Way back in March, when it became clear that the pandemic was spreading to every corner of the world, companies everywhere took measures that not only helped slow the virus but that digitized consumer and corporate lives overnight.
Before COVID-19, the transition to digital payments was often considered a major overhaul and made a lower priority than many other business decisions. Hesitation has stemmed from the unknown — anticipation of a large financial and resource investment, uncertainty of the return on that investment and concern around the impact of change on critical operations. Now, it’s been forced into the spotlight, as companies are compelled to revamp traditional payment processes to accommodate a reduced and remote workforce, particularly in the U.S. where the check is still prevalent in B2B payments.
For many, this environment could actually be the ideal time to make the transformation to digital payments. With purchasing volumes lower than normal and many trade relationships already in flux, the risk of a transition to a new payment platform disrupting critical business processes is as low as it may ever be. Not to mention the additional revenue that can be generated by a properly optimized digital payments program.
CFOs face a problem as they are being pushed to implement digital payment solutions quickly while balancing that urgency against resource constraints, security concerns, and vendor due diligence. Procurement departments are revisiting and renegotiating vendor relationships, favoring those with stability, scale and experience in an attempt to mitigate risk and exposure. A unique combination of agility and stability can help both CFOs and procurement managers succeed.
Payments are complex and often fraught with behind-the-scenes administration and compliance needs, so these solution providers must look to experienced partners with flexible integration options. An extension of this payment expertise is thoughtful engagement with the suppliers that need to be enrolled to receive payments in the program. Digital payments are only beneficial if suppliers are willing and able to accept them. Initial and ongoing engagement with suppliers is the key to optimizing a program. If an organization has a digital payments program already, they should be asking how to maximize its benefits.
While we can’t know what the post-pandemic landscape will look like, we do know that business expenses will ramp back up, and with them, higher expectations for digital payments from both suppliers and vendors. Companies that take action on this now will be better positioned to weather the economic uncertainty that may come as the pandemic ebbs and flows. Those same companies will be leading the recovery because they seized the opportunity to implement change that will bring increasing returns as the economy rebuilds.