It has been said that Thomas Edison tried 1,000 times to invent the light bulb and responded to criticism with the following retort: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

The same analogy can be applied to today’slightbulbs innovations in the payments industry. The B2B procurement process remains archaic in many ways, including continued reliance on paper checks, slow payment resolution and low visibility of cash flow. But change is afoot. Thanks to advances in technology and new, more collaborative business models, innovative companies and their suppliers will soon use less paper and experience faster, more accurate reconciliation on both sides.

Social tools and business networks are changing the very nature of business and engagement. Just as consumers tap into personal networks to learn, share, and shop better, leading companies are harnessing the power of business networks to drive a more collaborative finance process that enables better cash management.

And the day is not far off when they will be able to leverage cloud-based services that combine the applications and insights embedded in these networks to digitize the billing and settlement process to facilitate electronic payments and better reporting between buyers and sellers in a predominantly paper-based landscape. Buyers will be able to create purchase orders, receive invoices, and send payments. They’ll see less paper, and fewer payments lost to escheatment. They’ll resolve disputes faster, and lower their processing costs and fraud risk.

Sellers will be able to receive rich remittance information and gain a clear and reliable view into future payments. They’ll be able to track and trace payments, identify payment problems earlier, and ultimately reconcile faster while lowering their payment processing costs.

And they’ll do it all in a completely automated environment.

As any innovator knows, it can take countless steps to achieve true innovation. B2B payments may be walking, but the pace is nearing a sprint and transformation is imminent…