integration landscape, ensuring efficiency, accuracy and cost-effectiveness in handling diverse data sources.

Making things easier, after all, is the ongoing promise and premise of leveraging digital innovations within a business setting.

Streamlining Integration for Enterprise Efficiency

While the B2B market has always been receptive to efficiency and cost reduction, Lokschin explained that the ecosystem has seen a changing decision framework, with a shift from mid-level managers starting pilots to board-level executives scrutinizing investments and demanding clear quantification of value. 

Despite this, he expressed confidence in the market’s readiness for innovation as long as it can demonstrate clear traction, use-case validation and quantifiable business outcomes.

Among those quantifiable business outcomes being most sought after in the B2B space is the use of technology and automation to streamline workflows by removing repetitive and time-heavy manual processes.

“[Integrating digital solutions] is primarily about reducing manual efforts … people aren’t used to that from legacy systems, they know the opposite,” Lokschin said.

“The cost for developers is very high,” he added, highlighting the need for internal resources to effectively onboard digital innovations.

“Even when money was available during the boom times and capital wasn’t the limiting factor for many companies, software engineers were the limiting factor. People couldn’t hire fast enough or contract out fast enough,” Lokschin said. “Everything you can do as a business, be it a person running promotions or merchandise, or being a digital commerce manager, without the help of developers — that’s great.”

“It gives you more autonomy and more speed. We want the development capacity to be used for what really differentiates you, not for commodity stuff,” he added.

The Challenges Posed by Legacy Systems

The main thing standing in the way of the ongoing need for digital transformation is the monolithic existence of legacy systems.

“A lot of business harm gets done … orders getting lost, product data not being up to date, your stores or your front end not receiving price updates or stock updates on time,” Lokschin said. “It is crucial to get those inefficiencies out of the process, because they really suck a lot of the oxygen out of a business by putting resources to work on areas that are not creating value.”

Lokschin explained that many traditional businesses try to replicate their non-digital processes over into digital environments, rather than starting fresh and challenging the baked-in inefficiencies with new digital solutions. 

Still, he noted, it is just the early days of the digital revolution — and businesses are facing both a lot of pressure to modernize, while also ensuring the every dollar spent creates real value in real-time.

“No one is buying a tool just to buy a tool anymore. If you can’t prove your value, no chance,” said Lokschin. 

And when it comes to the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the evolving B2B landscape, Lokschin cautioned against falling into the similar trap of implementing AI for its own sake, stressing the importance of aligning AI initiatives with specific use cases and addressing underlying inefficiencies.

He highlighted the potential for AI to magnify both efficiency and inefficiency within an organization, emphasizing the need for a strategic approach to harness its power. 

“If you automate an inefficient process, it doesn’t get any more efficient,” Lokschin said.

As for what he sees the future holding? 

“I think this market is asking for efficiency gains, further automations and cost reductions — and that will be the drivers of what gets built in 2024,” Lokschin said, adding that enterprises are still spending a lot of money for implementations and for integration customizations. Removing or streamlining that stage frees up “a lot of capital” that can be reallocated to other parts of the business.