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Why the Future of B2B Payments Starts Upstream

Why the Future of B2B Payments Starts Upstream

Nearly every business must contend with issuing B2B payments, yet the related processes have famously been too slow. Muddied by manual validation steps and requiring significant effort by controllers and account payable (AP) teams to verify and make payment runs, B2B payments are both cumbersome and time-consuming. AP teams have tried to stitch together solutions for years, with mixed results.

Historically, teams focused too narrowly on solving this problem on the downstream side – for example, by automating invoice processing. This paradigm left companies with poor spend visibility and low adoption rates of their procure-to-pay (P2P) processes, leading to non-PO-backed spend and creating significant risk for the business. Fixing the end-to-end problem was always the true solution, but it was out of reach — until now.

What if I told you that the future of B2B payments lies upstream, before P2P processes even begin to kick in?

There’s a better workflow system that not only allows you to gain stronger visibility into the procurement process but ensures procedures are put in place long before a PO is even created to avoid any mishaps along the way. This phenomenon is intake-to-procure, or in other words, a software solution that can easily guide employees through the previously disjointed process of purchase requests and approvals. Intake-to-procure is a crucial step — and usually the missing element in P2P processes. It will revolutionize the procurement space as we know it.

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As intake-to-procure gains traction and enables businesses to maximize their existing P2P processes, I predict that P2P systems will evolve and be replaced by a new wave of intake-to-pay solutions.

How Improving Intake Unlocks Downstream Payments Benefits

P2P tools are important assets for procurement and payments, yet most businesses have struggled to gain adoption of their P2P processes. When a typical organization is seeing only 50% to 60% adoption of its P2P process, there’s a problem. The issue lies in poor user experiences and the lack of a uniform workflow for purchase request intake. By implementing intuitive intake-to-procure solutions into the P2P process, businesses are able to significantly increase adoption, which allows them to maximize their existing P2P investments.

A new Gartner report, the 2023 Strategic Roadmap for Source-to-Pay Technology, defines intake management as “a single channel for all end user requests that routes and tracks the status of requests (e.g., a request for a contract will launch a contract request questionnaire).” Appearing for the first time in the Gartner Strategic Roadmap as an advanced capability for source to pay, intake management is already making waves in the market.

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Intake: the New First Step for a Successful B2B Payment Infrastructure

Intake must become the new “step 1” of a modern B2B payments process.

During this phase of the workflow – when employees first initiate a purchase request – procurement and purchasing teams are able to easily compile all necessary information and approvals before the creation of purchasing documentation. This means stakeholders are aware of the entire purchasing process at the very moment a request comes in, rather than waiting until the vendor selection or negotiation stage.

Involving stakeholders earlier in the procurement process, at the point of intake, allows for greater accuracy and more comprehensive visibility throughout the entirety of the P2P process, instead of having them only become aware of the process later down the line when mistakes are often too detrimental to be fixed. Ensuring accuracy and visibility at the very start of the process also allows procurement teams to reap the downstream benefits — automating the coding of invoices, creating better audit trails, applying virtual cards to types of spend that are exploding (subscription spend, software, increases in services spend, etc.).

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With higher visibility and control you can spend less time fixing purchasing errors later down the road and more time getting and using the software you need in a safe and streamlined way. If you start at the point of intake before a PO is created, you can avoid security risks that arise from rogue and shadow IT spend. This can then even reduce the current heavy approval process timelines and workloads.

Modernizing upstream processes with intake is becoming vital to businesses today as they seek out ways to maximize their existing technology investments and reduce costs where possible. By solving for the user experience and adoption challenges that have long plagued the world of B2B payments, intake-to-pay will become the new gold standard for procure-to-pay. This will drive the upfront adoption that is needed to create earlier and more comprehensive spend visibility, which results in improved speed, reduced risk and increased savings across the B2B payments processes.

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