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From Tradition to Transformation: B2B Enterprises Hit Generational Inflection Point 

A generational change is coming for the B2B landscape.

But from employees to ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, it doesn’t have to be out with the old and in with the new in one fell swoop.

Rather, a winning combination of both innovative and existing enterprise resources and solutions can help firms drive growth and build better B2B relationships with key partners.

That’s because while the most successful business relationships tend to be modern, integrated ones where information sharing and data-driven, real-time updates produce beneficial results for all parties, melting the iceberg of institutional inertia around process modernization is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all-sectors approach.

Onboarding the latest technology can often be too much, too fast for some of the more traditional businesses out there — but a generational takeover is increasingly helping to drive a greater understanding among decision-makers of how innovative software solutions and digital tools help firms stay competitive while scaling their businesses.

And while a fundamental shift in the capabilities of today’s innovations is reframing the possibilities and efficiencies on offer, there is a growing understanding that while business decisions and payments increasingly need to be made instantly, digital transformations themselves can occur one step at a time.

After all, the biggest problems frequently equal the biggest opportunities.

The most important thing is taking the first step.

Read also: 21st Century Enterprise Technology Is Entering Its Third Act

Innovation Starts With Infrastructure 

To stay competitive, businesses need to leverage data and continually optimize their processes — but frequently just getting a sense of what’s working and what isn’t is itself a stumbling block that many businesses don’t have the current resources to overcome. 

That’s because much of a B2B organizations’ time and energy is already being spent maintaining their legacy accounts payable (AP) programs, which are laden with manual tasks such as writing paper checks and reconciling payments.

PYMNTS Intelligence finds that AP staff have increasingly been working extra hours as they use legacy and manual procedures to handle a growing number of invoices, with 75% of AP teams reporting they processed more invoices in the last quarter.

“The largest corporations in America are using some very old, very reliable monolithic systems to manage their treasury function, in this case, their AP processes that decide who to pay and how to pay — and they’re still relying on those workflows,” Ernest Rolfson, CEO and founder of Payments-as-a-Service solution Finexio, told PYMNTS.

But as Nathan Bhatt, vice president of B2B products and partnerships at American Express, told PYMNTS in an interview posted last month, automating AP processes can save finance teams “on average 9.9 hours per week… over 500 hours per year, which represents a huge saving for business leaders trying to grow their business.”

While modern automated approaches can enhance business planning and accelerate performance, they represent a big learning change for many firms. AP is a strategic and complex function, and long-time decision-makers who are familiar with their current workflows and processes are frequently hesitant to make any changes.

Still, it is important for firms to look at their ERP systems and ensure that they support the latest integrations. AP and accounts receivable (AR) automation integrations shouldn’t require businesses to switch their entire enterprise software system for them to be able to benefit from the ability to quickly and accurately track, balance and organize every B2B payment that goes out the door each day.

See also: The Trickledown Consumerization of B2B Payments Helps Firms Win Business

A Generational Change

Helping accelerate the ongoing digital transformation within B2B is the fact that many companies are undergoing a leadership transition, with a new generation of leaders taking charge and introducing new technologies and processes.

“This is the first generation of digital natives, and they prefer digital payment methods over traditional ones,” Jacqueline White, president at i2c, told PYMNTS.

Echoing that sentiment, Jake Joraanstad, CEO at Bushel, told PYMNTS in a separate conversation that, “the general managers, decision-makers, these folks are usually within a few years of their retirement and they don’t want a lot of change because they want to finish out and let somebody else take on the next effort.”

But as the generational change rolls forward, and integrating new technologies into existing infrastructure becomes easier, just what might the commercial payment landscape of tomorrow look like?

Bryan Stahl, head of digital and emerging receivables at Bank of America, told PYMNTS: “The next generation of digital payment solutions will create an end-to-end payment network that ties all of these different applications together, allowing buyers to view their invoices, [providing] a menu of payment options for them to make payment on, and then [enabling] a fully automated and streamlined reconciliation back to the supplier.”

As firms look to anticipate the growing adoption of digital payments, especially among younger generations and newer companies, it is growing increasingly important to find and win deals, execute contracts, and manage their businesses effectively with the help of digital innovations.

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