Originally appeared in PYMNTS.com

As businesses exit pandemic survival mode and think about what’s next, technologically speaking, B2B payments are increasingly ripe for an overhaul.

Companies across all verticals, and of all sizes, are re-examining their spend management — especially invoicing — with an eye toward solutions that can make everything a bit more efficient.

Manish Jaiswal, chief product officer of Corcentric, told PYMNTS that with the macro challenges in place and inflation roaring, “It’s a prime time to get in and get some automation done.”

Automation, he said, is not just about eliminating the manual entry of invoices, but includes shepherding the invoice across digital channels throughout its life cycle.

“Coming out of COVID,” he said, “the demand for invoice automation has increased significantly.”

That concept of invoice automation is all-encompassing. It means matching the invoice against the purchase order and receipt, coding invoices so that they can move more quickly toward payments.

Related: The Data Point: 98% of Businesses Say Automated AP Speeds Payables, Fuels Growth

Making the Matching Seamless

Artificial intelligence (AI), he said, can make those matches seamless.

Businesses are making headway. Jaiswal said that many of Corcentric’s own customers that have previously relied on cobbled-together solutions have at least partially modernized their invoicing workflows. Along the way, they’ve encountered challenges related to how to get all the information coming in via physical mail and email into their business software.

“You need the intelligent routing to make all of these processes well-defined,” he said, “along with the ability to manage exceptions.”

He added that AI makes it easier to address those exceptions, to push through payments and keep cash flow at its most visible. It also makes it possible, with historical data, to predict which invoices will get paid and when.

An Upfront Commitment

However, he said getting those same firms to commit wholeheartedly to AI takes some initiative. There are still challenges in convincing companies to replace outdated paper and manual accounts payable (AP) systems with AI invoice automation and even robotics.

Many executives may be a bit hesitant to shift to unfamiliar technologies or may be worried about integrations — or unsure about how advanced technologies can help them manage exceptions.

See also: 84% of CFOs Say Digitization Improves Working Capital

Supply chain snarls mean that many companies want to keep their suppliers happy, in order to keep inventory flowing. Looking ahead, he said, the supplier has taken front and center stage in B2B commerce.

“A strategic relationship with the supplier should be a top priority,” Jaiswal said. “To do that, you cannot take hours or days just to get invoices into the system. There’s an ‘enforced timing’ to make sure the AP department is more efficient — and paying suppliers on time.”

That, in turn, lets buyers know that if they approve and pay invoices in the next 24 hours, they can benefit by a 2% discount. Along the way, there’s the opportunity to improve the very interactions and relationships between buyers and sellers.

“Depending on the amount of the invoice,” he said, “that can translate into huge savings.”

As he said, “Automation is not just about making mundane tasks easier — it’s about improving the actual business.”

To learn more about how companies from a wide range of industries are using payments digitization to transform their operations, download the report.