As we look ahead to 2020 we know that technology will play a pivotal role in how we all do business. As a software company we will of course continue to evolve our product, but what will be the defining shifts shaping how businesses will use software throughout 2020?
This is what we see happening in our space.
Automation will evolve further - but not just for one process. 2020 will continue as we saw last year with companies looking for efficiencies in all of their business processes. From sales, marketing, client acquisition and retention, purchasing, expense management, supplier management to name a few. We saw this first hand with a massive growth in our supplier payment module and more companies choosing to take up our Purchase Order module.
Rising labor costs and the inherent inefficiencies and inaccuracies of paper-based processes make it no longer economically feasible to conduct AP processing manually. The use of AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and robotic process automation will expand and we will be a part of this.
Accounts payable will become a strategically important intelligence hub in 2020. We will see a shift in drivers for automation to not only remove manual processes and increase operational efficiencies, and to also create visibility into business-critical data that lies within the accounts payable sphere.
For example, Forrester reports that between 60 to 73% of business data goes unused. And while that number has been dropping year over year, companies are making business critical decisions on only 27 to 40% of the available data. CFO’s and finance leaders will be looking to bridge the analytics gap in 2020 with technology tools.
Businesses will be looking to leverage real-time data to inform and help them in areas such as spend analysis, cash flow management and working capital and this is a need we are fulfilling with the launch of our budget module.
The ‘modern cloud’ will evolve. Integration will became a necessity. Companies will continue to bolt together best-of-breed products to streamline their business processes. Particularly for accounts payable this modern cloud has significant advantages as only a few ERP vendors are offering mobile capabilities, complex and highly configurable automation and approval workflow solutions.
Businesses will be seeking out products that will work seamlessly with their ERP, that can be deployed quickly, delivering instant value and a rapid ROI as well as taking advantage of continuous innovations.
Job shifts and disruption. Easily the longest running of the automation trend predictions over the years is the declaration that this will be the year robots take over all jobs.
Spoiler alert: 2020 won’t be the year that robots will take over all jobs.
We believe, that instead automation technology with more developed AI, machine learning and RPA will do as it has in the past. It will create new jobs that just haven’t been invented yet. And, in return, some jobs will either disappear or fundamentally change.
In 2020, automation will continue to disrupt the job market. But it will not obliterate every job out there rather it’s set to create more high value jobs for finance teams.
New skills will be required. – As consequence there will be the need for companies to effectively leverage the potential of emerging technologies. To develop and implement innovative projects and drive performance in 2020. The CV of an accounts payable and finance manager will need to have the necessary specialised skills and businesses to have a finance team that has capabilities that include cybersecurity, data visualisation and analytics.
Companies will be looking for finance employees with highly developed IT and analytical skills, as well as experienced interim managers with specific expertise for managing system implementations and business transformation projects.
This will be a challenge as finance and accounting professionals with niche skills are already in high demand but at the same time hard to find. We see this first hand in our own search for support staff.
This skills shortage will continue to affect industry, with 89% of CFOs saying they find it challenging to source and attract the skilled finance professionals they need, citing a lack of technical niche experts as the primary reason.
B2B e-payments will increase - B2B payments are in a transitional period. According to the B2B Payments Tipping Point report, 34 percent of companies say their use of ePayables, including virtual cards, will increase in the next three years.
Up to this point, credit cards have been very under-used as a B2B payment method for vendor invoices. And while we have not quite reached the tipping point for credit card usage in accounts payable, there is evidence suggesting we are well on our way to having a majority of businesses making B2B credit card payments for a portion of their vendor invoices. And the use of virtual card spend for purchasing activities is projected to grow at 19 percent annually due to buyer commitment, improved connectivity and enhanced supplier acceptance.
Service providers, like expensemanager will focus on the unique needs in B2B e-payments, including a solution that will enable businesses to automatically generate one-time-use virtual cards when businesses submit their purchase orders on our platform as well as when paying supplier payments, which is then followed by automatic reconciliation.
As businesses and their suppliers continue to embrace digital business payments we see virtual credit cards offering another option for removing paper from the supplier back office
Digital travel data feeds. What was in 2018 a ‘nice to have’ has been embraced by companies with large travel spend. With travel being one of the largest portion of expense reimbursements, the uptake has been driven by travelers because it’s totally hands-free receipting but it’s popularity is also supported by finance teams for simpler reconciliation.
It’s clear that 2020 will be an exciting year of growth and maturity for the industry. We look forward to playing our part in helping businesses dramatically change the way they manage their spend and we are excited to be part of their vision for automated and paper free processes.