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By Ruud van Hilten, SVP global commercial operations

As the reach of digital business widens, what would once have been unimaginable is fast becoming the norm.

Take the world of invoicing as an example. Gone are the days when account teams need to put their hands on original paper copies, plus paper copies of the paper copies and numerous rubber stamps, to validate an invoice.

Today, the entire invoicing process can be carried out online, enabling businesses to gain immediate visibility and control, and to work at a time and place of their choosing. Digital business processes are allowing people to be more flexible and agile in the way they work, which in today’s erratic economy is more important than ever.

The principle of agility means businesses seek to approach their operations and resources in a flexible manner. Disruptive technologies are reinforcing this trend, as there is an urgent need for companies to be able to respond to or support them. When combined with shortening product life-cycles and fast changes in supply chains, increasingly businesses need to think smart and move quickly to stay competitive.

Arguably, having a finance or accounts payable department swimming in paper invoices significantly inhibits a business’s ability to respond.For companies that do manage to achieve a digital process, agility is already benefiting departments outside accounts payable, for example in procurement.

In fact, we’ve seen that advances in technology mean procurement, finance and accounts are now more closely aligned than ever before. Digital processes providing data and insight across all three functions have increased visibility and eased communication, leaving more time to focus on challenges and opportunities.

As the latest Billentis report demonstrates, digital advancements are directly linked to increased business agility. As the report’s author Bruno Koch writes: “Today’s business models evolved during decades which focused on conventional paper processing… The time is right to critically question the use of traditional models and shift to disruptive technologies.”

Businesses like Tungsten are pushing the boundaries to create disruptive technology that when put to use has the potential to dramatically reduce costs, increase positive relationships between buyers and suppliers and improve transparency and communication overall.

This technology is disruptive because by its very nature it challenges the status quo. Developments in financial technology are freeing up businesses from the shackles of traditional models. Using our own example again, by automating the invoicing process the administration tasks of yesteryear – cross-checking invoices, chasing payments – are now redundant.

Some may wonder what on earth is to be done without these tasks. Far from employees twiddling thumbs, however, the business leaders that embrace our technology quickly find this newfound time allows them to assign more valuable tasks, such as finding new business and nurturing existing clients more.

Businesses that don’t embrace change, meanwhile, are very much at risk of atrophy. Being tied down to time consuming, old-fashioned processes makes for a precarious position in the marketplace. With the digital era, we all need to be fit and able to respond to change, throughout our organisations.

This leads me to ask the question, who can afford not to embrace the new? Recent history is littered with examples of businesses that failed to innovate. Keeping up with the pace of change is vital; as businesses embrace the digital era and all it has to offer a new bar is being set, one that is higher than ever before. Taking up e-invoicing, then, has become a business necessity.

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