In recent years, companies have used Big Data to improve marketing, sales and operations.  

Now, in 2015 and in the years ahead, big data will move to finance and procurement, as there will be an aggressive adoption of in e-invoicing throughout the world as both governments and enterprises begin to understand and realize the value of digitization.

The digitization of invoices means that enterprises will have more complete, searchable data on their invoicing and payments history. Data analysts can use this information to find problem areas in their systems and find time- and money-saving solutions to those problems.

The size of the company will determine if a data analyst works specifically for the Finance Department or across multiple units of the business. Either way, it’s crucial that someone is able to decipher a large amount of data and present it in a way that executives can act on.

For example, a data analyst might notice that a payment process is taking longer than necessary by collecting data on approval times of each invoice in the cycle. In a paper invoice cycle, these response times would never be recorded for analysis. Without a data analyst, these issues lying deep in the data sets would never get uncovered.

Big data provides competitive advantages to businesses and e-invoicing is no different. By incorporating e-invoicing into the payments process, executives can analyze and leverage new insights based on granular data. For example, while payment cycles may be running smoothly in Japan, perhaps there is a reason why it isn’t happening in Spain or Germany. Are approval times varying by region? Do approvals in a certain region go through the point of contact more than once? Without digital payment processes and robust analytics, subtle variants across the globe would go unnoticed. The national and global race to digitalization is on, and the competitive advantage of getting their first can’t be underestimated.

2015 will be a year of data innovation for the payments industry. What stands to be determined, however, is whether or not finance executives will have the tools and analytical resources necessary to glean the benefits of that data and create smoother, more effective and efficient payments processes.

Christian Lanng is CEO of Tradeshift.