NVoicePay has expanded its hosted business payments technology to a number of new industries, betting there will be an increasing appetite for outsourced payments automation.

"Some of these companies have thousands of suppliers, and invoices are going back and forth between buyers and suppliers. It can be hard to manage that flow," says Karla Friede, CEO of NVoicePay, which recently extended the number of businesses it is targeting with its business payments processing engine. It now focuses on banking, manufacturing, distribution, restaurants, construction, retail, government agencies and non-profits.

NVoicePay's infrastructure was developed on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud platform, which allows NVoicePay to handle different payment modes, systems and data storage methods without requiring clients to install or maintain software or hardware locally.

The company's corporate clients use a single card number that can work with a number of accounting systems at vendors. It also supports payments via a range of electronic options, such as ACH, traditional credit cards, NVoicePay's own account payable cards or electronic checks.

NVoicePay did not disclose the fee structure for its service, but companies would typically have to manage each of these options separately, Friede says. This workload hurdle has caused many businesses to stick to paper checks despite the slower processing times, she says.

"When you look at different accounting systems and different enterprise resource planning systems, businesses don’t want to have to manage the huge workflow that's involved in that," Friede says.

NVoicePay's hosted platform manages the execution differences between these payments options, and also delivers technology that allows a single card number to work with the vendors' different accounting systems.

While business payments have remained more paper-based than consumer payments, automating payments can improve processing speed, tracking, data management, and the delivery and redemption of discounts, says Bruce Wallace, chief operating officer for Silicon Valley Bank, which issues NVoicePay's accounts payable cards.

"When you look around the traditional business-to-business process, the information isn't very good. Electronic business-to-business payments provides an opportunity to add rich, up to date business data to the transaction," Wallace says.

Since most people have had mostly positive experiences with electronic consumer payments, Friede says consumers who are also involved with business payments will increasingly demand a better and more automated experience for business transactions.

There's no shortage of companies trying to accomplish that. Bill.com integrates its payments dashboard into banks' small-business banking software to provide a view of incoming and outgoing payments, adjust payments schedules and optimize cash flow.

BillTrust recently released a new version of its Invoice Gateway product to include easier integration with accounting programs, bill organization and invoice filtering.  And Fiserv is leaning on its large bank network to lure businesses to its redesigned business payments product.

The hosted option that NVoicePay uses can deliver automation to a complex business payments market, since it enables businesses to quickly update and scale their systems to view, trace and support the flow of communication and invoices between businesses, Friede says.

"It's an excellent approach to automating business payments," says Bernard Golden, CEO of Hyperstratus, a cloud computing consultancy.

The strategy removes the task of manually updating software on-site to work with different accounting systems, he says. "Companies don't want to do that; they don't want another headache."

The technology should prove particularly attractive to small businesses, says Nancy Atkinson, a senior analyst at Aite Group. "Not all of these companies are going to have the IT staffs to handle electronic payments or invoice or remittance for all of these payments," she says.

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